By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Friday, January 8th, 2010 at 12:14 pm in Oakland Raiders.
There are myriad reasons for Al Davis to take his near-annual shot at the coaching lottery and round up the usual suspects.
Mr. Gilbride, can you please hold for Al Davis?
Another 5-11 season.
Seventeen touchdowns in 16 games.
Poor play on the offensive line, which happens to be Cable’s specialty.
Inability to utilize a trio of runners with diverse skills, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas.
The Randy Hanson and domestic violence (as raised by ESPN) issues.
Even taking all that into account, it’s an easy call from here.
Cable stays, and here’s why:
– Starting the season with JaMarcus Russell at quarterback would have sunk the season of any coach Raiders coach.
Opening with someone else was not an option, even though from the first minicamp and right through training camp, Russell was awful at least 90 percent of the time.
Once Cable got the OK to make the switch _ Davis had seen enough, as well _ it was a different team. Oakland was 2-7 with Russell as a starter, 3-4 with Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye. Instead of being outscored by 14 points per game, they were outscored by seven. If the Raiders had opened with someone else, the playoffs might be a reach, but you don’t fire Cable at 8-8 or even 7-9.
Scoring went from pathetic (9.1 points per game) to below average (16.4).
Russell even led a come-from-behind win over Denver when Frye was injured, something it would have been difficult to imagine while in the downward spiral as a starter. The benching was beneficial for him, too.
– The play of the offensive line took a hit when Robert Gallery went down twice during the season, but it’s hard to give Cable a pass here. They need to correctly identify some good, young and potentially dominant players up front, particularly at tackle. It’s a concern, but not a fireable offense.
– By now you know (and are sick of) my thoughts on play-calling. It’s not nearly as important as being able to execute plays that are called, regardless of sequence. That said, Cable was pretty shaky at times, with the lowlight coming when the Raiders threw four times from the 2-yard line against Cleveland, never put Frye on the perimeter, and didn’t score.
On the other hand, the decision to spread out the Ravens in the first half and the way Frye operated before going down with a back injury was as smooth and in rhythm as the offense has been all year.
Cable sounded receptive to giving up play-calling as well as other duties, conceding he had spread himself too thin.
– Use of the running backs dovetails with two of the other issues, offensive line play and play-calling. Improvement in both areas would improve the production of McFarBush. The Raiders need more runs from Bush, hopefully in top condition and ready to go, and more McFadden on the perimeter and as a receiver. Fargas is in the last year of his contract and given attrition, would get his chances and be ready when called upon.
– The Hanson and ESPN stories were unexpected storms which Cable weathered with remarkable focus and perspective. His own issues were kept away from the players, and his own performance in the daily media questioning was impressive. Watching and listening to Cable on a daily basis makes you wonder where the truth lies in both stories, because if this guy has a serious anger management issue, he never once showed even a hint of it in some pressure-packed and embarrassing situations.
Part of being a coach is being the front for an organization. Assuming both storms have passed and will not return, rest assured Cable knows how to deal with the media.
Davis, when talking about Gruden, said he needed to learn how to be a head coach. He used to talk of Lane Kiffin needing to learn how to be a coach. Same thing goes for Cable.
Cable has been far from perfect, but the situation has been even less perfect. He inherited a team which was minimized by Kiffin and Davis, who put their own personal battle above everything else, and had them playing well at the end of the year. Then he got a Russell who regressed significantly in the offseason after a decent end to 2009.
Again, the Raiders were playing their best football in December. This has not been a good December team in its second go-round in Oakland. Even some of the playoff teams were tripped up in December. The Raiders played for Cable in the last month of a shot season in a way they didn’t for Mike White, Joe Bugel, Bill Callahan (in the second year), Norv Turner or Art Shell.
Any call for those coaches to return was simply post-season filler which was drowned out by what they said off the record, particularly with regard to Callahan (by virtually the entire team) and Shell (by the offense).
You get a lot of queries from players as the season winds down to a close, asking in private conversation what they think Davis is going to do. Haven’t had one yet who expressed hope for a new coach. They want another shot at it and to get off the hamster wheel.
As stated before, the common denominator for the fact that the Raiders have had three good teams in the last 15 years since returning to Oakland is Davis.
For optimum organizational health, a general manager with some clout and a hand-picked new head coach with a clear mission and philosophy would be ideal.
There’s no indication the Davis is willing to do that. Bill Parcells or Bill Cowher aren’t coming to Oakland. Neither is Jon Gruden or Boise State’s Chris Petersen.
That leaves the Gilbride-Fassel-Trestman-Leach speculation, always with a dash of Jim Harbaugh to spice things up. I don’t think Harbaugh’s coming here, and I’d take Cable over any other alternative.
Cable gets this place. He likes it here. He understands it and can work within a unique, archaic structure.
He should get another year.
What about Mora?
Jim Mora is the newest available name, having been fired by the Seattle Seahawks. Mora had an interview arranged with the Raiders before taking the job in Atlanta and has always admired Davis.
He’s a defensive coach and not the usual prototype, but as Davis says, “It’s better to be right than consistent.”