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Shell, Art 1946–

Art Shell 1946–

Football coach

When Art Shell was named head coach of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1989, he became the first African-American head coach in modern National Football League (NFL) history. A former star offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders, and part of two Super Bowl championship teams, Shell replaced Mike Shanahan, a second-year coach who was previously with the Denver Broncos. By appointing Shell, Raiders management hoped to rejuvenate the franchise, which, after moving to Los Angeles from Oakland in 1982, had lost the mark of the dominant Raiders teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s. “I wanted a Raider,” general manager Al Davis was quoted as saying by Dave Anderson of the New York Times. “When we went back to Oakland for an exhibition game two months ago, the one thing lacking was a link to the past in our coaching leadership.”

Was a Player Before Becoming Coach

Shell's history with the Raiders ran deep. In fifteen seasons as an offensive lineman, he was considered one of the NFL's finest. At six feet, five inches, and three hundred pounds, Shell could, as Jill Lieber noted in Sports Illustrated, “intimidate opponents with his size alone.” He was selected to the Pro Bowl a total of eight times, the most of any Raider ever, and played in a total of 207 games, the third highest number of any Raider. One of his career highlights came when Oakland defeated Minnesota in the 1977 Super Bowl, and Shell's defensive opponent had neither a tackle nor a sack the entire game. Former Raiders fullback Mark van Eeghen (1952—) recalled to Lieber, “Art had extremely high standards. He prided himself in keeping his guy off [quarterback] Ken Stabler; a sack hurt Art more than it did Kenny.” In 1989 Shell was honored for his career achievements by being elected to the Football Hall of Fame.

Besides his stellar playing career, Shell possessed a knowledge of Raiders football that distinguished him as prime coaching material. Former Raiders head coach John Madden remarked to Michael Janofsky of the New York Times, “When I watched Art Shell play, I always felt he would make a good coach and a good head coach…. He's a very bright, studious person, who not only played the game physically but knew everything about what he did, what everybody else did and why. He took that approach to the game, he was very, very knowledgeable.” Madden told Anderson, “Some players never think about anything but their own jobs, but Art always thought about everybody else's job. When I was coaching the Raiders, he used to come up to me and say, ‘I was thinking last night, what if we did this.’ That's the way a coach thinks, but not many players think like that.”

After the games, Shell would enjoy listening to other players respond to the media, especially fellow lineman Gene Upshaw. “I'd listen to Gene answer the questions. He always said the right things and he was so good, so quotable,” Shell told Thomas George of the New York Times. “I paid close attention. I learned a lot that way about football, about life, by just listening.” After Shell retired from playing football in 1983, he was named the Raiders offensive line coach and continued to learn from others. He commented to Lieber regarding the various Raiders coaches he worked under: “John Madden taught me about the game of people. I learned that you have to understand each individual, when to push his buttons and when not to. From Tom Flores [the Raiders coach from 1979 to 1987] I learned patience. He was a quiet, stoic leader. Mike Shanahan was one of the most organized people I ever met.”

As a loyal and patient coach, Shell made it a priority to maintain a closeness with his players. “Even in the bad games, his communion with the players is obvious,” commented Jeannie Park and Lorenzo Benet in People. “Unlike more mercurial coaches, Shell doesn't scream or throw tantrums. When things go wrong, he gently pulls the offender aside, wraps a beefy arm around his shoulder and speaks his mind quietly.” A family approach has always been important to Shell, as he already demonstrated when he was a young man. The eldest of five children whose mother died when he was fifteen, Shell played a major role in raising his siblings. Shell's sister, Eartha Smalls, told Park and Benet, “He ran the house as my dad would…. He told us life must go on and we had to pull together.”

Became Raiders Head Coach

After becoming head coach, Shell helped the Raiders climb their back to the top of professional football. In his second year as coach, the team advanced all the way to the American Football Conference championship game, before losing to Buffalo. Shell seemed to be living up to his game plan. He told Janofsky that the Raiders were “going to try and regain the power, toughness and explosiveness we had in the past.” According to Anderson, Shell had a good chance of being, as general manager Davis hoped, “the guy … to restore the identity of this franchise.”

