Oakland Raiders: Moving Forward For 2010

Bret ArmstrongAnalyst IJanuary 29, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 13:  Bruce Gradkowski #5 of the Oakland Raiders shouts to his team during their game against the Washington Redskins at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 13, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After a shaky start to the 2010 offseason, things appear to be shaping up in Oakland for the Raiders. A very young team that is trying to build off of some quality wins against playoff caliber teams going into what could very well be a competitive wide open division next season.

“That’s why we know that there is a good sign we can get it done. Yes, we lost to some teams that didn’t have good records, but we beat those good teams, and if you can’t put that together after an offseason of working, then we’ll have to go back to the table,” Raiders’ cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha told the NFL network crew at an interview from the 2010 Pro Bowl.

Nnamdi wasn’t sure about the status of Tom Cable going forward, saying that he thinks Cable will be back. But Tom Cable said there was never any doubt for him; “It’s never really been an issue for us.”

“We’ve had a lot of conversations, you’re right there is a lot of speculation, but the whole time we’ve talked about where we're at as a football team. And that’s everything, that’s the organization, that’s the coaches, and that’s the roster. Free Agents; who do we need to get signed back just everything that goes into it,” Cable went on to say in an interview with KHTK (1140-AM).

“We’ve never really had discussions about what would or wouldn’t happen; it’s just really been about the Oakland Raiders. I don’t know that at any time he (Al Davis) said he was gonna change or wasn’t gonna change, it’s just an evaluation process that every team goes through. I think we did great diligence in terms of the organizations and the coaches and now here we are getting ready for the 2010 season and starting the scouting routine with the Senior Bowl,” Cable continued.

So it would appear that while on the outside the rumors were over boiling in the pot of controversy, on the inside things were just as calm as ever with Al Davis ready to build off what he felt Coach Cable and his staff had started during the 2009 campaign.

Both Nnamdi “N/A_21” Asomugha and Tom “Time-Warner” Cable were asked about the status of controversial quarterback JaMarcus "J-Bustus, JaWalrus, JaMeatloaf, J-Russ" Russell moving forward as this team tries to build itself into a competitor.

Asomugha was certainly the most candid with his answer; it felt to me watching the interview that he may have been calling out the struggling signal caller without being overly aggressive about it. He said, “I don’t think he was prepared. I think he needs to be more prepared before each game, and going into the season. This offseason has got to be big for him, and he knows that too. It’s gotta be big for him because he has to understand that we’re gonna go as far as he takes us because he’s the quarterback of the team.’

‘You have to put in the work yourself. Look, I came into the league as a safety, and then I had to move to man corner, so you have to mentally do it yourself, a lot of it is gonna be on you. I think he is getting to the level where he realizes that. It was tough for him last year; it wasn’t easy going into games being booed by your own people. That’s tough.”

Meanwhile, KHTK host Mike Lamb asked Cable if Hue Jackson was brought in to right the sinking ship that is Russell. Cable said, “He’s just one man on this football team, he knows he’s got to be better, we know we’ve got to help him get better as coaches and it starts with me. The biggest goal for Hue is to get our offense to be a scoring threat with some consistency. That’s the reason he is here, and I’m excited about it. It’s something as an organization we felt like we needed to do and it will help me as a head coach to handle some other things and put more attention to other things.”

Tom Cable is currently at the 2010 college Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Alabama looking for the next group of soon to be drafted Oakland Raiders. He said the Senior Bowl is about, “Seeing them work as a football player, practicing the game, all that stuff. Seeing how they take to the drills, how they learn, how they pick things up and go out and execute. Because that’s important at our level, you gotta be able to do it really from day one to a certain extent.”

Coach was asked what positions the Raiders were looking at to draft. Like any smart coach, he would not give away draft strategy, but he did provide us with some insight on what the team needs to improve their chances of becoming a playoff caliber team next season.

“We’ve got a couple of issues; one we have to score more points on offense, that’s number one. And number two, we’ve had a big issue in terms of the big play on defense,” said Cable. “I think those are two things that jump out at you as things we just have to do much, much better in 2010 to be a playoff team. And then I think the third thing that was probably the most significant is finding a return game in our special teams.”

Coach Cable said over and over that he is excited about the direction that his team is taking. I agree that getting those types of quality wins is something the team can build on moving forward. Whether or not the starting quarterback will be JaMarcus Russell remains a mystery; and there is no doubt that Bruce Gradkowski put together a nice campaign, before his double knee injury, to prove that he deserves a shot to be the guy for the Raiders in 2010.

Gradkowski has been a regular at the team complex, continuing his offseason almost as if it were the regular season. I may make an ass out of myself, but I assume he is continuing to work out and watch film on a regular basis with his teammates who also show the commitment to be at the team facilities over the immediate offseason period before the start of free agency.

“I think we were building some good things this year and we have a lot to build on to get better. Watching all these playoff games, you get excited and I know our fans are better than a lot of these team’s fans that are in the playoffs. We just need to keep winning and get some excitement around here,” Gradkowski told Comcast Sports.

It’s a very positive sign that while there is very little clue as to what JaMarcus Russell or Charlie Frye are doing, at least one of the currently staffed QB’s, and perhaps the best option, is still doing his part to make sure the Raiders are successful in the upcoming season. One can only hope that the team recognizes his efforts and brings him back with a new contract.

“That has to be our goal for the 2010 season, to be a playoff team and I think that anything less than that is unacceptable.” Coach Cable continued on to say, “At our last meeting after Baltimore we talked a lot about what’s in front of us and that the next step would be a difficult one. That’s going from being a competitive team to a team that wins the games they are supposed to and at the end you’re a playoff team. I don’t think it’s changing the attitude, I don’t think it’s becoming competitive, that’s done. We’re ready to do this now, and it’s our job to take that step and be one of those twelve teams that’s in the tournament next year.”

I know one thing, my slogan for 2010 is going to be "Bring Back Bruce!" until we find out for sure what happens with the current No. 5 on the roster. I might even make a bumper sticker...anybody interested?