There are two ways for a head coach to deal with the sort of uncertainty brought to bear by the Raiders.
There’s the Lane Kiffin approach _ show up at the Senior Bowl without a Raiders shield in sight, wearing a gray hat with an NFL logo, decline comment on the record, but send out as many smoke signals as possible to let people know Al Davis has stripped the coach of any authority and that continued employment isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion.
Or there’s the Bill Callahan approach _ named “captain of the coaches” following the trade of Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he simply rolled up his sleeves, went to work and conducted himself as a head coach should until finally informed three weeks later when invited by Davis to talk about a contract to be head coach.
As Cable surfaces in Mobile, Ala., this week for the Pro Bowl, expect him the Callahan approach. If Cable talks at all, it will be something along the lines of what he said at the end of the season. He’s already on record as saying he thought he’d be back, no reason to alter that approach now. He’ll wear the right gear and may even have “Team of the Decades” stamped on his forehead.
The Callahan and Cable situations, other than the fact that they’re both offensive line coaches who at the time had the support of their respective locker rooms (that changed dramatically for Callahan following the 2003 season), were dramatically different in that the former was the natural choice to lead a veteran team coming off consecutive division titles and the latter is 9-19 with a youthful team that has no history of success.
Unless Davis has told Cable directly he will remain on the job _ something even Adam Schefter’s definitive “Cable will return story” didn’t claim _ he’s simply working on the assumption he will be the coach until told otherwise.
Judging by how Cable handled the Randy Hanson and ESPN firestorms, he’s not going to need a vote of confidence, whether public or private, to remain sane.
Kiffin, who said later he understood his first-year “honeymoon” to be over after a 4-12 season, couldn’t handle not knowing what Davis was saying and doing behind his back. He couldn’t believe it when he someone outside the organization told him James Lofton had been hired as the wide receivers coach without his knowledge. Kiffin had talked with Lofton, but that was as far as it went.
He played the martyr and began planning an exit strategy.
The silence never seemed to bother Callahan. He was the obvious choice for the job, and many, including myself, figured he’d been told beforehand and that the Raiders simply had elected not to make the decision public. They’d tell us when they felt like it.
The assumption turned out to be wrong. Callahan wasn’t called in to talk contract until March 12 and his hiring was announced March 13.
Davis explained why he proceded that way the following day when Callahan was introduced.
“I wanted to see and we wanted to see Bill function in that role to see how the organization would operate, how would we do in the free-agent market,” Davis said. “And we felt after a short period of time we could compete with anyone.”
The same thing is going on with Cable. Davis is waiting and watching. Even if he’s already decided Cable will be back, there’s no reason to tell him or even his own public relations staff. No reason to let him get comfortable.
— The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting the Chicago Bears hope to interview Hue Jackson for their offensive coordinator opening. Jackson interviewed with the Raiders for an undisclosed position, believed to be offensive coordinator. The Raiders said they have conducted no interviews for the head coaching position.
ESPN is reporting Jackson will meet with the Bears Tuesday.
— Looking for some kind of Raiders angle in this year’s Super Bowl? None of their castoffs have made it to this year’s big game _ not a player on either roster who has spent time with the Raiders.
Instead, you’ve got Aaron Kromer, the Saints running game and offensive line coach. Kromer, by the way, worked for the Raiders under Gruden and with Gruden at Tampa Bay and is an aspiring offensive coordinator under Sean Payton.
Hmm . . .
— When tight end Dallas Clark made the Super Bowl, a Miller was elevated to the Pro Bowl from alternate status. Unfortunately, it was Heath Miller, the first alternate from the Pittsburgh Steelers, and not Zach Miller, the second alternate from the Raiders.
Heath Miller caught 76 passes for 789 yards and six touchdowns, Zach Miller had 66 receptions for 805 yards and three touchdowns.
— Peyton Manning insists his young receivers, such as Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, do an extra hour and a half of film study with him one day a week. That’s above and beyond what they do with their position groups.
You’ll notice the Colts aren’t huge into shifts and motions, either. They just kill you with precision execution that comes from repetitive practice and a gifted quarterback who gets angry if things aren’t perfect.
The Raiders aren’t big into shifts and motions, either. But it’s as if the two teams, when it comes to the passing game, aren’t even playing the same sport.
Of course it’s a game of talent, but it’s also huge parts coaching and executing, matching players to a scheme, and getting those players to think and play as one.