Managing general partner Al Davis would have looked like a genius for firing Norv Turner and bringing back a career-long company man he fired 11 seasons earlier. Shell's long wait for a second coaching job would have proved worthwhile. Fans would have been appreciative of the three losing seasons they endured before Shell's arrival.
Instead, everything is in a state of turmoil. Did Davis do the proper thing by hiring Shell? Is Aaron Brooks, Andrew Walter or some fresh-faced kid on a college campus the quarterback of the future? What to do with disgruntled wide receivers Randy Moss and Jerry Porter? "In a football atmosphere, you don't want to have gray," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "Either white or black."
Not much made sense with the Raiders in the worst season in the franchise's 47-year history.
It would be so nice, players said, if the team had only a few glaring problems.
"There's not two or three changes (to be made)," Brooks said. "There's a laundry list of things that need to be done."
What follows is a breakdown of the five most pressing issues concerning a Raiders team that finished 2-14 but owns the rights to the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL draft in April.
- REBUILD OFFENSIVE LINE. It was assumed that Shell and fellow Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater, along with Irv Eatman, would be able to work wonders with the offensive line.
Quite the contrary.
The offensive line played so poorly, Shell said, that it's going to be difficult to assess the performance of the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers given the adverse conditions they worked under.
- IDENTIFY THE QUARTERBACK OF THE FUTURE. Shell said he isn't averse to bringing back Brooks and Walter, even if the Raiders draft a quarterback or sign one in free agency.
Either way, deciding upon one as his starter has to be a top priority. Brooks wants to return, and he said he considers himself the best option. If Shell agrees, fine. If not, he needs to consider selecting someone in the draft such as Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, Ohio State's Troy Smith or Louisiana State's JaMarcus Russell.
Brooks and Walter combined for only six touchdown passes, 21 interceptions and a league-worst 72 sacks. Much of that is attributable to the inconsistent play of the offensive line, Shell said. Determining just how much figures to be the key to deciding which way to go at quarterback next season.
- FIND AN OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR. Tom Walsh got 11 games to display his ideas. The Raiders averaged 11 points in those games. That figure dropped to 7.2 in replacement John Shoop's five-game audition.
It's likely that Davis will impress upon Shell the need to find one of the bright, young minds floating around the league or in the college ranks, someone seeking an opportunity and a promotion. This needs to be one of Shell's first moves.
The Raiders offense generated only 138 points, finished last in total offense and failed to deliver on the promise of a power running game and a vertical passing attack.
- DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH MOSS AND PORTER. Wide receivers Randy Moss and Jerry Porter did more to undermine Oakland's offensive success than they did to bolster the attack.
Moss dropped a ton of passes, complained about his role and expressed a desire to play elsewhere next season. Porter criticized the Raiders decision to hire Shell over former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz and Shell's hiring of Walsh.
Players disagreed with Shell's handling of both players and said the situations need to be resolved sooner rather than later. This is a prime opportunity for Davis and Shell to demonstrate their willingness to sacrifice big-name players for the good of the team.
- BOLSTERING THE RUN DEFENSE. The Raiders finished with the league's top-ranked pass defense. However, that is misleading because of the ease with which team's found success running the ball against the Raiders.
Why risk an incompletion or interception when the relative safety of running the ball yielded the desired results seemed to be the mentality adopted by Raider opponents.
Teams ran the ball 57 percent of the time against the Raiders. By comparison, the Raiders rushed only 45 percent of the time. Raiders opponents averaged almost as many yards rushing as they did passing.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Raiders to add a run-stuffing defensive tackle via the draft or free agency to help fill the void created by the departure of Ted Washington to free agency after the 2005 season.
"There's things that have to be done," Shell said. "We have to take a hard look, not only at what we're doing but, again, you have to look at players, you have to look at it all. It's not just one aspect, you have to look at everything that you've done and that you were trying to do. And that includes staff, that includes players, that includes everything."
That process already has begun. It's going to take some time, plenty of soul-searching and a stronger commitment by everyone to get it done, Brooks said.
"I've never been in a situation where it's been so tough," Brooks said. "I've never seen a situation like this, where it's so tough to turn around."
Until things change, the gray clouds that have lingered for four years aren't going away anytime soon.