Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

February 4, 2009
More from the coach and the owner

Ask and you shall receive.

Here's more form Wednesday's news conference with Tom Cable and Al Davis.

Davis was emphatic in stating Cable hired all of his own coaches. Cable said the Raiders could be a playoff team (even though he got on my bad side by admitting he's a Boston Celtics fan).

But enough from me, here's Cable and Davis.

Why did the process take so long?

Al Davis: "Three things manifested itself. One, it was a process. And I really did consider another individual really strongly right up to the end, and that individual and Tom were competing. When I met with Tom for approximately four hours, and he outlined what he saw for the future of the Raiders, the staff, the players, and all those things, he told me what kind of staff he'd like, and I said to him, `Can you get that kind of staff?' He said, I can get that kind of staff. I said, you go out, and get that kind of staff, bring them back here, you tell me that these are the people you want on your staff, and we'll hire them. Let me see what you can do about putting a staff together. That's No. 1. No. 2, I gave the same consideration to the other individual. He went out, with the idea of putting a staff together, to bring back that would be the staff of the Raiders, and Tom was very, very strong on who he wanted to keep from the old organization, and from the new organization. No. 2, unfortunately, Tom suffered a very serious blow while this process was going on. His dad passed away. So we had a hiatus of about a week and a half, where all we did was talk on the phone occasionally, but he had things to do in Merced and in Seattle, and in Georgia, and that held it up too. And No. 3, the thing that held it up was the Super Bowl. I could have done it last Thursday, but I didn't want it to interfere with the Super Bowl and I felt this was the best time for everyone, I didn't want to take you from the Super Bowl, or take him still from the things he had to do, he had to be in Atlanta, Georgia, for a couple of days. These are the things that go on with the process, and it was a battle, down to the end, and I finally made a decision, that he could take this team, he showed me in those last couple of games, there were two things that came to my mind. I wanted to play the young players. All year long, I wanted to play the young players. In the last two games, Higgins and Schilens accounted for five touchdowns. Higgins and Schilens accounted for five touchdowns. That was about the only time, that someone started to play those two guys regularly, where they could show what they could do where they could run and show their speed. Higgins had other opportunities, but it was great, if you take five touchdowns in two games, and even whittle it down to two touchdowns in 16 games apiece, we've got tw o guys who are catching eight touchdowns apiece. I think the youth of this team, if you really follow it and watch it, has really got a chance to be pretty good, and he believed in the youth and played them, and showed us what they could do those two young guys, for just as an example.

"He hired every assistant coach. I did not hire one other than to talk to some of them about money and to talk to some of them about philosophy. I'm not sure I agree with everyone but I think it's a helluva staff. He hired every single coach. I just want you to know that. And I want the few doubters in here who think I hired the assistant coaches, that's not true. I never hired Lane Kiffin's. I never hired Art Shell's. on this one, I listened to him and the guys he had in mind were pro guys, people with experience and people who could teach."

How can a coach hire a staff if they don't have the job?

Davis: "Well they do it. That's all that goes on in pro football. If you think that Todd Haley didn't hire his staff last week. If you think 90 percent of them don't, then you don't know a thing about football."

How does that work when you have two candidates?

Davis: "They can't hire people but they can tell us who they want, bring them in and make sure that we can get them. Because a lot of times they say they can get this guy. There were two guys that both of them, both of them picked. But what they wanted was responsibility that neither Tom, or his other fellow would give them, which was playcalling. Tom called the plays the last few games of the season. If you remember he took it away from Greg Knapp. And it's pretty simple, that's the way it's done. Whether you believe it or not. I'm shocked that you would ask that question but that's the way it's been. Guys are told 'you've got a shot at this job' and immediately what are they doing? Calling around trying to get a staff together. Who will join them, who won't join them and things like that. It's always worked that way."

Can you say what the timeline was with Tom and the mystery candidate

Davis: "Well I think they were in competition a long while, a long while up until about last Thursday."

Why were you acting like the head coach all last month if you weren't the
head coach yet?

