Nine weeks into the season, Al Davis, Tom Cable, and the 2-7 Raiders had finally seen enough of quarterback Jamarcus Russell’s impotent attempts to execute...well…anything.
In a season and a half Jamarcus Russell managed to provide the Oakland Coliseum with plenty of elbow room with his poor play behind center. With the season circling the drain, Cable announced that Russell would be benched.
That decision started what could only be described as a deadly game of quarterback Russian Roulette. Russell's backup, Bruce Gradkowski, provided the quarterback position with the spark it needed, but two and a half games and two sprained knees later, third-string QB, journeyman Charlie Frye took over.
In his first game against a suspect Cleveland Browns secondary last Sunday, Frye threw for 333 yards, but had no touchdowns and three interceptions. The Raiders lost 23-9. Yet it wasn’t so much a black mark against Frye as it was on Tom Cable’s playcalling ability.
Cable’s refusal to allow Raider running backs any opportunity to score inside the redzone doomed what was a very winnable game. Regardless, the Raiders still have a chance to finish at .500 in the second half of the season when the Baltimore Ravens come to town on Sunday for the season finale.
Baltimore has a balanced attack that keys on all-everything running back Ray Rice. Behind Rice’s 1,269 rushing yards the Ravens are seventh in the league in rushing. Rice also leads the team in receiving with 74 grabs.
If the Raiders want to finish on a good note, Rice will have to be accounted for every second that he is on the field. Some say that the Ravens defense is a shadow of what it has been in the past, but despite being pitted against five of the top rated offenses in the league this year, they still managed to rank sixth overall in total defense.
The Ravens are coming to Oakland needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Luckily, the Raiders have made it a habit of upsetting potential playoff teams, knocking off the Eagles, Bengals, Steelers, and Broncos, respectively. Despite that fact, they may also be playing for Cable's future.
After losing to Cleveland (a game that they should have and could have won), Davis has to be questioning Cable's ability to return the Raiders to their former glory days. Decades after being blessed with watching the likes of Stabler, Biletnikoff, Casper, Allen, and Long, Davis must ponder every night (or late afternoon) before he goes to bed "how did this franchise fall so far?"
Whispers out of Oakland say that Davis is looking at head coaching candidates like Jim Fassell and John Harbaugh. A few weeks ago, former Raiders coach and current Monday Night Football personality Jon Gruden made an appearance in a local Oakland sports bar, hanging out all night with Raider fans and signing autographs until the wee hours of the morning.
The thought of Gruden coaching the Raiders again has caused nothing but elation among Raider Nation and would without a doubt fill the stadium and boost the financially struggling franchise. Close friends of Gruden say that he would return to Oakland if given the chance and the conditions were right.
Cable has to be feeling the pressure of possibly of losing his job. His playcalling has been called into question all season long, and so has the curious decision not to use players like Michael Bush and Darren McFadden in the capacity that best utilizes their gamebreaking ability—rather relying on consistent but boring Justin Fargas.
This has many wondering if Cable has what it takes to be a successful coach in the NFL. Even with the playoffs being in the balance for the Ravens, the pressure is still on the Raiders because this game may just decide Cable’s legacy (or lack thereof) as head coach of the Oakland Raiders.