"The Raiders express gratitude to Tom Cable for his contributions in his four seasons as an assistant and as head coach of the silver and black."
With these words, Tom Cable was gone as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. No tearful farewell from the owner for Coach Cable's unstinting endeavours to turn around the failing Raiders. No immediate replacement for the players or fans to get excited about. Just a drab statement posted on the Raiders.com website.
As a Raider fan, I understand the disappointment in missing out on the playoffs. I even understand that this team may have underperformed in 2010, but what I don't understand is why make this decision now?
It appeared that Cable was the right man at the right time for Oakland when Lane Kiffin left the Raiders in a mess. Cable had no experience of being a head coach and has been surrounded by inexperienced coaches and a very young raw team.
Al Davis could have gone for a more experienced, "big name" coach and looked at turning things around quicker. But it seemed loyalty and steady progress was what was required. The Raiders finished 2008 with a 4-12 record.
In his first full season (2009) as head coach, Cable posted a slightly improved 5-11 and lessons were clearly being learned. The team was growing.
Hiring a play-calling offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, following the 2009 season was a key building block to allow Cable to become a more rounded head coach. Showing JaMarcus Russell the exit also removed a handicap to progress for the silver and black.
With Hue Jackson getting the best out of Darren McFadden and the best draft class in years, the 2010 Raiders have flashed brilliance, going 6-0 in the AFC West. Coach Cable clearly had the Raiders playing hard for him and there was improvement in almost every department.
After the 8-8 season, there was no feeling of unbounded euphoria amongst Raider Nation; this was not time to be welcomed to the promised land, but this was clearly progress—a much longed for turn-around that gave rise to hope within every Raider heart. A feel-good factor for the future.
What is more, with young coaches and players learning all the time, there was no reason to believe 8-8 would not become 10-6 next season and a seat amongst the AFC playoff teams. The Raiders have the talent and the team spirit to take the next step.
Then Black Tuesday came with no silver lining. Coach Cable was gone and the position of head coach is now vacant.
Surely a first time head coach who is showing progress and has the support of the locker room should be given more time? If the Raiders started 2011 with a 1-3 record, then by all means move Cable on as he would have reached his ceiling.
If Al Davis needs to win immediately and is not prepared to wait, then the next head coach has to be a big name signing—someone with a proven track record of taking his team to the playoffs and even to the Super Bowl. John Gruden springs to mind.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, particularly for the people not tasked with making the decisions, but if Al Davis and the Raider organization think progress out of the trough has been too slow, then Cable was the wrong hire in the first place and deserves a more graceful exit.
Tom Cable should be praised for his loyalty, his energy, his work-load and his ability to stand up and make the Raiders relevant again. He has done what the previous four coaches (Callahan, Turner, Shell and Kiffin) failed to do and that is improve the team and move it forward. I wish him well—he has been a great servant.
Al Davis has made too many great moves in the past for the Raider Nation to doubt him. He has taken the paths least trodden and has proved everybody wrong.
I just really hope he knows what he is doing now.