Al Davis and Tom Cable Are Closing The Door On 7 Years Of Raider Woes

Pat CowanCorrespondent IJune 19, 2010

  It was January 26th of 2003, a day that would define the once proud Oakland Raider franchise for the next seven years. It was a day that should have been celebrated. The Raiders were making their fifth SuperBowl appearance against a Buccaneer team that the Raiders, on any other day, would have methodically dismantled. However, fate had another agenda as the Bucs took advantage of an ill-prepared Raider team.

In previous years, an aging Raider team had watched their opportunities taken away. In the 2000 AFC Championship, The Baltimore Ravens sent Tony Saragusa to take quarterback Rich Gannon out of the game. It worked. Gannon's shoulder was separated, and the Raiders were unable to move the football. The following year, the Raiders again fell victim to the infamous "Snow Job," where the officials misinterpreted the "Tuck" rule and gave the New England Patriots a gift that they would have not received if it was against any other NFL opponent.

When the Raiders took the field in 2002, they left nothing to chance. They pillaged the NFL; dismantling teams with the precision of an offense lead by MVP quarterback Rich Gannon.

Then the wheels fell off....

The last team that the Oakland Raiders wanted to face in the SuperBowl was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jon Gruden, the Bucs head coach, was in his first season in Tampa after being traded from Oakland. His former offensive coordinator and new Raider coach Bill Callahan had created the playbook for the Oakland offense. A playbook that had not been changed since Gruden was there. On top of that, the NFL decided to experiment with the SuperBowl by playing the game only one week after the Championship game instead of the customary two weeks. That decision cost the Raiders any chance of revamping the playcalls.

If that wasn't enough, Center Barrett Robbins, who was going to the ProwBowl and was sited for his excellent job of calling pass protections and identifying blitzes, went AWOL after going off his Bipolar medication and decided it was a good time to go on a drinking binge.

The result was a 48-21 romping in the SuperBowl that closed the door on a Raider team that had been to the edge of greatness but could not push through once again.

The following year, the age of the Raiders showed as veterans began to drop like flies. Head Coach Bill Callahan wanted out of Oakland and did everything he could to get himself fired.

In 2004 Al Davis turned to a veteran coach to try to develop the next generation of Raiders. Norv Turner was brought in as well as former Giant quarterback Kerry Collins. In 2005 Randy Moss was brought on board, but the glaring lack of leadership and discipline showed, and the Raiders slide continued.

Locked into a lawsuit that threatened his control of the Raiders, Al Davis turned to a familiar face. Art Shell was loyal to Al and the Raiders. A hall of fame Offensive lineman and a former head coach, Shell knew Raider tradition. Most of Davis' time, focus and money that was reserved for his beloved franchise would now be spent in court and on lawyers to try to fend off the attempted coup. Shell was hired to restore order to the locker room and be another set of eyes that Davis could trust. The problem was that Shell hadn't been on an NFL sideline for years. He was allowed to assemble his own staff. His approach was the equivalent of a guy calling up his friends and telling them he is putting the band back together. What ensued was bedlam resulting in one of the worst teams in NFL history.

The following year, Davis used a formula that worked great in the past. He hired a young offensive coordinator with fresh ideas, the same formula used to hire Gruden. Lane Kiffin was hired away from USC to bring the raiders back to the glory days. Davis tried to make a copy of a copy; and Kiffin wasn’t nearly as sharp as the original.

Although it didn't show in the win column, Kiffin's first year showed promise. Letting two journeyman quarterbacks play the season while allowing number one overall draft pick, Jamarcus Russell wait his turn on the sideline showed patience. The team was still bad, but there were finally signs of life.

2008 was Lane Kiffin's second year as head coach, the Raider fans' hope was immediately dashed as Lane Kiffin began using the media to poke the Bear, who just happen to own the Raiders. Kiffin was making statements that he couldn't win with the team and that he wasn't allowed to make any decisions. Davis attempted to deal with Kiffins tantrums behind closed doors. The end came after Kiffin sent Kicker Sebastian Janakowski out for a 76-yard field goal attempt while leading the San Diego Chargers 15-0 in the first half. The Raiders would end up losing the game due to his ultra conservative playcalling. Davis fired Kiffin shortly after.

Al Davis used another formula that had worked in the past when Art Shell was hired to replace Mike Shannahan in the 80's. An offensive line coach and a Raider fan, Cable took the keys from Kiffin and began to purge the team of paycheck collectors and underachievers. His "all business" approach to the team has refocused the franchise from top to bottom. There hasn't been a challenge that he's backed down from. Little by little, he's been gaining ground. Cable's fierce dedication to turning around the image of the Raiders has only begun to pay off.

His greatest achievement is the change in Al Davis. This is a guy who has been dragged through the mud by the media. He has endured an attempted mutiny by shareholders and has been accused by every washed-up has-been, looking for an excuse for their poor performance. He has had friends and employees betray him around every corner. Cable's greatest challenge has been to gain the trust of a man who had no reason to trust anybody.

The evidence of that came this year, when Raiders had by far the best draft in recent memory. There also wasn't much drama when Jamarcus Russell was released. It seems that Cable has reminded Davis of what kind of players made up the Raiders mystique. In turn, Davis has brought in team-first players. He has also shown Davis that he finally had a coach that understands his same will to win-the Raider way.

Cable answers questions and takes responsibility for his coaching decisions. He has Al Davis' back at any given moment and can have a dialogue with the owner without the fear of any repercussion. He has become that much-needed liaison between Davis and the players. Dealing with Davis isn't an easy task, but Cable has done an admirable job.

Just like in the days of Jon Gruden, John Madden and Tom Flores, whatever Cable needs, he will get. When the head coach of the Raiders and the owner of the Raiders get on the same page, magical things happen, and right now Al Davis will work with Tom Cable because he has shown that he is first and foremost…. A Raider.


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