Southern California quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian, the presumptive front-runner for the Oakland head coach vacancy, interviewed on Wednesday with team officials for the second time in two weeks, and the two sides commenced contract negotiations.
A league source cautioned late Wednesday, though, that contract discussions were at an early stage and that, while Sarkisian appears to be the choice, completing a deal might possibly take a few days. It is not known if that means that a long bargaining process is anticipated or if the Raiders could be conducting parallel negotiations with other candidates.
The follow-up interview for Sarkisian came less than a day after some media outlets reported late Tuesday night that San Diego Chargers wide receivers coach and Hall of Fame member James Lofton was poised to accept the position. It also came amid the kind of cryptic manner with which the Raiders traditionally conduct their searches for a head coach.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Raiders made it clear to Sarkisian on Wednesday that the Lofton reports were erroneous and that the USC assistant remained very much in contention for the job.
It is believed that Sarkisian, 32, is the first known candidate asked back for a second interview. In addition to Sarkisian and Lofton, the Raiders have also interviewed current Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday that former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green rebuffed overtures from Oakland officials to arrange an interview.
The Raiders fired coach Art Shell after only one year and a disastrous 2-14 season marked by one of the worst overall offensive performances in recent league history.
Sarkisian served as Oakland's quarterbacks coach in 2004 and, while he has not been a coordinator or head coach, he fits the mold of the kind of coach owner Al Davis has traditionally sought. Davis typically looks for candidates whose expertise is on the offensive side of the ball, and who are young and innovative.
A former Brigham Young quarterback who played in the CFL from 1997-99, Sarkisian has a limited coaching résumé. Beyond his two stints at Southern California (2001-2003 and 2005), Sarkisian was on the staff at El Camino (Calf.) Junior College in 2000.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.