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Originally published Monday, October 10, 2011 at 8:02 PM

Steve Sarkisian remembers Al Davis, opportunity with Oakland Raiders

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian was an assistant coach with Al Davis' Oakland Raiders in 2004 and turned down an offer from Davis in 2007 to be the Raiders' head coach.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A weekend of relative relaxation for Washington coach Steve Sarkisian also turned into one for reflection when he saw news that Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis died.

"When I got the news of that ... you take a step back," said Sarkisian, whose team returns to action with a 12:30 p.m. game Saturday against Colorado at Husky Stadium.

Sarkisian, in fact, called Davis his boss for one season, in 2004, when he was the Raiders' quarterbacks coach.

And he faced one of the bigger decisions of his professional life when he interviewed for the Raiders' head-coaching position in January 2007.

At the time, he was the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach at USC, having returned to the Trojans in 2005.

On Monday, during his weekly news conference, Sarkisian called the 2007 interview with Davis "the most unique experience of my life."

Sarkisian remembered being caught off-guard when one of Davis' first questions was what Sarkisian would serve for a pregame meal.

Sarkisian said he thought quickly and said "chicken Parmesan."

"There is no manual to get ready for an interview with Al Davis," Sarkisian said. "You cover everything from A to Z in an interview, but you never go A to Z. It might go Q then K then A then X then L. It's all over the place. And I think that's what makes him unique. I think he's got a unique way of seeing who you are as a person."

Sarkisian was offered the Raiders' job but turned it down.

Sarkisian said it was a difficult decision, in part because having grown in up in the Southern California area, he had long watched the Raiders.

"Being a head coach in the National Football League, there's only 32 of them in the world," he said. "In a lot of ways, that's the pinnacle of our profession. So when you have to make those tough decisions, you have to look at them all individually and take the face off of it, and take the jerseys off of it. ... So when the opportunity came, I had to try to remove the emotion of I-get-to-go-coach-the-Oakland-Raiders and is this the best thing for my family? For myself, for my family and for our careers as we move forward? And I just didn't feel like it was the right time to be taking that job."

The Raiders instead hired another USC assistant, Lane Kiffin, one of Sarkisian's best friends in coaching.

Kiffin was fired early in the 2008 season, and lobbied for the UW job later that fall when it became open after the firing of Tyrone Willingham. This time, however, Sarkisian decided to make the jump to becoming a head coach.

The interview with the Raiders, though, left an indelible mark.

"I really appreciated that interview," he said. "Because I found out a lot about myself and what was important. But also, you prepare even harder, for whatever reason. You knew you were going to sit in front of Al Davis for six, eight hours, however long that would be. Not to demean anyone else, but it was Al Davis. And so you wanted to put your best foot forward."

A matter of perception

The Huskies are just outside the AP Top 25 this week, at No. 27. Washington is also No. 27 in the coaches' poll.

Asked what he thought of that on Monday, Sarkisian said, "It's obviously a perception of who we are. It doesn't necessarily mean that's who you are.

"I think we are a little better than where we are ranked, but perception is what it is. If we want to be in the Top 25, we need to get our perception changed of who we are. To do that, you have to go out and play. And you have to play in a style and a manner that is impressive. We haven't been impressive enough in perception's eyes."

Asked where he'd rank the Huskies, Sarkisian noted that he doesn't have a vote in the coaches' poll, "so I don't have to answer it."

QB Price feels good

The hope was that the week off would help return Keith Price to full health. And on Monday — the one day during the week when Price meets with the media — he said the plan worked.

"This is the best I've felt all season," he said. "So it's going to be a fun week."

Price suffered sprains to both knees, a sprained ankle and a thigh bruise in the first five games.

Sarkisian said the "only thing really bugging him at this point now is his ankle. ... If there's any limitations, that's the one. But as we know, ankle sprains are funny things; they don't seem like much, but they can really inhibit your ability to do some of the things you like to do. We'll watch him closely this week."

Price fully participated in Monday's practice.

Note

• Sarkisian said receiver Kasen Williams could be a "game-time decision" with a high ankle sprain suffered against Utah. Williams practiced Monday.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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