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Raider head coach candidate roundup reveals new frontrunner

It has now been three weeks since the season ended and two weeks since the news came down that Hue Jackson was fired as the Raiders’ head coach. Since then, what started as speculation has turned to interviews and the status of “frontrunner” has reportedly changed hands a few times. Here is the latest.

Even prior to the season ending, Packers’ linebackers coach and assistant head coach Winston Moss was the name most involved with the Raiders. First it was as a top candidate to replace the sure-to-be-fired Chuck Bresnahan at defensive coordinator. Then the bombshell landed that Hue Jackson was fired, and Moss’ name moved to the forefront of the head coaching search.

Up until this past weekend, Moss was still thought of as the frontrunner by most (myself included). But as of a few days ago, there was no indication that he had even been contacted about the job. Then a report surfaced via Adam Schefter that Moss and Raiders’ GM Reggie McKenzie had an interview the Saturday before the Packers were to play the New York Giants.

Despite the interview, Moss still acted as if he had not received so much as a phone call, and said that he would be listening should the Raiders be interested. Now we are hearing that the interview didn’t go especially well and McKenzie appears to have shifted his focus to other candidates.

The early speculation from Schefter when he broke the news was that former Lions head coach and current Eagles offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg, was now the frontrunner. However, there is no proof that is the case.

In the meantime, another Raider coach has left for elsewhere. Defensive line coach Mike Waufle has joined Jeff Fisher’s staff in St Louis. Waufle was one of the more coveted defensive line coaches in football, and it is not good news to see him out of the mix in Oakland. Prior to Waufle leaving, wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal was the only other Raider coach to leave — he joined the Jets in the same position.

Back to the head coaching search. The most recent news is that Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has been asked to come back for a second interview with McKenzie. He is the first of the coaching candidates to receive a second look, which gives the appearance that he is the new frontrunner for the job.

While Allen is set to return, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice is scheduled for his first interview with the team on Tuesday. Tice seems the least likely candidate. He had six years in Minnesota as a head coach and didn’t impress.

[UPDATE: The interview between Reggie McKenzie and Mike Tice has been canceled. This could be further proof that McKenzie has zeroed in on his choice. With the news of the second interview with Dennis Allen coming just hours before the news of the Tice interview cancellation, it seems Allen may indeed be the guy.]

Other candidates to interview for the job include Dolphins secondary coach and interim head coach Todd Bowles and Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. The team had an interview scheduled with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy but McCoy canceled to focus on the Dolphins’ job. The team was also reportedly interested in Packers coordinators Dom Capers and Joe Philbin. Nothing has materialized with Capers, and Philbin recently accepted the Miami Dolphins head coaching position. I don’t see the team giving McCoy another opportunity at an interview.

With the AFC and NFC Championship games now completed, there are a couple more good head coach prospects available: Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, plus 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Pagano was the Raiders’ defensive backs coach for two seasons, and last year when his name came up as a potential head coaching candidate for the Raiders, he was quoted as saying his two seasons in Oakland “were plenty.” He was of course speaking of Al Davis and the way he preferred to run the defense. But even with Al Davis now passed, I would think that kind of ill will wouldn’t sit too well with Mark Davis who believes just as strongly in loyalty as his father did.

Roman is less likely. Prior to last season, he had never been an offensive coordinator at any level. He had coached in the NFL for 13 seasons, however. Fangio is a longtime NFL defensive coordinator including a five year stint with the Baltimore Ravens. He spent just one season on Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford before he joined him with the 49ers.

McKenzie’s interviewing of candidates has proven that there are no set rules on interviewing a coach while his team is still in the playoffs. They are more suggestions and guidelines, which means that it is possible if McKenzie were interested in Fangio, Roman, or Pagano, he may well have contacted them already. At which point they could respectfully request to wait on the interview.

The wait to know who the Raiders’ next head coach will be may not go on much longer. The Senior Bowl is next Saturday, January 28, and McKenzie has said that he should have his head coach in place by that time if not sooner.

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