Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

October 13, 2008
Back to the beat

ALAMEDA - Thanks to all that sent well wishes during my time off on paternity leave.

(And yes, my two-week old son has already received Raider gear as a gift).

Since I've been gone, the Raiders blew a lead (San Diego), had a hilarious press conference in which Al Davis attempted to make sure Lane Kiffin never coached again, and watched Tom Cable lose his first game as head coach yesterday.

I've also learned there's some good reruns on at 4 a.m. when you're awake and the baby is asleep.

But back to football...

*Tom Cable's critiques don't have the same bite as Kiffin's. But that doesn't mean he's happily playing the role of substitute teacher waiting for Jim Fassel, Dennis Green or someone else to take his job.

Here's what Cable said about JaMarcus Russell and how having new players around him contributed to his struggles.

"Those are all true things. But the bottom line, those are excuses, too, and that's what we talked about today as a team. We're not going to be about excuses. We're going to look in the mirror as a team and we're going to take what it is and we're going to make it better. Yeah, he has had those issues. But you know what? He can get his footwork straight. He can be on time. He can target balls better. Those are things that, whether you've had time with someone or not, those are fundamental things that we as coaches and as players, we have to do a better job of developing and learning to accomplish."

Cable said this of wide receivers Ronald Curry and Javon Walker and how they can be a part of the passing game:

"Catch the football. Catch the football. Ronald had two more opportunities yesterday, Javon had three more. Then you would say that's a pretty good stat; that would have given them four and five, respectively, something like that."

It actually would have been the other way around for catches, but the point is clear.

Don't blame the coach. Catch the ball.

*The offense would benefit from more Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens on the field.

Cable wouldn't go into what shakeups might be happening at receiver or if training camp star Todd Watkins might get a chance to play.

*The big difference between how Kiffin talked about players that bothered Davis, some players was Cable's comments still put responsibility on the coaching staff.

There were times where Kiffin was accurate in his assessment of the team's talent. But it sometimes sounded as if his critiques of players were also justifications of shortcomings of the coaching staff.

*I think Russell missed Kiffin. Kiffin spent a lot of time working with him and did all he could to protect him in his playcalling.

Sure, he was extra conservative to a fault. But at least that way when the Raiders lost, the blame was on him, not on Russell, who most coaches on the staff would tell you is not the main problem with the offense.

Cable is new working with him and used Sunday's game as a chance to get familiar with his quarterback.

He ended up doing what Kiffin tried in the preseason and let Russell pass a lot. You saw the results.

The situation isn't exactly fair to Cable or Russell.

"It might be easy to say, well, why didn't you know that before?," Cable said. "Well, I'll tell you why. Because I'm standing down there with a bunch of 300-pound guys at the end of the field, and that's just what it is, and coaching the offensive line and doing the job that I was hired to do. So this role, obviously, has expanded in terms of the big picture. Now I know a lot more about this football team."

*Cable shot down a report on the CBS pregame show that the team would be willing to trade either Justin Fargas or Michael Bush.

"No one would be doing that, I don't think," Cable said of the team shopping one of the running backs. "Those are two really good players on this football team."

Also, doing so would make no sense. Darren McFadden is still coming off an injury, as is Fargas.

And trading Bush, who is talented and is paid the lowest paid of the three makes no sense.

The NFL trading deadline is tomorrow.

*Speaking of McFadden, I did get a chance to watch a lot of football at home and wonder when the Raiders would start running the Wildcat formation that Miami has had so much success with RB Ronnie Brown at quarterback.

After all, McFadden ran that offense in college. And Bush can throw the ball, having been a high school quarterback.

Cable said McFadden's health has limited some of the trick plays the team would like to run with him. Now that his injured toe is feeling better, the offense might have some fun.

*It's quite different following the team from a distance. The question you'd love to ask can't be asked. And watching the games on television allowed me to hear a lot more of what others think of the Raiders and their current status as the most futile NFL franchise since 2003.

One thing I would have liked to ask at Al Davis was how does he feel about his team being the new laughing stock of the league.

Well, I wouldn't have put it that way, but that's the sentiment I heard while I was away.
Davis' handling of Kiffin's situation made him look like a man not committed to winning, but proving he could stick it to his coach.

The Raiders are now a punch line for Chris Rock, taking the place that was held for Matt Millen's Lions.

Could Kiffin have handled things better here? Yes. But that goes both ways. Davis said he waited nine months to fire Kiffin because he wanted things to work, but said if the team were 3-1, he still would have fired Kiffin. Huh?

That doesn't sound like a Commitment to Excellence.

*Cable is a guy that is very likeable and in my conversations with him, has an idea of how football should be played.

It doesn't hurt that as a Cal grad I know some of the players he coached in Berkeley, who still praise him.

I just hope players that are angry over how Davis handled Kiffin's situation aren't letting that impact their play, even though it's impossible to imagine in hasn't.

Cable admitted seeing some of that against the Saints:

"I think that we feel like we put a lot into last week and everything that went on and put that behind us. And then when it was time to put it out there I don't think we did. That's not being negative or being down on them, that's calling it like it is. And that starts with me. I didn't push them hard enough last week and that's the bottom line. And you know that old saying, an iron sharpens iron, I didn't sharpen them enough last week. That doesn't we're going to go out and it's going to be bloodbath every day this week. That's not what that's saying. What that's saying is I've to get them to realize what they're capable of when they do it together as a team. And that emotion and that mentality you have p as a football team really is what playing hard and that effort are what all those things are. It really comes to get together when you get that and I've got to do a better job of that."

That's right, Coach. You've got a heck of job on your hands. Good luck.

*The Raiders are relatively healthy.

DE Derrick Burgess (right triceps) will be evaluated weekly. The second opinion showed the same triceps strain he was diagnosed with initially.

McFadden wasn't wearing a walking boot and should be able to practice on Wednesday.

WR Ashley Lelie left the Saints game with a concussion but was fine today.

--Jason Jones

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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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