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The Box will stand second to no one in getting game-ready for Sunday's Chargers/Patriots contest. This is the best playoff match-up to date and is required viewing for sports enthusiasts.

But, let's not take our eyes off the ball while we await Sunday's thriller. I don't want you to let this week slip by without taking advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Why not be an NFL head coach?

Al Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders, is looking for a new head coach again, and there's no reason why that position shouldn't be yours. Yes, there are some problems, but nothing major. You'll have to get over overtly hating the Raiders. Surely, great gobs of money will engender positive feelings toward the Silver and Black. You'll have to spend part of your week in Oakland. Security contractors, fresh from Iraq, will take care of your needs. You'll have to be easy about being fired at season's end. Two million dollars should make that a pleasant experience.

On the happy side of the street, you don't need to know anything about football. Al has reached the moving-into-the-seventh-floor- of-a-Las-Vegas-hotel, -letting-his-fingernails-grow- to-eight-inches, -peeing-in-bottles-and-mumbling, -"Just-win,-baby" -at-the-door-knob stage of his life. Until a court intervenes, do what he says, no matter how loony it seems to you. Remember, four or five months of doing what the crazy man says equals two million bucks. Tell Al you love the vertical pass. In fact, you love it even better when the vertical pass is combined with the long downfield pass, giving Raider Nation one long, vertical, downfield pass explosion of football ecstasy. Pride and Poise.

You'll be replacing Art Shell, which may be more difficult than it seems. I still can't figure if Shell was stupid or smart. For sure, he was stupid when it came to coaching and personnel; that's not in dispute. But I'm wondering whether he was street-smart or street-stupid. Was he smart enough to know that being an NFL head coach in 2006 would be way over his head? Was he smart enough to sit back and enjoy the paychecks? Smart enough to bring aboard his old buddy, Tom Walsh, the Idaho B&B proprietor, and his equal in incompetence as offensive-coordinator-best-friend? Art's hire reminds me of when the pipeline hit Alaska. I wrote to a friend in Oregon, "It's raining money, get a bucket and come on up."

Art and Tom did seem to be on a long hunting trip, two old friends, camping out, drinking whiskey, and telling lies around the campfire, not caring whether they bagged an elk or not. I loved Art's press conferences. The Raiders lost 14 games, and after every one of them, Shell would appear, face set in cement, and deadpan to the press, "We've got to hold on to the ball," then go home. There's something wonderful about that.

Or, was he stupid-stupid? This is what Shell told reporters on Monday: "Many times, a record is not an indicator, and I know it's wins and losses that count, but I think and believe that we're a better group than we were at the beginning of the year or at any time in the off-season."

He was fired three days later. Art lost the respect of his team during training camp. The Raiders quit in every game I saw them play. Yet from everything that's been said and written, you have to believe Shell thought he was returning for year two.

Let's get back to you and your new job as Raiders head coach. It's possible Davis will retrace his steps. Davis fired Shell the first time after the 1994 season. The next head coach, for two seasons, was Mike White. Then Joe Bugel for one season, Jon Gruden for four seasons, Bill Callahan for two seasons, Norv Turner for one season, and Shell again for one season. So, if Al's making a loop, he'll hire his 1995--'96 coach, Mike White. White was working for Kansas City as director of football administration in 2005, but is not listed in the 2006 Chiefs directory, and therefore, is in need of a job.

Joe Bugel is the offensive assistant head coach for the Washington Redskins. No one now living knows why. He could be a strong candidate. Jon Gruden, soon to be the fired head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs, will be looking for work. The 2002--'03 Raiders coach, Bill Callahan, was demoted to college football and is now head coach of the University of Nebraska. Norv Turner is the offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers.

Tough competition. Let's hope Al still has the fire to go for a fresh young face. Yours. You could not be any worse than what he's used to.

So, get to it, mail a one-page essay, "Why I want to be a Raiders head coach" to: Mr. Allen Davis, Oakland Raiders, 1220 Harbor Bay Pkwy, Alameda, CA 94502. Kindly, send the Box a copy.

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