Forum Spin Doctor
ALAMEDA, Calif. - The Oakland Raiders replaced offensive coordinator Tom Walsh on Tuesday, promoting tight ends coach John Shoop to take charge of the team's struggling offense.
Walsh is a close friend of coach Art Shell, having served as his offensive coordinator during Shell's first stint as Raiders coach. But Walsh had been out of the NFL since being fired with Shell after the 1994 season and was the recipient of much of the blame for the NFL's worst offense.
Walsh's previous jobs as a bed and breakfast operator and mayor of Swan Valley, Idaho, made him the butt of jokes during the team's struggles. But Shell stood by Walsh despite all the criticisms, including those from players.
Shell said earlier in the season that he does not like changing his coaching staff during the season, but the move was made anyway with five games left. Shell called it a "difficult decision" that had to be made for the good of the team.
"Tom has been diligent in his effort to get our offense going in the right direction," Shell said in a statement. "In no way should the lack of a more successful offense be placed totally at his feet. Everyone plays a part in the success of any team. ... We look forward to John's input as we continue our goal of bringing the Raiders back to prominence."
Shoop, quarterbacks coach for Oakland last year, served as offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears from 2001-03, helping the team post a 13-3 record and win the NFC Central in 2001. Shoop has also worked with Tampa Bay and Carolina in his 12 years in the NFL.
The Bears won just 11 games in Shoop's final two seasons as coordinator and many players complained about his play calling when coach Dick Jauron was fired.
"I think it's a great opportunity for coach Shoop and a great opportunity for us as well," receiver Alvis Whitted said in a phone interview. "It's unfortunate for our offensive coordinator that he had to get demoted. I guess that's just part of this business. It's a bottom-line business."
Tuesday is an off day for the Raiders, so Whitted said he wouldn't know how the team's game plan would change under Shoop until Wednesday.
Walsh was unavailable for comment. He will remain on the staff.
Oakland (2-9) has scored a league-low 132 points this year and is assured of a fourth straight losing season for the first time in franchise history. The Raiders were last in the league in passing offense and total offense, and 21st in rushing offense.
The return of starting quarterback Aaron Brooks from an injury has provided a spark the past two weeks, but has not been enough to help the team win.
"Our defense has been playing very well, and we as an offense have not been playing up to par," Whitted said. "We've gotten a lot better and you can see it in our play the last few weeks. Collectively, we need to continue to get better."
Walsh was out of the NFL for 11 seasons before Shell hired him in February. Since being fired following the 1994 season, Walsh was head coach for two seasons at Idaho State and worked as director of operations and head coach of a minor league franchise in Mobile, Ala. He had been out of football since 1999, except for a few announcing stints.
Walsh was supposed to return the Raiders to the power-running, deep-passing style so successful during Shell's time as a player in the 1970s. But with an offensive line that struggled to block, the running game never got on track and the Raiders didn't have time to run the long-developing pass plays.
Andrew Walter, who started seven games in place of the injured Brooks, vocalized some of the players' complaints earlier this month, saying the playbook lacked "depth" and didn't have enough quick-hitters to combat the defensive pressure.
Oakland has just 10 offensive touchdowns all season, less than half of LaDanian Tomlinson's individual total for San Diego, and had scored just two offensive touchdowns in the second half all season when Walter said the problems were most serious.
The Raiders have allowed a league-high 53 sacks - 10 more than second-place Cleveland - and are the only team in the league gaining fewer than 250 yards per game, with a 239.8 average.
Randy Moss also has been mostly a non-factor and has complained that his unhappiness with the team have led to his frequent dropped passes. Moss has just four receptions for 34 yards the past three games and often runs patterns at half-speed.