Cable: "First of all, when the season was over, we talked briefly about what the process would be. There would be some time to reflect, and we both did that.
We talked initially about the fact that I wanted to be the head coach, and then an unfortunate time. Lost my father, and Al and the organization were gracious (to let me) handle those things, get through those things. Clearly for me, it started with the Senior Bowl, being down there. If you know the process in this league, that's a very important time for guys to talk to prospective coaches, position coaches, coordinators, and at the same time it gave me the opportunity to go down and look at who was in that game in terms of talent for the new year. So I was able to kind of kill two birds with one stone, get a lot done in terms of talking to coaches, assistant coaches. I had had a chance just before that to talk to assistant coaches who were on the staff already, so I had a plan. I had a plan about if the opportunity came to me, where I would move and what I would bring to the table, so it really was just the process of getting through it, and then of course last week was just to put the final things together as we met again and talked about it all, and here we are."

What'd you learn last year from all those peaks and valleys of last season?

Cable: "The first thing that really jumped out at me, I thought the first five or six weeks were really trying. There were some issues, we had to release some players, we had to change some mind-sets, we had to get some people on the field that weren't on the field at the time. I thought the last six weeks we became a very competitive football team, a team that went 3-3 in the last six weeks, really should have beaten Kansas City at home, two poor drives I felt on each side of the ball, but I felt like this: I felt like the attitude was going the right way. I felt like they were starting to play for each other. I felt like whatever negative things or whatever had gone on was going away, that we were becoming a team, that we were becoming someone that wants to work for each other, that realizes it's not all about stressing over winning and losing. Stress about being your best every day, and when you go to work every day, and you leave work every day and you know you did your best and you've given your best and you do the same thing on Sunday, you got a chance to win football games. You got a chance to be a playoff team, to win your division, and ultimately to become a world champion. That's the foundation that was laid, so the peaks was probably at the end of it, the valleys were probably at the beginning, and it was climbing out of it and climbing out of it, but we moved in the direction we wanted to go. As I said when this became an interim job in October, this is my dream. This is my team growing up. There's not anything in the world I'd rather be doing. I'm honored to have the opportunity. I'm very honored by what this football team did in the last six weeks of the regular season and where we have grown as a football team, and I know right now where we need to go to get to the playoffs."

Why do you think players responded to you late in the season?

Cable: "I think first and foremost, they're going to know where I stand, and I'm going to tell them the truth. I'm going to love how they work. I'm going to love them for that. We go in the locker room on Sunday, it's all of us against whoever they put out there. I think that mentality, about taking care of each other and coaching for them, with them playing for us and vice versa, all of that is so important, but it don't work, it don't work unless it's all for one, and I think ultimately I brought that to them. Hopefully they know I give a damn about them, and as we continue to get better, if you look at games, I'm just going back to the Buffalo game, to the Miami game, to the Carolina game here, you could kick out three or four games right away that if we had that bond really where I think it's come to, and it's got to get better, no question, but if we'd have had that in place at those times, we'd have won those football games, and that's the difference of winning and losing in the National Football League. We all got talented players, and we've got a good young football team. It's got to mature. It's got to grow up. It's got to get some guys to improve fundamentally ... if you put three or four more wins on our record from last year, I think we win the division, that's how close we are. But make no mistake, all that talent and that big arm JaMarcus has got, and the fast legs that Darren's got, and all the pass-rushing that Burgess has got, it don't make nothing. It don't make no difference if you can't put it out there for each other with a passion and a love for each other. That's how you win football games."

Is Cable calling the offensive plays this year?

Davis: "That's up to Tom. Tom was the one. I know what you read, that I instructed Greg (Knapp) to give it up, although I didn't mind Greg giving it up, to be factual. Tom took it over. I wanted to see what Tom could do. That's what he was there for, he was the interim coach. We got a bad break when that one coach (assistant offensive line coach James Cregg) left us with two weeks to go on a contract, two games to go, the guy who went down to Tennessee. In a way it helped us because it forced Tom to get back in with the line more and do more with the line at that particular time. But Tom called the plays. Now I don't say Tom has to call the plays. That's up to Tom. We have two pretty highly touted other people who joined the staff (Ted Tollner and Paul Hackett), who understand calling plays. Now one of them has a history of a little bit West Coast and the other has a history of down the field, which is interesting and which I was excited about. So, did that answer your question?

