- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2006

The NFL’s coaching carousel changes so fast that Chicago’s Lovie Smith, in just his third season, will face only three coaches this fall with more tenure.

With all those changes and fresh faces — seven of the 10 new head coaches have never previously run a team — Oakland owner Al Davis still went back to the future by re-hiring Art Shell.

Davis had virtually dismissed the possibility of bringing back Shell in a conference call after firing Norv Turner on Jan. 3, but with even mid-level college coaches Pat Hill of Fresno State and Bobby Petrino of Louisville rejecting the Raiders, the 59-year-old Shell was a fallback who wouldn’t turn down his old boss.

Shell, who had been working for the league since being fired as Atlanta’s offensive line coach in 2001, was 56-41 with the Raiders from 1989 to 1994, replacing Mike Shanahan whom Davis canned after four games in 1989. Shell led the Raiders to the AFC title game after the 1990 season and went 9-7 in his final year but was still let go in favor of assistant Mike White. Shell’s last staff also included future head coaches John Fox, Jim Haslett and Gunther Cunningham.

Shell joins Washington’s Joe Gibbs (17-17 in his second go-round) in trying to prove you can go home again in the NFL. That idea didn’t work for Hall of Famers Sid Gillman (4-6), Bud Grant (7-9) and George Allen (fired during training camp). Chuck Knox (15-33) and Wally Lemm (28-40-4), big winners in their first tours of duty, also crashed the second time around. The last coach to have serious success in a repeat performance with the same team was Hall of Famer George Halas, who didn’t have to worry about job security since he owned the Bears.

The kids are all right? — When Shell took over the Raiders the first time, Eric Mangini was a freshman nose tackle at Division III Wesleyan, Brian Schottenheimer was a freshman quarterback at Blue Valley (Kan.) High and Mike Tannenbaum was a junior accounting major at Massachusetts. Now, they’re the coach, offensive coordinator and general manager, respectively, of the New York Jets.

“Look at Bill Cowher [35], Jon Gruden [35], even coach [Bill] Belichick [38] when they started, they were young,” said Jets Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law, who played five seasons for secondary coach Mangini in New England. “It’s like someone saying you’re too young to be a good quarterback. If you’re good, you’re good.”

Jets owner Woody Johnson sounds like he isn’t expecting the kids to produce a good team overnight after their 4-12 disaster of 2005.

“It’s time to set … a new course,” Johnson said. “The Jets will not be defined by the challenges we faced in a single season, but how we overcome them: by embracing change and taking calculated risks.”

Like entrusting the team to three men who’ve never held their positions previously.

Mad man Martz in Motown — Former St. Louis coach Mike Martz said Detroit was the only team for whom he would have agreed to return to the offensive coordinator role, in part because he likes first-time coach Rod Marinelli so much.

Perhaps. But Marinelli better watch his back. Here’s what Martz had to say when asked about his future after being fired by the Rams.

“If somebody were to hire me as an offensive coordinator, unless that head coach is real strong and settled, there’s the threat of looking over his shoulder,” Martz said. “It could be an unsettling deal.”

Martz also said, “If you’re going to be a coordinator, you’d like to be in a good situation where you can win and have some success and stay there for a while.”

Sounds just like the Lions, who were 21-59 the last five years and who are working on their sixth coach in six years. Yeah, right.

Eat your words? — St. Louis fans hated New Orleans coach Jim Haslett when Martz’s Rams and his Saints were battling for NFC West supremacy in 2000 and 2001 and he would rip the Rams for being a finesse team. But Haslett is St. Louis’ new defensive coordinator.

“Pretty funny, isn’t it?” Haslett said.

Should make for an interesting afternoon when the Lions visit the Rams this fall.

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