A traitor in Raiders' midst, Shell says

November 30th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: A traitor in Raiders' midst, Shell says


By Bill Soliday and Steve Corkran


A dozen years ago, Art Shell was the victim of a palace coup that ultimately cost him his job as coach of the Raiders. Now, nine months into his second term, Shell says the back-stabbing is back.
Only this time, as he put it, the ``fox in the henhouse'' went after Tom Walsh, his recently deposed offensive coordinator. And, Shell said, the fox undermining his program is in the front office, not on his coaching staff.
Refusing to identify his target by name, Shell accused the dissenter of making derogatory statements to ``cronies in the news media'' about him and his staff, particularly Walsh.
Shell said for an organization to survive, it must have a unified stance and commitment. At the moment, he said, that was not the case.
``I don't think that individual is on the same page as us,'' Shell said Wednesday. ``Not when you go call around the league and stuff is getting back across my desk about the things you're saying about me personally, about my coaching staff personally, about my team personally. That's a problem for me.''
Asked if he had confronted the person involved, Shell said ``Not yet. If it continues, I will.''
At least four sources have confirmed to MediaNews that the person Shell refers to is senior personnel executive Mike Lombardi, an eight-year veteran of the Raiders front office. Lombardi refused to comment on the accusation.
Lombardi, 46, has served as de facto general manager, a post the Raiders do not identify by that name, since the departure in 2002 of Bruce Allen.
Although Shell did not identify Lombardi, he volunteered a short list of executives who were examples of those who were not complicit -- owner Al Davis, chief executive Amy Trask, special projects employee Jim Otto and executive officer John Herrera. All, he said, were loyal employees.
``All these people that have been around here for a long time bleed silver and black and so do I,'' Shell said.
After the 1994 season, Shell was in the sixth year of his first term as Raiders coach when a group of assistant coaches, among them Shell's eventual successor, Mike White, reportedly worked behind the scenes to seek his ouster.
Shell said the current incident smacked of similar motives.
``You got it right,'' he said. ``And it was on my staff was the problem. I don't have that problem on my staff now.
``It hurts. It shouldn't be like that. Every organization should be on the same page from the bottom up.''
Shell's remarks came during a defense of his longtime friend Walsh from what Shell called unwarranted abuse. He said, however, that the diatribes against Walsh had no bearing on his decision Tuesday to replace him with John Shoop as offensive coordinator.
``I felt at this time the decision needed to be made,'' Shell said. ``It was very hard for me to do because I have a lot of respect for Tom Walsh. (He) has taken a lot of abuse from a lot of people, and that has disappointed me.
``Sometimes grown-ups can be like young kids. They can be cruel. And starting back in February when we first got here, the character assassination started. When you do that and you start getting personal and getting into a man's life, what he does, what he did before he got here, people forgot or don't know.''
Walsh has been skewered for having run a bed-and-breakfast inn in Idaho and for not having NFL coaching experience since 1994. The Raiders rank last in the NFL in scoring and total offense under Walsh.
Shell said he was disappointed that it was a little-known fact that the bed-and-breakfast inn has made its facilities available as a guest home for kids receiving cancer treatment.
``Nobody has reported that,'' Shell said.
``Tom tried his heart out, gave us his all.''

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