Cable: "I'm going to call the plays. We'll get into this more here in a little bit about the staff, but Paul is going to coach the quarterbacks and Ted Tollner is going to be the passing game coordinator. We'll move in that direction. We talked about it with them. We'll get great input from them. As we just mentioned, they have a lot of experience and they will be very, very valuable to the success of what we're going to do. But there's a purpose and a reason for why everyone was hired. Let's be very clear on this, OK?. I hired the coaches that I thought would help us get to the playoffs at every position. The timeline isn't the issue, folks. The issue is, we did the right thing for the Oakland Raiders to move forward, to be a playoff team and to find that success that we all deserve."

Give us your reaction to receiving word that you were hired compared to being named interim head coach.

Cable: "At first, there was so much going on, with the change and everything. One minute, you're the line coach and the next minute you're going to be the head coach. So, to get organized and, as I said earlier, those first few weeks were a difficult time in terms of some change that needed to be made, getting organized and getting the staff where you need them to go. So, that in itself, I was just so busy that I didn't really have time to think about it. But I can tell you that this time, it was very special. As I mentioned, this was my team as a kid. This is really a dream come true. I'm proud of it. I'm very appreciative of the opportunity to do this. The Oakland Raiders are back. They're back. We're going to go win football games and we're going to be a playoff team. You hear me? I'm not afraid to say that. All that negative aura, it's done. It's our time now. Every great team in sport, and there are three of them. In baseball, it's the New York Yankees. In basketball, it's the Boston Celtics. And in football, it's the Oakland Raiders. Every one of those three teams, all three of them, have had their tough times. We have had ours. It hasn't been any fun. And you all have been a part of it, those difficult times, longer than I have. But you know what? I grew up watching the great times. Now I get to be a part of the next set of great times. Every great team has done it. We're no different than those other two."

How strongly did you consider Kevin Gilbride? Was former linebackers coach Don Martindale a head coaching candidate?

Davis: "Number one, Kevin Gilbride is a bright, very exceptional coach, and he got tremendous consideration. He's very good. Don Martindale was told what he could be here if he wanted to stay. He decided to go to Denver as the linebackers coach. Don Martindale was not considered as the head coach of the Raiders."

Do you think this team have made the playoffs if you were the coach from the outset of last season?

Cable: "Yeah, I do, because I believe in what I'm doing, I believe in this football team. So, yeah, I do. That ain't what it was. That isn't how it all worked out. It worked out the way it was supposed to. I'm the head coach now, and our goal will be to get to be a playoff team and get a chance at that Super Bowl."

Have you decided upon bringing in that "local" front office person to help?

Davis: "I could say to you, 'It's filled,' but I don't want to. And I could say to you, 'It's a possibility,' and I would leave it at that. I'm just not ready. I just went through a long process here. It isn't easy because, when Tom would bring in these coaches, someone has to sit down with them and talk to them about money. So, occasionally, I would spend some time with them about money, and it isn't easy to hire all these people and come up with a comprehensive money scale and budget."

Did Cable consider another job during this process?

Cable: "You always have to take care of yourself, but I just believe, you know, with great patience and doing the job that was asked of me to do and put a plan together, I expected it to happen. I had great confidence. I obviously didn't know it would happen, but I believed in my heart this is the way it was gonna work out. So you look out for yourself, certainly, but my whole focus was being head coach of the Oakland Raiders, no question."

Will you have an offensive or defensive coordinator?

Cable: "It's not necessary at this point because of my involvement with the two of them. It's something that I just didn't feel was necessary at this point. To the defensive coordinator, I have hired John Marshall, who will lead our defense. I'll go ahead and give you those names here real quick: Dwaine Board will be the defensive line coach; Mike Haluchak will be the linebackers coach; Lionel Washington will be the defensive backs coach, along with Willie Brown. On offense, as I mentioned, Ted Tollner will be the passing game coordinator. Paul will coach the quarterback. Kelly Skipper will move from tight ends to running backs, who was on the staff previously. Sanjay Lal will go from being assistant receiver coach to being the receiver coach. And Adam Henry will go from a quality control position to being the tight end coach. The only position that I haven't hired yet is the offensive line. I have hired a special teams coordinator. That'll be John Fassel, who will move up from the assistant special teams coordinator position. Did a great job. The offensive line coach hasn't been hired cause that's where I live. And I have a plan for that. It'll be done here shortly. And out of respect to it, we'll get it done and when it's time, we'll announce it."

