Is This Oakland Raider Coach Tom Cable's Bye-Bye Week?
Going into their bye during week five of last season, the Oakland Raiders were in a familiar position. Sitting with a 1-3 record, a lack of passion, and an uphill climb to improve the squad, the team finally pulled the trigger on the firing of "Lance" Kiffin, much to the delight of owner Al Davis.
Davis put on a show rarely seen in sport as he called a press-conference and actually used an old-school overhead projector (I'm guessing Al isn't so well versed in Powerpoint) to outline and detail his reasons not only for firing Kiffin, but why he shouldn't have to pay him the rest of his contract.
The overhead display of a letter he had wrote to Kiffin admonishing him for his public statements was awesome theatre, and Al Davis at his best. It was as surreal as it was entertaining, and showed that despite some questionable football moves recently, ol' Al is still alive and kicking.
Al stated that Kiffin lied repeatedly, tried to undermine his authority, made negative statements about the organization, and coached in a way detrimental to the team. Therefore, not only was he fired, but fired for "cause", legal terminology that essentially meant Al was not obligated to pay Kiffin the remainder of his salary.
That case is still ongoing, and there has been no verdict rendered as yet. Kiffin has recently come out with public support for Cable, but with his actions in Oakland last season and his mouthpiece nature in the SEC, it is being taken with a gigantic bag of salt.
So now the Raiders were a literal rudderless ship, as opposed to the symbolic rudderless ship they represented under Kiffin. Leadership under Kiffin was there in body, but certainly not in mind or spirit.
Enter Tom Cable, a Raider fan since childhood and the offensive line coach who was widely responsible for a resurgence in the Raiders' running attack. In his dream job, the interim Coach Cable brought the enthusiasm and want-to-be-great attitude that was sorely missing under Kiffin.
Cable brought fire, passion, and heart to a Raider team that still finished with a terrible 5-11 record (going 4-8 under Cable), but showed more potential and less apathy than they had in a long time.
Cable began playing young players that were derided by Kiffin, like Mario Henderson. Henderson has since become the starting left tackle and played very, very well at that position.
Cable gave opportunity to young receivers like Jonnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens, and the result was an improved passing attack that looked like it could actually be something in the making for the future.
Cable gave opportunity and patience to JaMarcus Russell, who responded by playing very solid, if unspectacular, in his final six games.
The team was heading in the right direction under Cable, and Raider Nation was excited. We were divided into those who wanted Cable to become the full-time, official head coach, and those who wanted someone else with more experience and a better pedigree. Cable got his personal wish and had the interim tag removed shortly after the season.
I admit now I was wrong in falling into the former category.
Heading into the 2009 season, this team would finally have a healthy Darren McFadden, a more experienced and improved JaMarcus Russell, a full offseason with the new coaching staff (including new defensive coordinator John Marshall and D-line coach Dwayne Board), and a division that appeared to have only one real threat, San Diego, in it's midst.
Everything seemed to be lining up for the Raiders to get of the schnide and improve upon six consecutive seasons of 10+ losses (a dubious NFL record, by the way.)
There was the usual concern regarding Russell's offseason work habits and conditioning, but everything with the team seemed to be going well. The players were saying all the right things, and Cable himself was excited for the season to begin.
Then, August 4th, 2009 happened.
I'm not going to go into details, but assistant coach Randy Hanson (or slimy weasel as he's unaffectionately known to Raider fans) had his face broken. Originally, Hanson stated it just happened and didn't press any charges or make any direct accusations toward Cable.
Hanson then tried to extort money and position from the Raiders, which didn't work. We all know how well Al Davis responds to shakedowns. He's old school, and if this were still the 60's, I think ol' Al would've broken Hanson's jaw himself.
So Hanson then showed up at the Napa Valley (Ca.) DA's office and stated "the Raiders didn't give me what I want, so I'm ready to cooperate fully."
Hanson's spotty account of the story, as well as three other coaches who were present contradicting Hanson's version of events, left the DA with too much reasonable doubt as to whether Cable was guilty of assault or if it was an accident. No charges were filed.
But the damage was done. Despite many, many, many statements to the contrary, there is no possible way a looming felony assault conviction didn't weigh on the mind of Cable, or his players. No way. They'd have to be inhuman to not think about it.
