This is the most important assistant coach on Dennis Allen’s staff. Because Allen is a defensive specialist, he will be able to help the new defensive coordinator. Yet, it is the offensive coordinator who Allen will have to put his most trust in.
I don’t think this hire will inspire much excitement in the Raider Nation. Knapp has already been Oakland’s offensive coordinator and it didn’t work out well. He is a good, solid coach, but the truth is, he is not known for being one of the most dynamic offensive coaches in the league.
In fairness, Knapp will be working with a much more talented offense in his second tour in Oakland. The Raiders’ offense was anemic when he was the coordinator in 2007 and 2008. When Tom Cable took over as interim coach after Lane Kiffin was fired in 2008, Cable stripped Knapp’s duties from him. In Knapp’s only full season as the offensive coordinator (2007), the Raiders were No. 27 in total offense.
I think what we have to focus on is Allen’s past with Knapp and not Knapp’s past in Oakland. The two worked together in Atlanta earlier last decade. Clearly, Knapp was impressive enough for Allen to give him this chance.
Even though he was most recently Houston’s quarterbacks coach (he did a nice time adjusting to several injuries and he made undrafted rookie T.J. Yates a playoff-game-winning quarterback), Knapp is a run-first coordinator. That jibes well with Oakland’s talent. The Raiders have one of the best running games in the NFL.
Knapp knows some of Oakland’s talent. He had Michael Bush (a free agent who may be given the franchise tag) and starting tailback Darren McFadden in the program when he was last in Oakland. So, that adjustment will not be difficult. For the most part, most of the key offensive parts are new.
Knapp’s hiring likely means 2011 Oakland offensive coordinator Al Saunders will not be brought back, although it is feasible he could take on a lesser role. But Allen (who originally wanted former Green Bay coach Mike Sherman as his coordinator, but he went to Miami), struck fast to replace Saunders. So, it’s clear he wants to build his own staff. New Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie fired coach Hue Jackson because he wanted to find his guy, so it’s only fair Allen is afforded the same luxury.
Still, it will be interesting to see if Allen keeps anyone on Oakland’s staff. McKenzie indicated Monday that there are some coaches on Jackson’s staff that Allen may keep. I’d think perhaps offensive line assistant Steve Wisniewski may be one of them. Meanwhile, several of Jackson’s assistants are leaving. The latest is reportedly tight ends coach Adam Henry.
With Knapp reportedly in the fold, now the biggest remaining job on Allen’s staff is defensive coordinator. Former San Diego defensive coordinator Greg Manusky (he was fired earlier this month) is among those in play. Allen has been denied permission to speak to multiple candidates for the job.