Tom Cable: The Prince and The Pauper

Pat CowanCorrespondent IFebruary 2, 2010

When Tom Cable was appointed the interim coach of the Oakland Raiders halfway through the 2008 season, it had fans and writers scrambling for pictures and bios of  just who this mystery man was.

At first glance the former offensive line coach seemed to be an ideal fit to right the ship in Oakland. He displayed a resolve and a positive attitude that calmed the stormy waters after taking over for fired coach Lane Kiffin, who’s year and a half with the Raiders were nothing less than tumultuous. 

Right away, Cable made bold moves cutting cornerback DeAngelo Hall and benching mainstay wide receiver Ronald Curry in favor of the younger talent on the team. Practices became a competition as Cable tested every players resolve to start on Sundays.

When the season was over, the Raiders finished by winning their final two games, but more importantly, the locker room that once was torn to pieces by the maelstrom of dysfunction had finally began to heal.

Hope had been restored.

It didn’t take long to learn that there was a whole different side to Cable. In August of 2009 Cable was accused of punching defensive assistant Randy Hanson and breaking his jaw. Charges were filed, but dropped due to inconsistencies in Hanson’s story and a lack of evidence.

Later that year in an ESPN "Between The Lines" interview with Cable’s ex-wife, she accused him of beating her on separate occasions. Cable did admit that he slapped her after he found out that she had been having an affair. Cable’s current wife stated that he had never shown any violence to her or her children.

When the season started, Raider Nation had high hopes that Oakland’s six losing seasons were coming to an end. Cable had displayed some clever playcalling in the season before, dialing up trick plays in an attempt to create momentum. Anything to gain an edge and give his team hope to build on, and most of the time it worked.

However, despite the bold personnel moves and play calling the year before it never really transferred into the 2009 season. Stuck with JaMarcus Russell,  Al Davis’ choice to quarterback the team, Cable ran basic and simple plays. Due to an injury sustained in training camp Chaz Schillens was unavailable until late in the season, so at wide receiver were two rookies, Heyward-Bey and rookie sensation Louis Murphy. Not exactly “Air Coryell” material.

The passing game was abysmal as Russell consistently turned the ball over and it was obvious that Heyward-Bey, who’s speed was well respected by opponents, lacked the maturity to be a number one receiver. On the rare occasions that Heyward-Bey did get open, he had trouble catching the ball. As a whole, the offensive production was less productive than the year before.

Cable's Raiders were on a roller coaster ride where they seemed well prepared one week, followed by a lackluster effort the next. During the season, the Raiders proved that they could play at a high level defeating the Bengals, Eagles, Steelers, and Broncos. Consistency proved to be a plague as the Raiders lost to the Chiefs, Redskins, and Browns.

Critics scrutinized Cable for his curious personnel moves. Running back Michael Bush was rarely used despite putting up solid numbers and having the ability to take over games. Fullback Gary Russell was chosen to run back kickoffs as the kickoff return game was among the bottom of the NFL, a stark contrast from the year before. Cable has also received criticism for running back Darren McFadden, who still has yet to be used in away that he is most effective.

If there is one thing the Raiders should be good at, it’s blocking. After all, Cable is the zone blocking scheme “Zen Master” that saved Robert Gallery’s career. But the problem is that Cable’s track record for picking players for the line is awful. Last year Raider Nation had to suffer through offensive tackle Kwame Harris, one of Cable’s most coveted players, who turned out worse than advertised.  This year Cable brought in Khaliff Barnes, Eric Pears, and Samson Satele.  None worked out well, although Satele did show some promise and may improve with a full offseason under Cable’s tutelage. Over all the offensive line was among the worst in the NFL.

Despite all the flaws Cable brings to the table, the locker room has an undeniable love for the man. They supported his return for another season and he has drawn in talented free agents like Greg Ellis, Gradkowski, and Frye. Cable has an eye for talent and prefers the players with work ethic over prima donna talent. Cable’s resolve has been tested by the best of them, but he never falters in his vision or his confidence. He has become that much needed buffer between them, Davis, and the media.

Cable understands life from a perspective that not many have seen. At one point, Cable was homeless, living out of his car and now he has achieved his life dream of coaching the Raiders. Tom Cable has seen the top of the mountain as well as the depths of hell. Maybe that’s why his players want to play hard for him. Every time the Raiders won a game, his players flocked to hug him and give him a pat on the back.

There is definitely an upside and a downside to a man like Tom Cable. That leaves a lot of us fans on the fence going into next season. But there is one thing that Cable has brought to the Raiders….