Shell remained head coach of the Raiders until 1994, compiling a 56-41 record. After a dismal 1994 season, in which the Raiders accumulated a 9-7 record, Davis decided to replace Shell with backup coach Mike White. Even though the media described Shell's dismissal as acrimonious, both Shell and Davis claimed that they remained friends. Shell was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs as offensive line coach for the 1995 and 1996 seasons. The Chiefs performed well under Shell's direction and reached the playoffs in 1995 before losing to the Indianapolis Colts. Shell left the Chiefs after 1996 to become offensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons, where he helped the Falcons achieve their best season in 1998, in which the team won the NFC West Division Championship before losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.

At a Glance …

Born on November 26, 1946, in Charleston, SC; son of Arthur Sr. and Gertrude Shell; married Janice; children: Arthur III, Christopher. Education: Maryland State (now University of Maryland at Eastern Shore), BS, 1968.

Career: Professional football player with Oakland Raiders of the National Football League, 1968-82 (franchise moved to Los Angeles, 1982); Los Angeles Raiders, offensive line coach, 1983-89, head coach, 1989-94; Kansas City Chiefs, offensive line coach, 1995-96; Atlanta Falcons, offensive line coach, 1996-2000; NFL, senior vice president of football operations and development 2004-06; Oakland Raiders, head coach 2006-07.

Awards: Selected eight times to the Pro Bowl; elected to the Football Hall of Fame, 1989.

Addresses: Office—Los Angeles Raiders, 332 Center St., El Segundo, CA 90245.

After the 2000 season, Shell began a new chapter of his life when he left coaching to join the NFL administrative team. The decision to leave the Falcons was voluntary and Shell stated that he was looking for different opportunities within the organization. Shell worked in the NFL's office of college relations and was then promoted to serve in the league's appeals office for player discipline. In 2004 Shell received a major promotion when he asked to serve as senior vice president for football operations and development, replacing John Beake. According to Thomas George of the New York Times, league commissioner Paul Tagliabue said in an official NFL press release: “In his playing and coaching career and in the past two years at league headquarters, Art Shell has demonstrated the ability to successfully manage a wide range of responsibilities. We are pleased to have an executive with his expertise and talent in this key position.”

Returned to the Raiders

In 2006 Shell was asked to return to the field as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. While he had made a career successful transition, becoming an excellent administrator, the allure of returning to the Raiders convinced Shell to begin coaching again. Davis, who had frequently expressed regret at having fired Shell after the 1994 season, hoped that Shell's return would invigorate the franchise, which had posted only three playoff appearances since Shell's dismissal. However, under Shell's leadership, the Raiders completed the 2006 season with a disappointing 2-14 record, which was a franchise record for the number of losses. Davis decided to release Shell for a second time, but said in a press release that he would consider ways for Shell to remain involved in the organization. The announcement of Shell's dismissal came in January of 2007 and was the third coaching change for the Raiders in four seasons.

Even though his return to the Raiders was a disappointing end to his coaching career, Shell's record as both a player and a coach has been more than sufficient to establish his reputation as one of the NFL's most enduring figures. Shell has served the NFL from every angle as player, coach, and administrator and has played a role in defining the sport since the 1990s.

Sources

Periodicals

Jet, June 14, 2004.

New York Times, January 25, 1989; October 4, 1989; October 5, 1989; October 8, 1989; January 4, 2001; May 26, 2004.

Oakland Tribune, February 11, 2006.

People, December 4, 1989.

San Francisco Chronicle, January 5, 2007.

Sports Illustrated, October 23, 1989.

Online

Associated Press, “Raiders Fire Shell—for a Second Time,” MSNBC Online,http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16476395/ (accessed January 29, 2008).

Clayton, John, “Shell Loses Raiders Head Coaching Job for Second Time,” ESPN Online,http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2720610 (accessed January 29, 2008).

—Michael E. Mueller and Micah L. Issitt

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Shell, Art 1946—

Art Shell 1946

Professional football coach, player

At a Glance

Sources

When Art Shell was named head coach of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1989, he became the first black head coach in modern National Football League history. A former star offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders, and part of two Super Bowl championship teams, Shell replaced Mike Shanahan, a second-year coach who was previously with the Denver Broncos. By appointing Shell, Raiders management hoped to rejuvenate the franchise, which, after moving to Los Angeles from Oakland in 1982, had lost the mark of the dominant Raiders teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s. I wanted a Raider, general manager Al Davis was quoted as saying in the New York Times after naming Shell early in the 1989 season. When we went back in Oakland for an exhibition game two months ago, the one thing lacking was a link to the past in our coaching leadership.

