The Oakland Raiders made it official Tuesday evening: Tom Cable is no longer the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. For the first time since the Raiders were demolished in the Super Bowl by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Raider fans finally felt like the team was headed in the right direction. The offense was looking better than it had in years, the defense looked like it would grow to be one of the best in the league, and the Raiders dominated the AFC West. However, it appears as though the lack of a playoff birth doomed Tom Cable.
If you will recall, when Lane Kiffen was fired, Al Davis made the comment that the team was good enough to make the playoffs and was underachieving under Kiffen. One has to assume that similar logic was relied on in the firing of Cable. While many Raiders fans see the fact that the Raiders were one or two wins away from the playoffs as a major step in the right direction, Al Davis sees it as unacceptable given the talent currently on the roster.
Regardless of whether or not Al Davis was right for firing Tom Cable, he made the choice to release him in good faith. Now it is time to look forward and discuss who the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders will be.
Given the timing of the announcement, I could not help but hope that Jim Harbaugh is a serious candidate (Tom Cable was fired only one day after Harbaugh's season with Stanford officially ended). Its been pretty clear from the Harbaugh camp that if he leaves Stanford, it will only be for an NFL team, and only for the right one. Many scoff at the idea of Harbaugh coming to coach for the Raiders because he will likely be able to choose from any of the current head coaching vacancies in the NFL. However, it makes decent sense that the Raiders would be on his short list.
Harbaugh's only NFL experience came with the Raiders as an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach. Additionally, it has been said that Harbaugh and Raiders owner Al Davis get along well and that Harbaugh has a lot of respect for Davis. Additionally, taking a job with the Raiders would mean that the Harbaugh family would not have to move and uproot their kids, forcing them to adapt to a new location. Finally, as we have seen with Lane Kiffen, because of the media machine that paints the Raiders coaching position as one of the worst in the NFL, failing in Oakland does not preclude one from getting good job offers elsewhere.
While Harbaugh would be my first choice to replace Tom Cable, a much more likely replacement can be found in the Raiders organization now: Hue Jackson.
During the season, there were rumors that Hue Jackson and Tom Cable were not getting along—apparently Tom Cable was attempting to undercut Jackson to prevent him from succeeding. Both denied these allegations, but we may never know the actual truth. What we do know is that the Raiders doubled their offensive output this season under Hue Jackson, and that Jackson is considered a candidate for the San Francisco 49ers position.
I personally do not believe that Jackson should receive all, or even the majority of the credit for the Raiders offensive turn around. A major portion of that credit goes to the fact that Darren McFadden was finally healthy and able to show what is he capable of doing. Additionally, the Raiders defense was much improved this year, leading to closer games and more opportunities for the offense. Despite all of that, Jackson would be a logical choice because keeping him on staff would keep continuity in the Raiders offense after their best season in years.
Given the Raiders history of deliberate coaching searches, they may take a while to decide on their next head coach, but whoever it is might be looking at a short lived career in Oakland as Davis expects whoever is put in charge to win the AFC West and make the playoffs next season.
Buckle your seat belts ladies and gentlemen, it might be a rough off season for the Raiders.
***UPDATE*** The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the Raiders will promote offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Shockingly (insert sarcasm here) Raiders senior executive John Herrera is denying the reports. I normally ignore rumors about the Raiders since I doubt Al Davis tells many people what he plans on doing and those he does tell likely hate the media as much as he does. However, given how on the mark reports about Cable losing his job were, maybe Davis really has already decided on Jackson.