Hue Jackson began his Oakland Raiders coaching career with the same sort of bravado that made him so popular in his one season as the team's offensive coordinator.
"We're going to build a bully here," Jackson said Tuesday. "This is the Raiders. We know exactly where we're headed and what we want to do. I think our players today are very excited about where they are going."
Jackson was introduced at a 100-minute news conference by owner Al Davis two weeks after the Raiders announced they were not picking up the option to retain Tom Cable as coach. While much of the time was spent discussing why Cable was not retained, and other matters such as the collective bargaining agreement and stadium issues, the purpose of the news conference was to introduce Jackson.
This hiring was conducted relatively quickly based on past Raiders searches that carried until February. Davis said he talked to three candidates he had interviewed previously, mostly by phone, but quickly decided he already had his man on staff.
"Every thing pointed toward the guy on my right. Everything," Davis said. "I don't see anything from a character, personality, anything that would not, not let me raise his hand and say he should be the coach of the Raiders and be the ambassador to the Raider Nation and the country and around the world."
Jackson talked about how much he enjoyed talking football with "Coach Davis" in his one year as offensive coordinator and how he wants to return the Raiders to their great tradition. Since winning the 2002 AFC championship, Oakland has gone eight years without a winning record.
The Raiders went 8-8 this past season, ending a streak of seven straight years with at least 11 losses. Cable got credit from many of the players for the turnaround but it wasn't enough to satisfy Davis, who was upset by his coach's proclamation at the end of the season that "you can't call us losers anymore."
Jackson was also widely liked by players on both sides of the ball as he brought energy and competitiveness to practice that motivated the defense as well as the offense.
"I don't really feel that I have to overcome anything," Jackson said. "I've been here with our players. Our players have been very supportive. Today alone I got 20 text messages from our players, who are very excited about me being here, being the head coach, and they can't wait to get back here. Because I think our players know as I talked earlier, we're going to create an environment here for our players to be as good as they can be, on offense, defense and special teams."
Jackson has extensive experience as an assistant in the NFL, working in Washington, Cincinnati, Atlanta and Baltimore for nearly a decade before joining the Raiders. He has coached quarterbacks, receivers and running backs, along with three stints as an offensive coordinator.
His most successful stint was this season in Oakland. Led by quarterback Jason Campbell, a breakout season from running back Darren McFadden and big plays from rookie receiver Jacoby Ford, the Raiders finished sixth in the league in scoring with 410 points. That was the sixth-most points in franchise history and a huge improvement from 2009.
"My job is to do everything I can to take this team where we know we want to go, which is the Super Bowl," Jackson said. "Obviously this is a very talented and young football team here, as coach just talked about. We have some tremendous players on the offensive side of the football."
Jackson will remain the primary play-caller as head coach but must go out and hire coordinators on both sides of the ball. Jackson mentioned Al Saunders as a potential candidate on offense. Saunders worked with Campbell for two years in Washington and has interviewed in the past for openings in Oakland.
Campbell had a solid debut season in Oakland despite sharing time with Bruce Gradkowski. He completed 59 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a passer rating of 84.5. He was at his best in the final five games after Gradkowski went down with a season-ending shoulder injury.
He completed 64.7 percent of his passes over the final five games with six touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 96.4.
"He played flawless. He played almost as good as you can play as a quarterback in our league," Jackson said. "Led us to some very impressive wins. And I look forward to him doing the same thing this year in our system, same system, opportunity to go out with the same teammates, OK, and go out and play the way we know he can play."
Jackson also said defensive coordinator John Marshall would not return and said line coach Mike Waufle could be a candidate to replace him. Davis blamed defensive breakdowns late in the season against Miami and Jacksonville as part of the reason the Raiders did not make the playoffs.
"I thought with about five games to go we had a great chance to get into the playoffs if we didn't mess it up," Davis said. "We messed it up. I'm not saying necessarily on offense, but we didn't play well enough on defense to get that chance that I thought we could have gotten, and had we gotten in the playoffs, I compared it to the '80 team. We came in as a wild card and made a run and won the Super Bowl."