After the charges were dropped, the NFL stated they would look into the incident based on their personal conduct policy. Punishment still loomed large for Cable, although it looked as if it may just be a fine.
This incident was just the beginning of yet another downward spiral for a cursed organization that can't seem to catch a break (or, honestly, put themselves in a position to deserve one most of the time.)
The Raiders began the season against the San Diego Chargers. They'd dropped 11 straight games to the hated Bolts, and wanted nothing more than a win. That was obvious in the way they played.
Passionate and fired up from the opening kickoff, the Raiders pounded the Chargers into submission. As a young team they couldn't figure out a way to finish the game, and ultimately lost 24-20. However, the effort and passion they showed were enough to spark excitement about things to come in 2009.
This is what we all hoped for and expected after Cable had the team playing well late last season. Improvement and passion; hope for the future.
But with subsequent subpar efforts it became apparent that the addition of Pro-Bowler Richard Seymour and his excitement played as much if not more into the Raiders bringing it hard as did Cable's inspiration.
Cable also began a bad habit and poor coaching decision of abandoning the run game early in this one. He falsely believed JaMarcus Russell was ready for prime-time, which we all quickly found out was not the case.
They went to Kansas City the next week, and played as flat and terribly as a team possibly can and still get the win. It was uninspired, boring, and ugly to watch, but the Raiders were .500 at 1-1 with the hated Denver Broncos coming to Oakland the next week.
A game the team should've had no trouble getting up for is one that they barely showed up for. Cable continued to abandon the run too early and ask JaMarcus Russell to do too much, and the Broncos ran the Raiders right out of the Coliseum.
Russell had regressed in his play since the end of the previous season, and Cable seemed to be force-feeding Russell pass plays in a misguided effort to get him back on track. All this served to do was stagnate the running game and tire out the defense, and upset a fan base that knows we need to run first, second, and third to have a chance at success.
The Raiders were shellacked at home in an embarrassing 23-3 loss that honestly wasn't that close, if that's even possible. That began a three-week free fall of some of the worst mail in jobs I've seen in the last seven years. And that's saying something, I'll tell you.
That game prompted NY Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce to liken the Raiders to a "scrimmage team," and Pierce openly questioned the heart and effort of the Raiders.
Suffice it to say, any good will that Cable had accrued during the late-season run in 2008 and the first two games of this season were buried under dubious coaching decisions, a team that didn't seem to care, and a quarterback who was getting worse by the minute despite being heavily coddled by all around him.
So the Raiders responded the next week by playing physically dominating football en route to a 13-9 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the better teams in the NFL.
The sheer dominance and physicality the Raiders demonstrated in the opening game against San Diego and then this contest against Philly had people wondering why this Raider team doesn't show up every week.
It's an infinitely frustrating reality of Raider fandom, and one we thought Cable had exorcised. He constantly spoke of eliminating the losing culture, getting rid of team cancers that only wanted money, and bringing the Raider way back to the fold.
It sounded good in theory, but his execution has stunk for the most part. So naturally:
The Jets came to town struggling mightily. The Raiders were coming off an inspired effort in which they took it to a superior opponent. The charges pending against Cable by the Napa DA were dropped. Good will all around, it was the Raiders game to lose.
And boy did they. Worst home loss ever, at 38-0. It was an embarrassment, and Cable finally heeded the calls of Raider Nation and benched a very under-performing JaMarcus Russell in favour of Bruce Gradkowski. It didn't make a difference, though.
The Raiders are fresh off their 13th straight defeat to the San Diego Chargers, although they once again played a decent game and had themselves with a chance to win at the end. Their inability to come through in the clutch has not improved with Cable under the microphone.
This is a team in desperate, desperate need of stability in the coaching ranks. But when your Coach doesn't seem to know what he's doing most of the time, can't get his team up to play important home games (Broncos), and inspires colossal efforts one week followed by three consecutive horrendous showings, it's time to look elsewhere.
Cable is inexperienced, and he could grow with this team. In fact, he probably would grow with this team, for better or for worse.
But there are new allegations; those of physical abuse against women.
If there is one thing Al Davis doesn't suffer, it's embarrassment not related to football. Oh, I'm sure he doesn't suffer embarrassment regarding football either, but he doesn't have much of a choice recently, and a lot of that is of his own making.
