By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 at 7:47 pm in Oakland Raiders.
As a longtime proponent of the zone blocking system, Raiders coach Tom Cable has advocated runners who “put a foot in the ground” and cut upfield.
Cable’s strict adherence to zone blocking may be over, but it’s hard to come to any other conclusion other than he put a foot in the ground Wednesday and did just that, damn the consequences.
It’s not so much that he switched from Jason Campbell to Bruce Gradkowski as his quarterback, it’s how he did it.
Since becoming interim and eventually head coach after Lane Kiffin, Cable has made sure to pay homage to owner Al Davis. Went out of his way to portray him as a mentor, a sage advisor whose advice was beyond reproach.
If you’ve been to a lot of these Raiders press briefings and press conferences, it’s hard not to notice the shift in tone when Cable was asked about Davis’ role in the quarterback switch.
I asked Cable about Davis’ role in the decision and whether he’d given his approval and this was the response:
“This was handled by us as coaches. It ultimately rested at my feet and when we made the decision, it comes from me,” Cable said.
I suppose it’s possible Davis said, “Tom, go ahead and go with the other guy, but make sure you say it’s your decision,” but that’s not the way to bet.
Davis likes people to know he’s in charge and to be paid respect. It’s an old-school thing. He wants to recede into the background only to the point where he’s not asked any questions. Otherwise, he wants to be identified with anything important that goes on in the organization he built.
The interesting thing is that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, while paying the proper respect to Davis _ “I call him coach Davis” _ came out first and said it was his recommendation to switch to Gradkowski at halftime of the Rams game.
Didn’t like the tempo, didn’t like the energy. Just like Cable.
Raiders coaches at some point in time either stand their ground or get rolled over. Mike White got crushed, as did Joe Bugel. Jon Gruden, had an independent streak, to be sure, but often went out of his way to let Davis know what he was thinking and why he was thinking it to the point of having film cut-ups made to defend his position. Davis liked the fact that Gruden did this. And Gruden only lasted four years.
Bill Callahan has proven to be one of the NFL’s best assistant coaches, but couldn’t deal with Davis. Nor could Norv Turner, Art Shell, and most famously, “Lance” Kiffin. Every one of those coaches made errors in dealing with Davis. Kiffin deliberately set fire to a job he had no business getting. It’s not like there’s a manual about how to deal with a stubborn icon who dominates every area of the organization.
Cable has gone out of his way to give Davis his due, just as many of his predecessors have. He has in the past taken the, “Of course I talk to Al Davis, I’d be crazy not to talk to him,” tact.
There’s been nothing approaching that in recent days.
It’s said by some former Raiders coaches and assistants that at some point when Davis sours on a coach, he “goes silent,” like a submarine hiding in enemy waters. The post-game charter criticisms heard by everyone not wearing headphones on the flight are replaced by quiet. Eventually, the coach is gone. It may take weeks, but it happens.
Has Davis gone silent on Cable?
Seems like a major shift that Cable isn’t giving the owner his due on an important decision, or offering up a glowing endorsement of their conversations. What makes this more interesting is that Jackson, Davis’ hand-picked offensive coordinator, said he was the one who suggested the quarterback switch in the first place.
When I asked Cable if Gradkowski is now on notice that he could be benched for having six lackluster quarters, he avoided the question by saying it was moot if the Raiders went out and won games. He’s right, of course. But we haven’t seen consistent winning around here in seven years, leaving one to wonder how long it will take for Cable, Jackson or both to take the fall if it doesn’t happen this time.