The regular season ended on Dec. 28 and almost a month to the day, the Oakland Raiders, with the cloak of secrecy and vagary in which they drape upon EVERY aspect of their front-office decision-making, have chosen their Head Coach: Tom Cable.
It’s not official until Al hauls out his overhead projector, picks up his jumpsuit from the dry cleaners, and oils up his walker, but it’s 99.9 percent confirmed. As shameful as it is, Cable had to get that permanent tag in as un-ceremonious a way as possible. Cable is the right choice for this team at this moment.
He took over for Lane Kiffin in Week Five of last season, after Kiffin was shown the door following a 1-3 start. Cable came in as the fifth Raider Head Coach since the Super Bowl appearance. The Raiders have only won 24 games in the six seasons since that loss to Tampa Bay.
But the Cable hiring will give them a sense of stability they have sorely lacked in the seasons since. This is critical given the way they finished last season strong with two wins against above-average opponents and with solid play from their youngsters.
Now that Cable has been given the task of resurrecting the once proud franchise, what are their biggest challenges heading into next season? How competitive will this team be and what else needs to be done between now and training camp to help the team reach the post season?
The main thing Tom Cable brings to the table is his wanting to be here. Tom Cable WANTS THIS JOB. That’s saying a lot, given what it takes to be Al Davis’s head coach. In addition to wanting the job, his players want to play for him.
It’s important to note the contributions of the younger players on the team in these wins. Johnnie Lee Higgins, Chaz Schillens, Michael Bush and former No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell all played vital roles in those wins. These players will be key if the Raiders are to build on that momentum.
The last time the Raiders won their final game of the regular-season was a rain-soaked 24-0 shutout vs. Kansas City at Oakland Coliseum in 2002. That was the year they made the Super Bowl.
The team still needs to decide on offensive and defensive coordinators, as well as filling the remaining coaching slots (assistants, etc). They own the No. 7 pick in the draft, and can use that on another impact, skill-position player (Michael Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin at WR) or to shore up the Offensive or Defensive lines (Jason Smith or B.J. Raji).
A healthy Javon Walker can only help the receiving core that was thin entering the season and lost it's two starters (Walker and Drew Carter) before the first play from scrimmage. The main focus in free agency needs to be on the lines, though. This is the NFL.
Oakland has some good pieces there (Robert Gallery and the DE positions), but free agency and the draft are going to be essential to further solidifying these positions. And you can knock Al Davis all you want, but he does open up the pocketbook in the offseason.
This is a team with lots of great young talent. You begin with Russell and Higgins, but you add in Darren McFadden, the linebacking duo of Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard, the flashes Schillens showed grabbing two TD’s in the final two games, Michael Bush’s outstanding performance in the season finale, rookie DE Trevor Scott, and you have a young foundation ready to take it to the next level.
If the Raiders spend their dollars wisely this offseason, and round out the roster with a steady veteran presence and impact rookies from the draft, the stability that retaining Cable brings should be enough to catapult them into the playoffs in 2009.