By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, January 2nd, 2011 at 5:00 pm in Oakland Raiders.
The vultures began circling Sunday, even before the Raiders demolished the Kansas City Chiefs 31-10 at Arrowhead Stadium to achieve a notable but ultimately annoying feat.
It arrived first from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, reporting on the network’s NFL Countdown show that Tom Cable was “unlikely” to return as coach of the Raiders. Later, former Raiders exec and NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi reported that according to league sources, Cable was “unlikely” to be back.
Even Cable only put his chances at 50-50, according to Bay Area News Group columnist Cam Inman.
As we remember from our studies, Cable sure seemed unlikely to be back last year as well, and then time dragged on and Al Davis instead hired an offensive coordinator to take over offensive philosophy and play-calling. “Unlikely” is not the same thing as saying Cable is no longer coach of the Raiders.
In the wake of the Raiders’ first non-losing season since 2003 (face it, it’s not a winning season, either) the question is why Davis would dump the coach in the face of such obvious progress?
If you’re in the speculation business, the answer is an easy one _ because he thinks the 2010 Raiders underachieved by going 8-8, had no business going 2-8 outside the division and if coached correctly would have been a playoff team. Davis doesn’t care what the Raiders did last year, only what he thinks they should have done this year.
So getting a new coach in the face of a three-game improvement isn’t as far-fetched as it might appear, but it’s not a done deal, either.
“I hope you write this,” Cable said reporters afterward. “We’re not losers any more.”
More news, notes, quotes and observations in watching the Raiders do something amazing and frustrating at the same time:
– As impressive as it was to watch the Raiders physically dominate a 10-win Kansas City team, you wonder how they possibly could have lost eight games. No Darren McFadden, no Richard Seymour? No problem.
Michael Bush responded with 137 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown and Desmond Bryant may as well have put on Seymour’s No. 92 and it would have been hard to tell the difference (six tackles, two quarterback hits, a sack). Bryant also played some end, with Lamarr Houston moving inside.
Thus concludes the most schizophrenic season in NFL history.
Who else gives up 191 yards to the 29th-ranked Indianapolis Colts and then stuffs the No. 1 Chiefs to the tune of 115 yards, 47 of which came on a single Jamal Charles carry?
The Raiders finish the season with 1,275 yards (212.5 per game), 5.4 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns against the AFC West, and 1,219 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games outside of it. They surrendered 188 yards per game on the ground outside the division and 83.6 against the division.
Plug that one into your computer and try and make sense of it.
– It was the signature game of the season for the Raiders’ defense, with Kansas City gaining just 209 yards, and the most of the credit goes to a Raiders front four which destroyed a very solid Kansas City offensive line. Michael Huff intercepted a pass that set up a 10-yard run on a reverse to Jacoby Ford, and Stanford Routt’s interception was returned 22 yards for a touchdown. And both were gifts borne of tremendous pressure on Matt Cassel.
Cassel’s body is no doubt as painful as his stat line (11 of 33, 115 yards, two interceptions). The Raiders sacked Cassel five times and hit him countless others, then sacked backup Tyler Palko two times. The Raiders’ 47 sacks for the season is their most since 2000 when they also had 47. The last time the Raiders had more than 47 sacks was 1990 when they had 49.
“The quarterback was spooked,” defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. “He was running away when no one was even in the pocket. I was telling Brian Waters, `You need to take him out of the game, man.’ He was rattled, bad. It was ugly. But that’s what (Mike) Waufle was stressing. He wanted to get more sacks so we could end up with more than the New York Giants.”
The Giants had two sacks in a win over Washington and finished with 46.
– Defensive backs get to clean up when the defensive front is that dominant, and Huff responded with his best game of the season.
A likely unrestricted free agent in almost any scenario in a new collective bargaining agreement, Huff doesn’t want to play anywhere else _ and he wants Cable as his coach.
“We definitely need Cable back. He’s the man for the job,” Huff said. “That’s who I want to play for. I want to come back and play for Cabes. We need to bring him back and bring the core players back. We can build around who we have.”
Huff said, “This is home. This is where I want to be. This is the team that gave me a chance to play, so I want to see this thing turned around.”
– Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on the coaching situation: “I don’t even think that that’s an issue. I don’t even know that that’s a question right now.”
– Quarterback Jason Campbell was a steady 15-for-25 for 155 yards, a touchdown and no turnovers, having grown into the job after a tentative start after Bruce Gradkowski was out of the picture following shoulder surgery.
Campbell’s take on the coaching situation takes into account his experience of seeing revolving coaches in Washington as well as the fact that Cable gave Gradkowski his job back after a poor game in Pittsburgh.
“This is a business decision,” Campbell said. “You never get caught up in all of it. I’ve been through a lot before. I’m glad we finished the season off strong, and we’ll see what happens.”
Campbell said Cable’s talk with the team Saturday reflected the uncertainty of 2011.
“He said don’t worry about who’s going to be here and who’s not. As a quarterback, you don’t know if you’ll be here,” Campbell said. “As a defensive lineman, you don’t know. Don’t let that be your focus. Come out here and show how far we’ve come today by playing together as a unit. We always know the team is going to change. We’ve got 20-something free agents. It’s going to be an interesting offseason.”
The Raiders won’t know how many free agents they have until after the rules are established with a new collective bargaining agreement. There could be a lockout and work stoppage. Campbell will be watching closely.
“My goal is to wait and see what happens with the CBA,” Campbell said. “Everything is so up in the air right now, I don’t even know if I have insurance. We’re just trying to see what happens.”
– Kelly would like to see the team’s core return in terms of coaches and players because “I don’t see nothing but the arrow pointing up for us.”
Asked if he would talk to Davis, Kelly said, “I do not talk to Al,” but added if Davis calls him, “You don’t have any other choice but to take the phone call. If he calls, I will answer any question for him.”
– Strong side linebacker and nickel rush end Kamerion Wimbley had three sacks against the Chiefs and nine for the year, his highest total since getting 11.5 as a Cleveland rookie in 2006.
“Coach Cable believed in us more than anybody,” Wimbley said. “He encouraged us to play hard every game. Nobody quit on him. All the players here played for him. His staff as well.”
– Wide receiver Chaz Schilens caught three passes for 24 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass on a third-down pass from Campbell. It was his first touchdown since Dec. 20, 2009 against Denver.
“They just messed up the coverage,” Schilens said. “That’s all it was.”
Schilens, though, is apparently unclear on the concept of the team with the best overall record being the division champion.
“We’re definitely the champs in our division, I have no problems saying that,” Schilens said. “We beat every team twice, and they say that’s hard to do in the NFL. Obviously, next year, we just have to learn to win out-of-division games and take care what we’ve got to take care of. But we’re a good team.”
Looks like the Raiders 2011 schedule, assuming the season goes off as scheduled, shakes out like this:
Home: San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, New England, New York Jets, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland.
Away: San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, Buffalo, Miami, Minnesota, Green Bay, Houston.
– Chiefs coach Todd Haley: “Today was very simple. The Raiders came in here and handled us in most areas. They had 200-plus yards rushing, you give up that kind of yardage rushing you’re going to lose the game. You give up seven sacks generally you’re going to lose the game. You turn the ball over you generally lose the game. It was a disappointing performance across the board.
“This game will mean nothing to us in a few hours, because we’re going to be getting ready for an opponent.”
He discounted the breaking news of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis taking a job at the University of Florida as being a distraction.
“That was a good team we were playing. We knew that was a good team we were playing. They can run, they can throw it down the field and they play disruptive defense. The Oakland Raiders clearly played better than us.”
Said Cassel: “They dominated us all day long and there’s no other way to put that. They’re a big, physical group. They try and match you up one-on-one across the board and they were winning their one-on-one battles today.”
Kansas City will host Baltimore a week from today.
– Quite the vote of confidence for Schefter from former Raiders (and Broncos) linebacker Bill Romanowski on the CSN-Bay Area postgame show.
Schefter was co-author of Romanowski’s book “Romo: My Jekyll and Hyde Life ” written in 2005.
He called Schefter a “great guy” and said, “I wrote my book with Adam Schefter, but nobody knows what’s going to happen with the Raiders. He made it up.”