Will you change your defensive scheme, perhaps to a 3-4?

Cable: "Changing it? No. Dramatically? No. How we're gonna plan it and put it together will change significantly. I think the ability of this group of teachers... what we'll ask them, how they'll be held accountable. But will be dramatically different? No, I don't think that would be the wise thing. I think we're built a certain way, and why no t play on our talent."

How much input will you have in personnel in fee agency and the draft?

Cable: "Well, I think in regards to the draft, those things of getting the new coaches familiar with the players they're gonna be coaching, that's an issue for down the road, if you will. Because I think before we can really get into this process all the way, they've gotta be understanding who they've got to coach and how they're gonna get them better, we'll have a plan for that. And so it's probably premature to talk about the draft and all those things right now. How we're gonna through free agency and prepare for the draft and draft day and all that, Al and I have talked about it. This is a partnership, something that I need his leadership, I need his wisdom, I need his experience. And that's something I told him right from the very beginning. There are some things that I asked him to teach me. And this is one of those things. At the same time we've had great discussions a bout personnel, whether it's on our team or other players outside our team. We've had agreements, we've had disagreements, it's been great. But the partnership in it to me has been exactly what I wanted it to be, was being able to be taught by a guy who probably knows more football than most anybody in the National Football League."

What is your offensive philosophy, and is it more Raiderlike than what we've seen?

"Well, I think so. I think one of the things I'm most excited about is to put the complete stamp on it, if you will. Toughness and discipline, act with honor, play with honor, play for each other, throw the ball over their heads, and when you get them down, beat them down running the football. And I think you score points by throwing the football - I mentioned that to you during the season - but you win championships with your ability to run the football at the end of games. Defensively, this team is very talented on defense. Not to put any pressure on anyone, but it is. I've been around them for two years. I want to get back to what I used to see, and I see it on NFL Films all the time: Raiders knocking guys' helmets off, and knocking 'em down and beating them down, beating them down, beating them down on defense. We've been fine on special teams, tremendous this last year. We can get better in all areas, but I want us to go back to being tough, hard-nosed, play the game the way it's supposed to be played by the Oakland Raiders."

Thoughts on the offseason spending spree of 2008

Davis: "I think you always learn by experience, but I don't believe in consistency. I don't believe that you follow because you failed one year, that you can't succeed in the next year. But we did not do well in free agency, no. We had players here who could play, and for some reason or other, some of them refused to play them. And so we went out instead and got the players on the market that were considered the best players at their position that were available. And they did not fare well for us, no. One was injured, that's Javon (Walker). Certainly DeAngelo (Hall) got picked on the first game of the season, we'd have won that game had we played the other guy. When we went back and played them again and played the other guy, we won the game. That's all it was. It was one guy that they took advantage of and beat us. The next time when we played them, they were gonna go after the new guy (Chris Johnson), and they couldn't get after the new guy. So it's a tough year for me, because we didn't do well in free agency. But, I'd rather be right than be consistent, so we'll see what happens. I think with the lockout looming down the road and what's happening in free agency, I don't know that you're gonna see the big bonuses anymore for players. I just don't know that you're gonna see that in the main."

Given Nnamdi Asomugha's status much thought?

Cable: "I have. I've looked at the roster a number of times. There's much work to do in regards to Nnam, Shane Lechler, other free agents on our football team. We have a number of good players that are in free agency, so it'll be a very important time coming up as we go through this. But Nnam's important, Shane's important, they're all important. And that'll be addressed rather quickly."

Would you consider sharing a stadium with the 49ers?

