As I watch yet another uninspired Raider effort in an ugly game today, I can't help but wonder—what's the plan for 2010?
Rumormongers are already saying Al Davis wants to fire Cable for cause after the season. It's just not that simple.
With five coaches since 2001, Al clearly can make the firing decision when he feels it's warranted. If he fires another coach, it will be JaMarcus Russell's fifth play caller in three years. Unless the next play caller is Russell's former LSU offensive coordinator, he'll have to learn a new playbook. With $20M-plus guaranteed, his ability to adapt to the new system will cross Al's mind.
If Al is true to form, he may fire Cable, but keep various assistants, such as Ted Tollner, John Marshall, and Paul Hackett. If he does that, then more of the same misery awaits Raider Nation: puppet head coaches, bad dynamics in the staff, and more wasted years.
Cable tried to change the culture, but his chance at success was clearly undercut by the performance of the franchise quarterback. A little success on offense would have made a huge difference in the team and Cable's future. Without more positive momentum, the year becomes another in a series of wasted efforts.
The best answer for the Raiders—has always been and remains—is to bring in a GM and have him pick a coach, enabling Davis to go back to being an owner. There is no strategy for the team and no scheme on offense or defense into which the roster fits.
This change—to a GM and a strategy—must be made unless Al is willing to risk another couple of lost years. At his age, he most likely appreciates each year a little more nowadays.
Right now five Super Bowl coaches are available, with two former Raider coaches among them. Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan clearly won't come back to Oakland, leaving Bill Cowher, Mike Holmgren, and Jim Fassel as the other three. Cowher and Holmgren may have GM/Coach aspirations, but would Oakland be the right environment for someone to plunge into?
The Raider team is in such bad shape, making it an excellent opportunity for a veteran coach who wants to reaffirm his leadership and reputation. Any success on the field would be a credit to the man roving the sidelines—not in the owner's box. There is some talent, but the talent and the scheme haven't always been in alignment. A coach and GM granted the authority to change that are the best option Davis has right now.
It is highly likely that Davis will take a run at Cowher or Holmgren, but will lose out to a slightly better team. Davis MUST bring in a GM, and let that GM take a run at a younger coach, or even a re-tread with low miles.
The bottom line is that the key ingredient for the Raiders is a "culture change" from the owner's box to the coach's desk to the locker room. The roster has some talent at key positions, but changing everything about the organization—starting at the GM and the coach—is key to any future success.
The Raider Nation will return to the stadium in droves once a winner is put on the field. Even the most stalwart of fans have grown tired of defending the moves the organization has made in recent years. Now is the time for Al to make a defining move, a surprising move, and a necessary move to return the Raiders to greatness. Al needs to change everything, starting with himself.