The blend is unusual in pro football, excitement and candor. Hue Jackson doesn’t stop believing. Or demanding.
When you wait half a lifetime to become a head coach, you look at things differently, and even when the score is wrong, approvingly.
Jackson isn’t the only reason the Raiders have moved out of the darkness, eight consecutive seasons of losing. Players win, as any coach will tell you, but Jackson, 46, helped change the culture.
“How you doing?” is his usual opening line. The Raiders (6-4), with the Chicago Bears coming in Sunday to the Coliseum, are doing fine, although Jackson contends they could be doing better.
Not that he’s complaining about much, other than some of the officiating in this past weekend’s win over the Vikings.
“I feel very comfortable about it,” was Jackson’s assessment of his dialogue with people in the NFL office. “Nobody’s perfect.”
As far as the Raiders, nobody’s satisfied. “What we need to do is start winning at home,” Jackson said. “Home is supposed to be an advantage, not a disadvantage. The last few times it’s been a disadvantage.”
Is it news any longer the men leading the Raiders and Bears, Jackson and Lovie Smith, both are black? Jackson never makes a reference, never talks about the road he traveled, from University of Pacific — where as a young assistant he shared an office with Jon Gruden, and those discussions must have been fascinating — to the pros.
Jackson learned, taught and developed a style. It’s not that he can’t be questioned, but you’d better have a reason other than skepticism.
Someone wondered if with a minute remaining in the first half against Minnesota and the ball on the Vikings’ 1-yard line, it was “gutsy” to use Carson Palmer on consecutive quarterback sneaks, the second of which ended up in the end zone.
“Gutsy?” said Jackson rhetorically. “I don’t think that’s gutsy, that’s easy. We have a big old, 6-foot-5, 230-pound quarterback. Plus he told me he’s the best in the world at quarterback sneaks. It was the easiest call we made all day.”
The call on trading two first-round draft picks for Palmer a few weeks ago, after Jason Campbell went down with a broken collarbone, may have been the smartest. On the team only a month, Palmer has found his comfort level.
“We have a big-time NFL quarterback,” Jackson said. “Against the Vikings, no turnovers. That’s what you have to do. It’s not about yards or touchdown passes. Let’s not give the ball to the other team. I mean, 74 percent completions and a touchdown, that’s what wins.”
With Darren McFadden injured, Michael Bush was the main man. For a second straight game Bush rushed 30 times. “Should I give him 30 more, make it 30-60-90 in three games?” was Jackson’s flippant comment.
That brought to mind the late John McKay at USC when asked about O.J. Simpson carrying the ball 30 times in one game. “Why not?” McKay said. “It’s not heavy, and he doesn’t belong to a union.”
Hue Jackson belongs to the elite NFL coaching club, only 32 members.
“I’m having the time of my life,” Jackson said. “It gets no better than this.”
There’s a man who knows football. And life.
Raiders vs. Bears
WHEN: Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
WHERE: O.co Coliseum, Oakland
TV: Fox (KTVU, Ch. 2)
RADIO: KFRC (1550 AM), KITS (105.3 FM)
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.