University of Louisville coach Bobby Petrino confirmed that he turned down the Oakland Raiders job for the third time, including another proposal on Wednesday night that would have paid him $18 million over five years.
Petrino told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that he was flattered by the Raiders' persistence but that he was committed to Louisville and did not feel his family was ready for a move.
Petrino is the only coach to whom the Raiders have offered the position.
Former Raiders coach Art Shell has now emerged as the front-runner to return to his former job, ESPN has learned. Current San Diego Chargers receivers coach James Lofton also remains in the running, Mortensen reports. A Raiders source also told Mortensen that there is yet another "mystery candidate" with considerable NFL experience.
The report came on the same day that Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who had a good visit with the Raiders on Wednesday, informed the team he would stay with the world champions.
Raiders owner Al Davis has said he did Shell wrong by firing him years ago. Shell interviewed last Thursday and told Davis he's ready to serve when necessary. Shell is in the Tampa area for the next couple of days, but he told Davis he's ready to accept the job if offered.
Former Giants coach Jim Fassel, who Mortensen reported has also been mentioned for the job, has spoken with the Raiders by phone. But ESPN.com's John Clayton reported that Fassel has not interviewed in person with the team.
Shell, a member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame, won two Super Bowls and played in eight Pro Bowls as the Raiders' left tackle and is widely regarded as one of the best offensive linemen to ever play the game.
As the Raiders coach between 1989 and 1994, Shell was 54-38 in the regular season and 2-3 in the playoffs. In 1990 the Raiders won the AFC West and reached the AFC title game, where they lost 51-3 at Buffalo. They made the playoffs as a wild card
in 1991 and 1993.
Whisenhunt left Oakland Wednesday night on a red-eye flight without an offer. He was told by Davis that the team would get back to him in a couple of days. Conversations with the team and Whisenhunt continued Thursday morning until Whisenhunt decided that staying with the Steelers was his best move.
Whisenhunt's agent, Eric Metz, stayed over in Oakland on Thursday night, but he left town Thursday without any deal being offered and knowing Whisenhunt's decision.
For Whisenhunt, it was going to be hard to leave a Super Bowl team, particularly one with the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, Ben Roethlisberger. By staying, Whisenhunt can continue to expand the passing offense around Roethlisberger for an organization that has a chance to return to the Super Bowl in the next few years.
The Raiders had the luxury of waiting until after the Super Bowl to hire a head coach because they have the ability to keep many of the assistant coaches from last year's staff. Should Shell get the job, he will only have to make a couple of hires.
Information from ESPN's Chris Mortensen, ESPN.com's John Clayton and The Associated Press was used in this report.