In just two years, Hue Jackson went from the man who would save the Raiders to a pariah in the Raider Nation.
With Hue Jackson officially being fired by the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday, I think it fitting that we take one last look at the Hue Jackson tenure in Oakland.
From the moment Hue Jackson was hired by the Raiders to be Tom Cable's offensive coordinator, there was excitement surrounding his name. It started with the off season workouts when all you would hear were reports of how loud and active Jackson was in practice. Whether it was talking trash to Nnamdi Asomugha or overtly celebrating a good play by the offense, everyone was talking about the energy that Jackson was bringing to the Raiders.
Then, once the season started, everyone was able to see how that off season excitement translated to the playing field. After years of absolute ineptitude on the offensive side of the ball, Jackson brough to the Raiders not just a competent offense, but an offense that ranked in the top half of the league in almost every category, and the top ten in a couple of categories. The Raider Nation had not seen offensive numbers like that in Oakland since the Rich Gannon era came to an end.
At the end of Jackson's first season with the Raiders, it became clear that Tom Cable was not going to be the coach much longer, and many went so far as to hypothesize that the offensive coordinator job was really just a try out for Jackson. Sure enough, he was given his first head coaching opportunity after only one season as the Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator. While some may not have agreed with the firing of Tom Cable, there was almost a unanimous feeling that Jackson was the right man to take over.
As the new head coach, Jackson began showing the public what he had shown during his first off season with the Raiders, that Hue talks a big game. With his proclamation that he was going to build a bully, Jackson made it clear that he intended to take the Raiders to great heights. At the beginning of the 2011 season, it really looked like Jackson was going to live up to all of the talk. The Raiders started the season 4-2 and looked dominant on offense. However, as the year went on, Jackson was thrown a number of curve balls, from injuries to off the field drama to the passing of the great Al Davis.
Perhaps a more experienced coach would have been able to handle these curve balls with grace and ease, but that is not how Hue Jackson handled them. Rather quickly, the Raider Nation watched as Jackson went from that fun loving, trash talking coach to a team czar whose word could not be questioned.
It started with rumors that Jackson had told the team that everyone was replaceable and that he would be looking for replacements for them if they could not perform throughout the season. Next, Jackson began making big moves on the roster with the trades for Aaron Curry and Carson Palmer. However, it was the signing of a free agent that really showed how power hungry Jackson had become. After trading for Palmer, Jackson went out and signed TJ Houshmandzadeh and cut Derek Hagan.
Many in the Raider Nation were upset with the move as Hagan had quickly become a fan favorite and Houshmandzadeh was considered over the hill. As if the cut and sign was not bad enough, in explaining his actions, Jackson crossed the line in the eyes of many in the Raider Nation. Jackson told the media that he had wanted to sign Houshmandzadeh in the pre season, but Al Davis did not want him, he wanted Derek Hagan.
After Mr. Davis passed, Jackson was quick to show sentiment and express how upset he was, but almost immediately he turned around and did exactly what he knew the former owner would not have wanted him to do. The lack of respect for Mr. Davis' memory combined with questionable decision making and the feeling that Jackson was power hungry and in over his head did not sit well with the Nation.
As the season wound down, the Raiders played their worst football all year. They had a number of opportunities to win the AFC West and failed to do so. After an embarrassing showing in the season finally, Jackson went off in his end of the year press conference. He blamed almost everyone around him for the problems and asserted that in order to fix things, he was going to take a larger role in the organization. Rather than telling the media he would be asking for a bigger role in the organization, Jackson continued to show the hubris that had caused so many problems this season and stated as fact, that he was taking things over.
In the end, Jackson's ego may have gotten ahead of him. He was given too much power, that power began to go to his head and it showed in how he handled the football team. By the end of the season, Jackson was conducting interviews Ricky Henderson style, referring to himself in the third person.
While Jackson certainly had his issues in terms of play calling and making in game decisions, it is much more likely that his ego and need for control are what prevented him from a longer tenure as the Raiders head coach. He still may turn out to be a great head coach in the NFL, but one thing was clear, he was not ready for everything that was thrown at him as a rookie head coach.