Granted, this information was originally reported by ESPN in the "Outside the Lines" segment, and without hyperbole I state that ESPN is notorious for trashing the Oakland Raiders (see: Cris Carter and Tom Jackson speaking with Darrius Heyward-Bey in what is the most unprofessional and insulting interview I've seen in some time.)
But there seems to be more to the story than just Raider-bashing, unfortunately.
Cable has now been in the midst of two very negative media firestorms in the last three months. If he'd turned out to be the second coming of Jon Gruden, perhaps he would get a pass. Perhaps.
And no, I don't believe being a good coach excuses poor off field behaviour, but I also live in reality.
Instead he's been the second coming of Joe Bugel/Art Shell/Norv Turner. The best analogy, because of their offensive line roots, would be Shell. That works also because of the putrid offenses that both of these men have fielded as coach of the Raiders.
Cable has been accused of physical abuse by not one, but two women. One is his ex-wife, whom Cable has copped to slapping during an argument about her infidelity. So Cable has admitted to hitting a women, even if it was in the heat of passion and even if it was an open handed slap. He still admits to assaulting his ex-wife.
Sandy Cable tells a different story.
She states unequivocally that he punched her, not slapped her, that she never was adulterous, and even has a hand-written letter signed by Cable in which he apologizes and states that he hit her. Cable insists it was an open-handed slap warranted by the heat of the moment.
I may take some flak for this, but if I found out my wife cheated on me, I would possibly open-handed slap her as well. A slap can possibly be forgiven, depending on the circumstances. But never a closed fist. Never. Ever.
Ever little boy learns one axiom that we never forget: You don't hit women. Beyond anything else, it's about respect. You don't disrespect women, and you especially don't hit them.
Sandy Cable went on to explain that he abused her emotionally and physically on more than just that occasion, and that she was fearful during her time with the Coach.
The other woman, Marie Lutz, is an ex-girlfriend of Cable's whom he claims is jilted and looking for revenge. Lutz has stated that Cable hit her "three or four times" during the course of their relationship, and that he physically restrained and then threw her out of his house earlier in 2009, when she caught him with another woman.
It should be noted that Cable cooperated with Alameda police and no wrongdoing was found, and that other woman is his current wife, Jean Cable.
Cable's second wife, Glenda, cited abuse in their divorce proceedings, but refused interview requests and has since recanted her original claims in a statement issued through her attorney.
I don't know if any of the allegations are true, but I do know this: the appearance of impropriety is enough for people to begin believing negativity, and Cable has appeared nothing BUT inappropriate in regards to his anger-management and violent behaviours in the last three months.
I'm not going to hang the guy in criminal court, that's for investigators, prosecutors, and the jury to do. It's also interesting that these allegations are coming about now, right when Hanson has a civil suit to ready, and right when Cable is most vulnerable to being fired.
But in the court of public opinion, the man is guilty of at least appearing to have violence issues. He is definitely guilty of embarrassing an already beaten-down franchise.
And his coaching acumen has shown nothing to warrant looking the other way.
The bottom line is that Cable was in danger of losing his job anyhow before these allegations surfaced. Now, with recent statements from the Raiders that they are taking the allegations very seriously and that they will conduct their own investigation, Cable is on the hottest seat this side of Eric Mangini.
I've always like Cable's persona. He's always seemed to have a childlike enthusiasm for the game, his players like him, and he's a fiery guy. My opinion on him right now hasn't changed, because there isn't enough overall evidence to warrant any kind of change.
But even taking into account that these allegations are coming from ESPN, and even taking into account that the timing is fishy for many reasons, it's hard to swallow another story of this guy hitting people without thinking there might be some truth to some of it.
We've heard both sides, but this time Sandy Cable has physical evidence, and three women accusing the man of abuse is too many to ignore or brush aside, whether his second wife Glenda recanted or not. The point is, she made the original statements.
Even if he didn't do any of this, the damage is done, and he needs to go. We're having enough trouble on the field without needless distractions off the field; needless distractions that represent an embarrassing and disturbing trend if found true.
This is an open request to Jon Gruden to please, please, please come back, and to Al to please, please, please bring him back no matter WHAT he wants.
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