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Henning Seems Davis' Choice as New Coach

February 17, 1988|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

Al Davis has narrowed his search for the next Raider coach to three men, with sources indicating Dan Henning, the Redskin assistant and ex-Falcon head coach, as the front runner.

Henning is now Washington's receivers coach and offensive assistant, but he is said to function as the Redskins' untitled offensive coordinator. He is expected to be here this afternoon for his second interview with Davis.

The other two top contenders, Denver offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan and Washington line coach Joe Bugel, have already been in for their second interviews, Shanahan on Sunday, Bugel on Monday.

Shanahan is generally considered No. 2 in this race, although there is disagreement on this point. Bugel is thought to remain solidly in the running, so much so that a source says Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard is saying privately, and unhappily, that he'll be the pick.

Two other sources, however, vote for Henning.

"There's a guy coming in later in the week?" said a knowledgeable source Tuesday. "Then that's his (Davis') guy.

"If the other guys came in yesterday and the day before, and there's a gap of 3-4 days, than the last guy is his guy."

Dennis Green, the 49er assistant and the only black thought to have been seriously considered, seems to have slipped from the picture. One source called him a longshot.

"There are only three guys," said another source, alluding to Henning, Bugel and Shanahan. "There's no guy coming out of left field anywhere."

Henning went 22-41-1 in four seasons as Falcon coach, but the experience seems to count as a plus. Other coaches considered his teams among the league's best prepared. The Giants' Bill Parcells, a man whose advice Davis solicits, has been pushing hard for Henning. Parcells has reportedly said privately that Henning is well-positioned in the race for the Raider job.

Henning is 45. Davis is said to be looking for an offensive assistant between the ages of 35 and 45, who is adept at the passing game. Those criteria would apply more to Henning and Shanahan, who is 35, than Bugel, who is 47 and a line coach.

Nevertheless, Davis reportedly likes what he's seen of Bugel. Bugel has handled the huge Redskin line, known as the Hogs, and Davis is a devotee of physical football. Bugel is considered one of the game's best line coaches, and the Raiders have an offensive line to put back together.

A source close to the Redskin staff says that Bugel may have even been the front runner at one point. The source claims that if Bugel could have brought Jerry Rhome, the Redskin quarterback coach, with him, he'd have already been hired.

However, Rhome has since been hired by the Chargers.

Davis has only hired three coaches, John Rauch, John Madden and Tom Flores, all of them assistants on the Raider staff. The leading candidates on the staff are thought to be defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner and receivers coach Tom Walsh, but Raider insiders have been insisting since the search began that this year Davis was going outside.

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