Shells history with the Raiders runs deep. In fifteen seasons as an offensive lineman, he was considered one of the N.F.L.s finest. At 65 and 300 pounds, Shell could, as Jill Lieber noted in Sports Illustrated, intimidate opponents with his size alone. He was selected to the Pro Bowl a total of eight times, the most of any Raider ever, and played in a total of 207 games, the third highest number of any Raider. One of his career highlights came when Oakland defeated Minnesota in the 1977 Super Bowl, and Shells defensive opponent had neither a tackle or sack the entire game. Former Raiders fullback Mark van Eeghen recalled to Lieber: Art had extremely high standards. He prided himself in keeping his guy off [quarterback] Ken Stabler; a sack hurt Art more than it did Kenny. In 1989, Shell was honored for his career achievements by being elected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

In addition to his stellar playing career, Shell possessed a knowledge of Raiders football that distinguished him as prime coaching material. Former Raiders head coach John Madden remarked in the New York Times : When I watched Art Shell play, I always felt he would make a good coach and a good head coach. Hes a very bright, studious person, who not only played the game physically but knew everything about what he did, what everybody else did and why. He took that approach to the game, he was very, very knowledgeable. Madden added: Some players never think about anything but their own jobs, but Art always thought about everybody

At a Glance

Born November 26, 1946, in Charleston, SC; son of Arthur, Sr. (worked in a paper mill), and Gertrude Shell; married; wifes name, Janice; children: Arthur III, Christopher. Education : Maryland State (now University of MarylandEastern Shore), B.S., 1968.

Professional football player with Oakland Raiders of the National Football League, 1968-82 (franchise moved to Los Angeles, 1982); Los Angeles Raiders, offensive line coach, 1983-89, head coach, 1989.

Awards: Selected eight times to the Pro Bowl; elected to Professional Football Hall of Fame, 1989.

Addresses: Home Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Office Los Angeles Raiders, 332 Center St., El Segundo, CA 90245.

elses job. When I was coaching the Raiders, he used to come up to me and say, I was thinking last night, what if we did this. Thats the way a coach thinks, but not many players think like that.

Following games, Shell would enjoy listening to other players respond to the media, especially fellow lineman Gene Upshaw. Id listen to Gene answer the questions. He always said the right things and he was so good, so quotable, Shell told Thomas George in the New York Times. I paid close attention. I learned a lot that way about football, about life, by just listening. After Shell retired from playing football in 1983, he was named the Raiders offensive line coach, and continued to learn from others. He commented to Lieber on the various Raiders coaches he worked under: John Madden taught me about the game of people. I learned that you have to understand each individual, when to push his buttons and when not to. From Tom Flores [the Raiders coach from 1979 to 1987] I learned patience. He was a quiet, stoic leader. Mike Shanahan was one of the most organized people I ever met.

Loyal and patient as a coach, Shell makes it a priority to maintain a closeness with his players. Even in the bad games, his communion with the players is obvious, commented Jeannie Park and Lorenzo Benet in People. Unlike more mercurial coaches, Shell doesnt scream or throw tantrums. When things go wrong, he gently pulls the offender aside, wraps a beefy arm around his shoulder and speaks his mind quietly. A family approach has always been important to Shell, as he already demonstrated when he was a young man. The eldest of five children whose mother died when he was fifteen, Shell played a major role raising his siblings. Shells sister, Eartha Smalls, told Park and Benet: He ran the house as my dad would. He told us life must go on and we had to pull together.

Since becoming head coach, the Raiders under Shell have started their climb back to the top of professional football. In his second year as coach, the team advanced all the way to the American Football Conference championship game, before losing to Buffalo. Shell seemed to be living up to his game plan, as he was quoted in New York Times as saying that the Raiders were going to try and regain the power, toughness and explosiveness we had in the past. Shell has a good chance of being, as general manager Davis hopes, the guyto restore the identity of this franchise.

Sources

New York Times, January 25, 1989; October 4, 1989;
October 5, 1989; October 8, 1989.

People, December 4, 1989.

Sports Illustrated, October 23, 1989.

Michael E. Mueller

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Shell, Art 1946—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Shell, Art 1946—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/shell-art-1946

"Shell, Art 1946—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/shell-art-1946