FOXBORO, Mass. — If Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco breaks out Sunday in Oakland, the man in charge of the Raiders' sideline won't be the least bit surprised.
Oakland head coach Hue Jackson knows Ochocinco very well, even referring to him this week as his "son." Jackson was the Bengals wide receivers coach from 2004-06, which was the best three-year statistical stretch of Ochocinco's career.
"He is a tremendous young man. I really adore him, but I won't on Sunday," Jackson said. "I helped raise that young man in Cincinnati, and he played for me [and] did wonders for me. And he is a tremendous competitor and doggone good football player. Like I said, on Sunday, I will look across and look at him, but he knows that this is about winning and he understands that."
Jackson spent 14 years in the college ranks before joining the Redskins as an assistant in 2001. He spent three years in Washington before getting the job in Cincinnati. Jackson also coached the Falcons and Ravens before joining the Raiders, who promoted him to head coach this season.
"I think we grew [together]," Jackson said. "When I came to Cincinnati, he was real early in his career. He was right on the cusp of becoming a great player. What I tried to do was push him and take him to where he truly wanted to go. He wanted to be one of the best in the league, and at that time, his time with me, there was no question in my mind he was. He really worked at it, the way he studied video tape, the way he prepared. I let him have his own personality, because that's Chad. You have to allow him to be him to get the most out of him. That's what we were able to do, and we forged a bond that's been the same since my time in Cincinnati."
Ochocinco's struggles with the Patriots have been well-documented. He is sixth on the team with five receptions through three games, but Jackson has joined the line of people who believe it's merely a matter of time before Ochocinco breaks out, even if he is fighting it at this stage.
"When you are used to having success and things have gone for you the way his career has gone up to this point, it's hard when you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel," Jackson said. "But one thing I know about him, he's going to continue to work hard, and he will do everything that is asked of him. He is a tremendous pro, and I'm sure he is working at it. Eventually, it will come up right for him. I just don't want it to happen this week."