STEVE MARIUCCI once stood in a corridor at Memorial Stadium pondering the source of the friction with his former boss, Bruce Snyder, and guessing it was linked to a man named Hue Jackson.
Jackson, having spent four years as an assistant under Snyder at Arizona State, was an energetic 30-year-old running backs coach equally popular with players and staff — much as Mariucci was during his time as an assistant under Snyder at Cal.
Mariucci had hired Jackson away from Arizona State, bringing him to Cal and installing him as offensive coordinator — and perhaps alienating Snyder.
"I called Bruce to let him know I was interested in Hue," Mariucci recalled at the time. "And, boy, he wasn't happy about it. He said, 'Oh, no, not Hue. Don't take Hue.'
"Bruce knew he was going to lose a good coach; nobody likes to lose a good coach. But this was for a promotion."
Fourteen years later, cancer has taken Snyder, Mariucci is a TV analyst, and Jackson is pulling into Oakland as the offensive coordinator — and, quite likely, next in line to succeed Tom Cable as Raiders head coach.
Though Jackson is one of dozens of itinerant NFL assistants — this is the 10th stop of his career — response to his departures generally echoes the sentiment expressed by Snyder in 1996. Jackson is highly regarded and leaves a void in his wake.
Once again, Jackson accepts a promotion that brings him to the Bay Area. Though he was lifted from Baltimore, where as quarterbacks coach he was largely responsible for the rapid development of Joe Flacco, Jackson's newest mission may be the most difficult he's ever faced.
He's here to salvage JaMarcus Russell, mold him into a quality NFL quarterback and hope it results in an offensive competency not seen in these parts for nearly a decade.
Ted Tollner and Paul Hackett, both with reputations as teachers, were brought in last year but couldn't save JaMarcus. Sources close to both say the coaches were frustrated by Russell's lack of commitment to maximize his obvious physical talent.
The hiring of Jackson is proof Raiders owner Al Davis wants a new play-caller — Jackson assumes the role from Cable, who presumably remains head coach. Moreover, Jackson's arrival also seems to affirm Russell's status as a Raider in 2010.
Raider Nation is, as it feared but suspected, stuck with JaMarcus for at least another year.
But Jackson takes an altogether different approach than that taken by Tollner and Hackett, both professorial men in their 60s. Jackson is a full generation younger, he's charismatic and he forms personal relationships with members of his unit.
"Hue really has a presence," ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck, a marginal NFL quarterback who worked under Jackson, said on the Web site. "He can stand up in front of the room and have the attention of all 25 guys on offense. Some coaches aren't able to command the room. Hue can. And he does it quite well."
Jackson, who played quarterback at the University of the Pacific in the mid-1980s, has coached quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, working closely with talents such as Carson Palmer in college and with such personalities as Michael Vick, Chad Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the NFL.
That Jackson is an African-American who played when black quarterbacks were a novelty likely won't hurt his chances to bond with Russell, who by all accounts was adversely affected by the deaths of two close uncles last year.
Jackson is as prepared and equipped as anyone to develop Russell, though there has been no detectable sign of change within JaMarcus; that postseason run to Las Vegas only served to further tarnish his apathetic image. Indeed, Jackson likely does — and should — represent Russell's last chance to make it work in Oakland.
Yet this only partially explains Jackson's return to the Bay Area. He also sees this as another self-exam toward his eventual goal, telling the Ravens team site in a farewell interview that he has "aspirations of being" an offensive coordinator or head coach in the NFL.
"You have to put yourself in position to have those opportunities," he said.
Should Jackson work a miracle with Russell and the offense, the world is his. Should he fail, it will be held not against him but against the Raiders.
Even as the Raiders insist no decision has been made regarding Cable, Davis has made a logical move to protect his future interests regarding Russell and the position of head coach.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.