Oakland Raiders: Tom Cable Tells It Straight

David WilsonCorrespondent IDecember 29, 2009

DENVER - DECEMBER 20:  Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable celebrates a victory over the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on December 20, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 20-19.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Perhaps it was because he expected the Oakland Raiders to win in Cleveland on Sunday and claim their sixth victory of the season, because they certainly should have, but in a postgame press conference, Tom Cable spoke far more directly that he has all year.

He spoke about a lot of things, but to cut to the chase and the most important piece of conversation in the interview, Cable talked about the quality of play at the quarterback position.  

When questioned by Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News , Cable was asked if the Raiders would be in playoff competition if they received average or better than average quarterback play.

"Without even asking that question," Cable reportedly said with a grin, "you know we would have."

It was a very honest reaction, and I don’t think at the time that he made it, Tom Cable appreciated the impact it would have.  He went on to say some good and bad things about JaMarcus Russell, but the overall impression of his comments was that he was effectively throwing Russell under the bus.  At the same time he was sending a clear message to Al Davis. 

That message is—"This team can’t win with JaMarcus Russell.”

What Tom Cable was also saying, whether he realised it or not, was that Al Davis had to choose between him and Russell.

Now I don’t think there is any question that the Raiders would have a better record if  Russell hadn't been at quarterback for nine games (and indeed Darrius Heyward Bey at receiver). 

The question that needs answering though is, has Tom Cable brought this team far enough during his tenure as head coach?

Opinions will vary widely here, but undoubtedly, Cable was saddled with Russell and Heyward Bey as starters for the first half of the season, and the team has done considerably better since these two have been on the bench.  The offensive unit has also been hindered by an poor offensive line.

With Cornell Green at right tackle, Samson Satele underachieving at center, and no depth to speak of, this group was always going to be an Achilles heel for the team. This, together with the Russell/Heyward Bey problems, have led to an inconsistent offensive unit.

Tough to blame Cable for that.

On the other hand, one thing Tom Cable has done is bring this team together as a group. 

It has been many years since Raider teams have showed such late season fight, and that kind of team spirit and belief is so often the precursor of future success.  Cable certainly has the locker room on his side and his players clearly have faith in him, two things that are not to be underestimated.

Given the total lack of continuity in the coaching staff over the last six years, and Cable’s commitment to simply being a Raider, I truly think that that his achievements this year are noteworthy enough for him to be kept on as head coach.

It won’t be my decision of course, it will be Al’s, but Tom Cable has made it as clear as he can for Davis.

This team can’t win with JaMarcus Russell at quarterback.  So who goes?

The team's production without Russell should give Davis an indication as to which way to go, but sources close to Davis say he is unhappy with Cable as head coach for a number of reasons.  Despite that, Davis is also a football guy, not just an owner, and what is abundantly clear to everyone else in the league must also be clear to him.

I just hope that the fact that Tom Cable had the guts to say so won’t go against him.

I'll be honest, I wouldn't like to call it.  You never know which way Al will go.

But if Davis picks Russell, he may lose the Raider nation entirely.