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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Raiders Head Coach Lane Kiffin Looks To 2007 Season

Nothing to Look Back on, Raiders Only Look Ahead

Published: April 1, 2007
When Lane Kiffin took over as the Oakland Raiders’ coach, one of the first things he told his new players was that he did not want to dwell on what went wrong last season.

For the players who went through a 2-14 campaign that led to the Raiders being the butt of jokes on late-night comedy shows and Coach Art Shell being fired, that was a welcome approach.

“That’s exactly what I wanted to hear,” offensive tackle Robert Gallery said. “He said it before I even had to. I didn’t want to have to talk about it. It’s over, we’re on to new things.”

That was especially true for Gallery and the offense, which had one of the worst seasons in league history. The Raiders scored 168 points — fifth fewest in a 16-game season — had 12 offensive touchdowns, allowed a league-worst 72 sacks and failed to score a touchdown in their final three games.

Gallery, the No. 2 overall pick in 2004, looked lost at times as he moved from right to left tackle. He said he feels much more comfortable under the new assistant Tom Cable’s direction than he did under the inexperienced Jackie Slater.

“The system didn’t fit the offensive linemen that you had,” said the new fullback Justin Griffith, who played for the Falcons last season when Cable was the offensive line coach. “I think it was more the system than it was the players.”

There is plenty of excitement in Oakland about the regime and a new start as the team tries to rebound from four straight losing seasons.

But this is the time of year for optimism for all teams with new coaches, when everyone hopes the change will lead to success and no one has lost a game yet.

“Right now everybody is happy, the sun is out, everything is good,” cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. “But when adversity hits you never know what you are going to get. Like always, I can’t predict the future. I don’t know what is going to happen, but right now he has been very positive and seems like a guy that can take control.”

Kiffin said more than 90 percent of the players have been at the voluntary workouts, showing up at least four days a week. One notable exception has been the disgruntled receiver Randy Moss, who expressed a desire to be traded at various points last season.

Kiffin and the coaching staff have begun putting in some of the new offense, which will include elements of the West Coast offense that the coordinator Greg Knapp has used in the past, with some wrinkles Kiffin has brought from U.S.C.

But much of the final product will depend on who is playing quarterback, which remains up in the air.

Andrew Walter is the only quarterback with N.F.L. experience on the roster. The team could select quarterback JaMarcus Russell of Louisiana State or Brady Quinn of Notre Dame with the No. 1 overall draft pick, and also bring in another veteran.

Kiffin has talked with the former Houston quarterback David Carr, who was released by the Texans. Kiffin was a graduate assistant at Fresno State when Carr was on the team.

But for now, Walter is the quarterback. The Raiders thought so highly of Walter that they did not use their first-round pick a year ago on Matt Leinart or Jay Cutler.

But given a chance to play when Aaron Brooks went down with an injury in the second game, Walter struggled last year.

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