How should Raider fans feel about the news that Hue Jackson was fired? What should the Raiders look for in a new coach?
With the hiring of Reggie McKenzie as the new Raiders GM came a sense that even though GMs like to hire their own people, Hue Jackson would likely retained as head coach for at least a trial season. That sense was misguided as Jackson was let go today, and the Raiders will be on the hunt for a new coach and likely an entirely new coaching staff.
Normally when a new GM comes in it means the old GM was axed, usually due to the team being terrible or having several drafts in a row go awry. Generally this new GM does two things: fires the head coach and brings in a new one, and gets rid of the old quarterback and brings in a new one. This sort of thing makes a lot of sense, as there is nothing that can tell you more about the makeup and success level of any given team that who its head coach and quarterback are.
This is uncharted territory for the Raiders, as they have never had an actual 'general manager'. Al Davis was the Raiders and made all the decisions thereof. This is an excellent way to run a small communist island dictatorship or a pirate ship, but in today's world it is no way to run a football team. Everyone has their quirks and their grudges and their unexplainable biases, so it's best to have a strong front office with several different voices balancing one another out to reach the best possible decisions. This is the way actual companies and actual football teams are run.
I have previously written for this site that the Raiders had "good sense" to hire Reggie McKenzie so I am certainly not going to question him now. I felt Hue Jackson was a good coach, but I also know he set a high bar and then failed to live up to his own standards and expectations. Tom Cable went 8-8 in his last season and Hue Jackson went 8-8 this season. Why would anyone who was happy to see Cable go be disappointed to see Jackson go?
If you respond "continuity and stability", go ask Barry Sanders how well that works. He may have been the greatest, most talented running back of all time and he had his career wasted in Detroit by an inept front office and the far-too-long tenure of Wayne Fontes. It is far better to shake things up in hopes of finding the right coach than to stick with the wrong one for the sake of continuity.
The Raiders have built themselves a reputation for hiring and firing coaches like normal people go through socks. Much of the blame for that, and for the Raiders' lack of success in the last decade, is on Al Davis. We can no longer blame him for anything going forward. We have new leadership, new vision, and new direction. Reggie McKenzie was until recently part of the premier organization in football and he knows what a successful team looks like and how it ought to operate. McKenzie has no reason to saddle himself with the shadow of Al Davis or the lingering scent of mediocrity left over from his more recent personnel decisions. He was brought here to clean house and that's exactly what he will do.
Of course, firing Jackson is only the right call if McKenzie brings in a coach and coaching staff who are prepared to turn the Raiders into perennial title contenders. The Raiders have a lot of talent but lack discipline. In today's NFL there is no more room for thuggery or playing without control. The game is too fast and too stringently officiated for any player to act with abandon. The penalty situation was given lip service by Jackson as a "top priority" but no results ever came of his rhetoric. McKenzie must show us improvement in this department.
Reggie McKenzie, as a former Raider, is keenly aware of the Raider legacy- a legacy of domination and winning. Raider fans should care less who is the coach as long as the Raiders pile up wins. Whether it's Winston Moss or anyone else, Raider fans should be excited that a man with a strong pedigree and Raider blood flowing through his veins is calling the shots now. Too long has our talent and explosiveness been hamstrung by our ineptitude and terrible defensive scheme. It's time to get a modern playbook with a modern coaching staff with modern discipline and demolish the rest of the league, Raider style.