By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 at 7:40 pm in Oakland Raiders.
A 4-4 record isn’t cause for celebrating as they will on Market Street Wednesday, but for most anyone who has followed the Oakland Raiders since 2002, it’s worth at least a sigh of relief and a feeling of promise that lies ahead.
No need to rehash the ugly details, other than the man who by virtue of his position at the top who gets most of the blame ought to be awarded some credit for getting the Raiders to somewhere approaching respectability.
The Al Davis dividing lines are pretty clear. He’s either the doddering old man responsible for the cliff dive of a once-proud franchise or the savant who has endured bad luck and endless conspiracies to find his franchise in the dumper.
Even Davis, if he made himself available to the media, probably wouldn’t say the Raiders are back until they’re in the postseason, and with a .500 record after eight games, it’s far from guaranteed the Raiders will get there this year.
But to get this far, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that Davis’ decision to retain Tom Cable and bring in Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator has been one of the biggest reasons his team has gone from laughingstock to trendy contender.
Rather than make another coaching change at season’s end, Davis chose to keep the embattled Cable and allow him to concentrate on the overall picture. Cable has one of those personalities who would rather add duties to his own job description rather then delegate. It was clear by the end of the 2009 season that Cable would delegate or be gone; he conceded at his season-ending press conference he thought he’d done too much.
In came Jackson, and while it’s not the Raider way to talk about how that transpired, the new offensive coordinator made it clear before being forced to take a temporary vow of silence that it all happened following a lengthy interview with Davis.
So here we go again. Davis, hiring a coordinator his head coach didn’t necessarily want and expecting it to work.
Except through eight games, it’s been a huge upgrade. Cable seems adept at handling a roster similar to the way Jimmy Johnson did with Dallas, entrusting his coordinators, taking a view of the overall picture, and occasionally getting down and dirty with his specialty on the offensive line.
Jackson had little play-calling experience, serving briefly behind Steve Spurrier in Washington and Bobby Petrino in Atlanta as a non-play-calling coordinator. But his learning curve is impressive of late, considering the 1,045 yards of total offense racked up in wins over Denver and Seattle.
Jackson has gotten dramatic improvement from a Raiders offense despite using two quarterbacks, not having a veteran wide receiver and breaking in a rookie left tackle in Jared Veldheer. He’s incorporated some power blocking schemes with Cable’s stretch-and-cut zone.
Darren McFadden has blossomed. Fullback Marcel Reece is being put in positions to utilize his unique skill set.
Most important, the Raiders are getting into the end zone. If you recall, Davis’ simplistic but accurate criticism of his last few head coaches has been, “We’ve got to score.”
How about 21 touchdowns through eight games _ that’s four more touchdowns than they scored all last seasons. That puts the Raiders on pace for 40 touchdowns or more, a figure they haven’t reached since getting 53 in 2002, and we all remember what happened that season.
Here’s a look at where the Raiders are through eight games with Jackson as opposed to their output last season and their rank in the NFL:
Total offense: 2010_8th, 366.0; 2009_31st, 266.0
Points per game: 2010_4th, 26.5; 2009_31st, 12.3
First downs per game: 2010_10th, 20.1; 2009_31st, 14.6
Rushing yards per game: 2010_2nd, 168.5; 2009_21st, 106.3
Rushing touchdowns: 2010_tie, 2nd, 9; 2009_27th, 7
Passing yards per game: 2010_20th, 197.5; 2009_29th, 159.8
Third-down pct_2010_20th, 34.7 percent; 2009_30th_29.6 percent
Time of possession:2010_8th, 32:14; 2009_27th, 28:18
Touchdowns: 2010_4th, 21; 2009_31st, 17