NFL Coaching Carousel: Oakland Raiders

Henry NicholsCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2009

ALAMEDA, CA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis and Tom Cable speak during a press conference after being named new head coach after the firing of Lane Kiffin of the Oakland Raiders at thier training facility on Septemer 30, 2008 in Alameda, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Emperor Palpatine, er, Al Davis has accomplished quite a rare feat in recent years: gradually transforming a hard-edged franchise that used to perennially compete for Super Bowls into a revolving door operation of coaches no other club would even interview for a head job (Art Shell, Lane Kiffin) trying to manage an impossibly incohesive culture of over-the-hill, overpaid prima donnas (Javon Walker, DeAngelo Hall) who probably never should have been acquired in the first place.

Indeed, Davis has increased Oakland’s reputation as the “Black Hole” of the League so much that every coach who walks away from the rubble invariably arrives at a shinier pasture: Norv Turner resurrects his career (in his third chance) with the San Diego Chargers, Kiffin moves up from the NFL to the SEC, and Shell is probably running a bed-and-breakfast somewhere with his old offensive coordinator. Promotions all around!

The Good: …This department is getting noticeably scant, so let’s throw out the obvious and practical and see what we have left. By removing Tom Cable’s interim tag, Davis has at least given his team some locker room stability. (Now let’s see Cable last an entire season to match his predecessor’s job longevity!)

While it may seem curious to most observers that Davis hires the team’s position coaches seemingly independent of the head coach’s stamp of approval, this ironically serves as a reason why Cable could be perfect for the Raiders’ peculiar situation: He’s the only guy grateful enough of any sort of chance to be an NFL skipper that he’s willing to put up with Davis’ crap.

Think about it: even Mike Martz, who has been fired from two coordinator gigs in as many seasons and was unceremoniously canned (WHILE IN THE HOSPITAL!) during the last contentious days of his Rams regime, turned down the job in 2006 to remain offensive coordinator of the Lions.

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So in other words, Martz essentially declared that he’d rather assist the coach destined to pilot the NFL’s first 0-16 wreckage than get a second chance at running a team...if that team is owned by Davis.

The Bad:
In trying to salve the wounds of the messy divorce with Kiffin (for something “The General Partner” likened to insubordination), Davis went with the cheap, in-house promotion in Cable, a younger, more portly version of Cam Cameron.

Whereas Cameron had successful NFL coordinating experience with the Chargers prior to his hiring as head man in Miami in ’07, Cable only had two brief stints as offensive line coach for the Falcons and Raiders.

Conversely, Cable fared noticeably better (but still bad) during his ’08 NFL audition than Cameron did in his one-shot season, tallying a .333 winning percentage (4-8) to Cameron’s .0625 (1-15).

What both men have in common, however, are atrocious records as head coaches at the collegiate level. Cameron went 18-37 at alma mater Indiana (1997-2001) despite having Antwaan Randle El in his arsenal. Meanwhile, in even less attractive circumstances, Cable went 11-35 at Idaho (2000-03) before being similarly jettisoned.

Davis earned a modicum of respect back for finally cutting ties with perennial head-coaching candidate James Lofton, firing him as receivers coach only one year after he forced the Hall of Famer onto Kiffin’s staff. But it still begs the question of why he thought so highly of Lofton in the first place.

The Ugly: I’ll say this for Cable: like his name might suggest, he’s at least holding the Raiders together for now. (Then again, judging by his appearance, his pant buttons must be holding on for dear life!)

He wants the job, and you might be able to count the coaches in their right minds who want this job on no hands.

The Raiders may technically comprise an “NFL franchise”, but any coach who dreams of putting his own stamp on the team will be expeditiously knocked into reality (or is that a nightmare?) by a power-drunk octogenarian whose irrational lust for one last Super Bowl title before he dies seems to exacerbate his poor judgment with each passing season.

It must be of some consolation to Raiders fans that by the time Davis cuts the Cable (hyuk), his increasingly craggy visage and deteriorating despotism will have precipitated a move from Oakland to the Death Star, where the Raiders can rack up titles under new coach Darth Vader in the outer space AFL until he is finally re-absorbed into the Force.

The Verdict: Oakland would be an impossible situation for even the best of coaches, and even the best NFL roster would probably be pretty bad with Cable as the head coach.

But let’s call a spade a spade: Davis never turned in his coaching headset. (Former Raider DT Warren Sapp said in October that Davis would sometimes veto entire game plans that the coaching staff and players had been working on all week.)

To him, it’s still the ‘70s, phoning in passing plays to inept staff members who have no choice but to heed the angry dinosaur. Davis has regressively downgraded from a proven head coach and Super Bowl contender (Chucky) to a mediocre caretaker (Bill Callahan) to a so-so retread (Turner) to the worst retread (Shell) to a bright-but-inexperienced college coordinator (Kiffin) to a college coaching failure (Cable).

There’s a reason Davis ignored interest from decent retreads Jim Fassel (whose son John is the Raiders’ special teams coordinator) and Dennis Green this offseason; after the Kiffin fiasco, Davis will take no opposition. And in Cable, a grateful lackey who will likely never sniff anything close to a head-coaching job again, he has his ideal conduit.

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