- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

Art Shell played offensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders for 14 years before finishing his Hall of Fame career in 1982, the year the franchise moved to Los Angeles. Upon retirement, Shell became the offensive line coach before moving up to the top job in 1989.

Shell and his beloved franchise parted ways just before the Raiders returned to their true home in Oakland in 1995. So while the 59-year-old Shell is getting a second chance to coach his team, this will be his first time coaching back where he helped make the Raiders a perennial contender and a two-time Super Bowl champion.

“The Raiders … that’s home to me, that’s where I grew up,” said Shell, who’ll try to right the Raiders, a franchise-worst 13-35 the past three seasons after winning the AFC in 2002. “When you help build the foundation of winning that they had, to see them go into a tailspin like they have the last couple of years, that’s bothersome. Now I’m in the position to try to rectify that.

“There’s a certain attitude that you have to have about winning,” Shell continued. “I believe I can get players to understand what I mean when I say, ‘Commitment to Excellence.’ When I played, that meant something to me.”

If hiring Shell out of the league office — where he had worked since being canned as Atlanta’s offensive line coach in 2001 — was unusual, then Shell’s choice of Tom Walsh as his offensive coordinator was downright bizarre. Walsh had been out of the NFL since serving as an assistant for Shell in 1994 and had been out of football since 1999. Walsh was running a bed and breakfast and serving as mayor of Swan Valley, Idaho (pop. 213).

“Tom has a great football mind,” Shell said in defending Walsh, whom he has kept away from the Bay Area media that has lampooned the hire. “He’s a smart guy. He knows how I want to do things. He knows the system that I like to run. He’s going to do well.”

Holmgren unsure of future — Heading into the 2003 season, Mike Holmgren’s future in Seattle was shaky. He had been stripped of his general manager’s duties and was just 31-34 in four years in Seattle.

Three playoff berths, two NFC West titles, one NFC championship and 34 victories later and Holmgren’s future is in his hands.

Holmgren, who turns 58 in June, is entering the final season of the eight-year contract that lured him from Green Bay, where he had spent 1992 to 1998 returning the Packers to their long-lost glory. Only 15 coaches have more victories than Holmgren’s 149 and only seven have more Super Bowl appearances than Holmgren’s three.

“I just need to think about what I want to do,” said Holmgren, who lost his father to a heart attack at a relatively young age and had a heart scare of his own a couple of years ago. “I don’t want it to be too complicated. The organization is going good now. But I don’t want to commit to anything if I can’t give 150 percent.”

Smith not shown the love — Lovie Smith was named coach of the year for guiding Chicago to an 11-5 record and the NFC North crown in his second season, before a loss to Carolina in the playoffs. But that wasn’t enough to make Bears president Ted Phillips alter Smith’s status as the NFL’s lowest-paid coach at $1.35 million, not after doing so for predecessor Dick Jauron following Chicago’s 2001 division title. Jauron went 11-21 the next two years and was fired with a year left on his extended, enhanced contract.

“I feel good, but I want to feel better,” Phillips said, explaining he wants Smith to produce a second strong season.

Maybe Smith didn’t complain because he knows the Bears have the easiest schedule — their opponents’ had a .445 winning percentage in 2005 and Chicago has nine games against rookie coaches and only four against playoff teams.

“Some organizations want to see more,” Smith said. “Our program is coming along fine. I have a contract.”

Yes, but for significantly less money than his three rookie rivals in the NFC North — Detroit’s Rod Marinelli, Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy and Minnesota’s Brad Childress — and less than such assistants as Smith’s former Tampa Bay boss, Monte Kiffin.

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