Davis holds the cards - will he hold or fold?

Before the Oakland Raiders go on the clock, it is Al Davis' turn.

Davis' decision regarding coach Art Shell will help shape the direction of Oakland's off-season in terms of personnel decisions, the coaching staff and how best to use the first pick in the draft.

By the time Shell met the media Monday, Arizona's Dennis Green and Atlanta's Jim Mora had already been fired.

"I expect to be here, and I want to do this," Shell said. "I want to see this thing to fruition."

Shell said he expects to meet with Davis this week, although he didn't specify a day.

Although Davis has changed coaches six times since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995, only one coach, Joe Bugel in 1997, was fired after one season. The Raiders were 4-12 that year.

In every instance but Bugel and Jon Gruden -- whose situation was nothing like any of the other deposed coaches -- Davis made the decision relatively quickly.

Mike White was fired three days after the regular season in 1996, getting his notice on Christmas Day. Bugel twisted in the wind for 16 days, with Davis waiting for the staff to complete its season evaluations before bringing down the ax.

Bill Callahan finished the 2003 season on Dec. 28 and was out of a job on Dec. 30. Norv Turner coached his final game on New Year's Eve last year and was let go on Jan. 2.

Shell said he believes the Raiders, despite their record, are on the right track, having built a foundation and a philosophy that will serve the franchise well in coming years.

"We tried to get guys to realize you must do things right," Shell said. "I felt their focus was there to get better throughout the year. ... I can't say enough about their focus, the character they showed throughout the year. I thought those are things we can build upon."

Some Raiders players, many fearful of their own status, had little to say about whether Shell stays or goes. Free safety Stuart Schweigert offered a no comment.

"It would be unfair and unjustified to use Coach as a scapegoat," quarterback Aaron Brooks said. "He did everything he needed to do as a coach. I hold the players accountable."

Said running back Justin Fargas: "Coach Shell deserved better than he got this year, and so do we. He had a vision for this team, and it's just unfortunate it didn't work out. I think he'll get another shot at it."

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