MOBILE, Ala. - New Raiders head coach Hue Jackson looked like a game show host when he showed up here at the Under Armour Senior Bowl's North practice Tuesday morning as scouts and assistant coaches hailed and hugged him.
Especially his former colleagues on the Bengals staff. Jackson worked for Marvin Lewis from 2004-2006 as his wide receivers coach in a stretch the Bengals narrowly missed back-to-back playoff berths by a game. He calls Lewis "my best friend," and vows to model the Raiders resurgence on what Lewis did when he arrived in Cincinnati in 2003 to take over a 2-14 team.
"Marvin is very organized and very detailed. He had a plan when he came to Cincinnati," Jackson said. "He not only did a great job infusing his team with energy, but also infusing the community with it. In my opinion, that's the same thing we're trying to do in Oakland. We've got to do the best job we can to put people in the seats and reach out to them and give them a great product. I enjoyed watching that process and how the community became energized."
Jackson says among his goals is starting a foundation in Oakland like Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis Community Fund and become entrenched the way Lewis did as quickly as he can. He's also talking to guys like Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, as well as former NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer, men he's worked with down through the years who became head coaches.
"I'm lucky I can pick up the phone and talk to these guys about anything anytime," Jackson said. "I'm going to lean on Marvin. He'll be sick of me."
Jackson has now worked for both Bengals president Mike Brown and Raiders boss Al Davis, two guys viewed as quirky NFL outsiders.
"Never saw them that way. They've both been great to work for," Jackson said. "Mike gave me a great opportunity. And then he let me go to Atlanta (in 2007 as offensive coordinator) and he didn't have to do that. I never had to do it much, but I felt like I could always go in there and talk to him. Same thing with Mr. Davis. They are old school guys who take pride and passion in their organizations and want to win. That's all you can ask for."
The Raiders are one of the three teams Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has talked about playing for (along with the Jets and Pats) and he calls Jackson the best wide receivers coach he's ever had. Jackson can't comment on Oakland as a possible landing spot.
But stay tuned.
"He's my son," Jackson said. "I like him as a young man and really admire what he's done in Cincinnati and I want to stay in touch with him because I have great respect for him."
BOOMER REMEMBERS:Boomer Esiason.
Been there, done that.
Esiason, the franchise quarterback who successfully asked for a trade from Bengals president Mike Brown when Carson Palmer was in junior high, understands where Palmer is coming from. He also says Palmer might have to do what he did and wait a year while the Bengals find the next guy.
Esiason, still one of the NFL's most recognizable figures as a CBS studio analyst, recalled Tuesday how the Christmas Eve 1991 departure of head coach Sam Wyche spurred his desire to leave. Esiason kept it quiet, but he called Brown that night and kept calling.
"Mike Brown's not going to budge unless he gets an unbelievable offer," Esiason said. "It worked out perfectly for me the way the cards fell. People forget, but David Klinger was the guy coming out of the (1992) draft and then the next year Mike not only traded me to the Jets, but back to my offensive coordinator (Bruce Coslet). Of course, a change of scenery doesn't always mean it's better."
Next year, Palmer will be the same age when Esiason was traded (32) and Esiason understands even though he says Palmer has never called him for counsel on the subject. But Esiason sees what Palmer sees. In the same division, younger quarterbacks such as the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger have been to three Super Bowls and the Ravens' Joe Flacco to three playoffs in his first three seasons.
"I'm sure he's frustrated. Maybe he looks at the division and sees two strong teams and figures the Bengals are going to be behind the 8-ball for the next five, six years," Esiason said. "I saw it differently. I had just lost my offensive coordinator (Coslet). We weren't active in Plan B free agency and became good at losing players. And as much as Sam and I got into it sometimes, I loved what he allowed me to do in the no-huddle. I didn't want to learn a new offense again there, although David (Shula) kept the same one. The Jets were going out into free agency and making a play and the Bengals were going through transition, and it seems like they've been doing that since l left."
There is one big difference between now and 1992. Esiason's demand didn't become public until about 10 years later. This one went viral a week after the meeting in 2011 fashion and he admits Brown doesn't like to be backed into anything. He still thinks Palmer could come back for a year given that the civility is intact, but he says the Bengals have time to sift through the draft and find a quarterback. He points to rookie QBs like Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford and Colt McCoy playing right away.
"That's what a lot of teams are doing right now," Esiason said. "There's still a lot of time left before the draft. Both sides are going to have to figure it out."
After going from ripped in 1987 to revered in 1988, Esiason doesn't think Palmer's public trade demand precludes a return.
"If I could do that in one year, anybody can," Esiason said. "All the fans care about is if you win. And Bengals fans have frustrations, and they take it out on the quarterback. Ask Ken Anderson. I got booed. It happens to everybody."
CHAD JOHNSON AGAIN?The biggest surprise on Chad Ochocinco's NFL Live appearance on ESPN Tuesday night is that he said he wants to come back to Cincinnati even though head coach Marvin Lewis has been riding him pretty good in the media.
"I don't want to go anywhere," Ochocinco said, via ProFooballTalk.com. "I love Cincy. I love the fans. And Cincinnati is all I know. That's all I know. And I just look forward to next year. But before the season starts, I do need to fight with my head coach."
Lewis laughed at that one when he heard it Tuesday night. The Ocho also said he was going to change his name back to Chad Johnson. But he doesn't mean quite yet because he plans to do it legally. Bengals public relations director Jack Brennan said Tuesday night when it's legal the team will recognize it.
The Ocho also said Palmer's trade request should be supported and embraced "because you have to understand the brunt of losing falls on him," he said.
"I understand where Carson is coming from; losing is wearing on him," said The Ocho, who tried to get out via trade before the '08 season. "Sometimes (the problem) is beyond players. When your franchise quarterback wants out, that's serious and bad. I have no idea what the problem is … when I (demanded a trade) I just wanted to go where I felt like I had a chance to win and have fun."
"He needs to win and so do I."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» One NFL general manager said Tuesday the Bengals can't be a hurry to trade Palmer if they don't have an experienced quarterback "in the pipeline," which they don't. He also said he thought Palmer could net a first-round pick from a team that is "playoff ready."
"I don't think his skills have declined. I think he's got everything you want," The GM said. "But for whatever reason, I don't think he's ever put it all together and from what I can tell, they've tried to surround him with good players."
» North linebacker Greg Jones out of Michigan State got a special honor Monday at the first practice when Bengals strength coach Chip Morton called him up to break up the pre-practice stretch with some quick jumping jacks. Jones is out of Cincinnati's Moeller High School, where Morton's son attends.
» It looks like Abilene Christian wide receiver Edmund Gates, the cousin of Bengals running back Bernard Scott, is out for the South on Saturday. He aggravated a hamstring injury from a playoff game (which he finished) on Monday and thinks he's got a shot to run a sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash in a month at the NFL scouting combine if healthy. So he won't risk it.
» Monday, Jan. 24, 2011, is a day that Palmer is always going to remember. Bengals fans will remember it as the day he said he officially wanted out. He'll remember it as his third child's and second daughter's birthday. Bries Shaelyn Palmer was born Monday night.