ALAMEDA — The Oakland Raiders' search for a new head coach has included promising coordinators, recycled head coaches and interim coach Tony Sparano.
After interviewing at least seven candidates the past two weeks, the Raiders could be close to settling on someone to fill the job.
Sparano had his formal interview for the job on Wednesday, following at least six external candidates. Those include current coordinators in Jack Del Rio, Pep Hamilton, Darrell Bevell and Pat Shurmur, San Francisco tight ends coach Eric Mangini and longtime NFL head coach Mike Shanahan.
Shanahan is perhaps the most intriguing candidate, having already held the job for the Raiders before being fired after 20 games by late owner Al Davis. The two feuded during Shanahan's tenure and Davis refused to pay him the remainder of his salary after he was fired four games into the 1989 season.
Shanahan won a grievance but never got paid and later took great pleasure in beating the Raiders when he became head coach in Denver, where he won two Super Bowls.
Current owner Mark Davis, Al's son, dismissed critics who said he shouldn't even talk to Shanahan because of the acrimonious history.
“This is something I learned from my dad — you talk to everybody because you can learn from everybody,” Davis told the San Jose Mercury News on Wednesday night. “Even if you're not going to hire somebody, if it turns out that way, you can learn from that person, if he's somebody who has things you can learn from.”
Davis said he particularly wanted to hear Shanahan's insights into quarterback Derek Carr after his experience working with quarterbacks like John Elway and Steve Young.
“If I didn't go listen to a guy that's got one of the best offensive minds in football and who has looked at all 16 of our games and can critique our quarterback for us … why wouldn't I? Of course I'm going to do that,” Shanahan told the Mercury News. “It's all part of the process. We're just trying to do what we can to get this right.”
The Raiders have had eight head coaches, more than 100 assistants and an NFL-worst 56-136 record over the past 12 seasons. Oakland has not made the playoffs or had a winning record in that span and is just 11-37 in three full seasons since Al Davis' death.
Despite all of that turnover and losing, there are reasons for optimism around the Raiders based on a promising draft class by general manager Reggie McKenzie. Carr started all 16 games as a rookie and appears as though he could end the revolving door of quarterbacks in Oakland.
Linebacker Khalil Mack was an immediate impact player on defense, while defensive tackle Justin Ellis, guard Gabe Jackson and cornerback TJ Carrie could be long-term starters.
That gives the Raiders a foundation to build on to go along with significant salary cap room in free agency.
Of the current candidates, only Hamilton and Bevell lack head coaching experience. The Raiders have only hired someone with previous professional head coaching experience three times in their history, with Joe Bugel, Norv Turner and Art Shell's second stint with the team.
Mangini, Del Rio and Shurmur all had losing records as head coaches and Shanahan has just one playoff win in 14 seasons after Elway's retirement.
Sparano also has experience, going 29-32 in three-plus seasons as Miami's coach. He lost in his only playoff appearance with the Dolphins.
Sparano went 3-9 after Dennis Allen was fired four games into the 2014 season. The Raiders lost their first six games under Sparano before winning three of the final six games as the team showed marked improvement in many areas.