Davis : Are you changing the subject? Let me say that the misconception that there's some unhappiness with the Raiders and the 49ers is a midconception. If you remember I got DeBartolo Sr. to buy the 49ers. I remember Eddie was standing there, he was just a young kid telling his dad to do it, 'Buy it Dad' even though the price went up $500,000. I know Denise. I like Denise very much I don't know John well but I've never had a problem with John. Our problems with the 49ers came in 1995 when we decided to come back to Oakland. Carmen was determined ... I can understand that. He represented the 49ers and we were a threat to the Bay area. Carmen was determined to see to it that if we did come back it wouldn't be a good journey. He rallied some of the writers who were friends of his on his side to attack us. But no, would I ... let me say this. Jed York is a very bright young man and our CEO, Amy Trask, who's in charge of business operations. I'm not sure how far she's gone but we have to do something. We have to have a new stadium. We want to win. We want our fans to do great. The will to win is the fire that burns brightest in this organization and if a new stadium can help us, then we'll look at a new stadium. We want what everyone else in thi s league has got. It's amazing how we all sit here and I realize that every newspaper in here is having problems but this is the only place in America where there's no new stadium: Minneapolis and three stadiums in California. Our teams operate at a very unfair practice.

What would it take to get you to sit down with the 49ers and talk stadium?

Davis: First of all I'd have to know what the stadium is and who's going to pay for it. Once I know that, I can answer your questions.

Where do you see the team playing in 2010 after it's lease expires in Oakand?

Davis: "I'd like to be playing in a stadium or some new stadium that's started. I like the present location very much. I think it's a helluva location but I'd like a new location. That's our goal."

The last time you spoke with JaMarcus Russell

Cable: "I talked to him at the Senior Bowl. He's here now. My feeling with JaMarcus is JaMarcus has really embraced what his responsibility is and what is role is. He's had a rookie season that was, he came in late and played the last little bit there, played a few games, started one game. And of course he started the entire season this year and I think he has through all of that has really learned and accepted what his responsibility is and what his role is. I'm not surprised to see him back now and doing the things he should be doing to lead this football team.

Davis: He's got some physical problems that have to be taken care of too. I think his ankle was bothering him at the end of the year. He had some chips in there so they may have to do something with that.

Thoughts on Russell's development.

Davis: I thought the whole process was too slow. I thought the process was too slow the year before.

Now more from Davis' post-news conference chat

On any efforts to keep Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator.

Davis: I like Rob Ryan a lot but it was time to make a change and it was best in the fact that Tom Cable was the new head coach, or could be the new head coach, and the other fella could be the head coach that I picked out, and I thought it would be best for Rob ... it's ironic, Rob goes to Cleveland and they're bragging on him. They got Rob Ryan. Greg Knapp, who we had the worst pass offense in the league two years in a row, they're bragging on him in Seattle. Here, no one bragged on those guys. But I didn't try with Rob. He's a good friend. I thought it was time for him to move on.

What about special teams coordinator Brian Schneider?

Davis: "Brian did well. John Fassell did real well. You have to remember that one of the things that hurt us on special teams for a short period in the middle of the season was when we lost probably the best special teamer we've had in a while, Ty Branch. I don't know if you'll remember him. Seriously. He was a great kickoff returner and we had to go out and get a kickoff returner, which was Justin (Miller). We had to replace what's his name who got hurt? Ricky Brown. We got very lucky. We got a guy in here, Cooper, who helped us on teams. But we were down on teams in certain areas. We were good on returns, no question about it, but on their returns against us and their kickoff return, we were not great. But he did a good job. He wanted to go and young Fassell is a young talent that we think is pretty good. The only coach that left that really we probably would have kept at his position was Tom Rathman and he wanted to go over there (to the 49ers), we understood that, that's where his history is made. We had a young guy, not a young guy but a good young coach, Skipper, and so we just moved him in there and it gave Henry a chance to move up. That was the only thing. We had those three running backs and we had that fourth running back and that's a pretty important part of our football team."

People say Al's old offense doesn't work in this era, is that fair?

Davis: "They certainly don't say it now. I mean if you think Pittsburgh is not ... but look, look, when we started 2000, 2001, 2002, I thought we had a chance to run this decade. We didn't do it. It slipped away from us and we became mediocre and didn't do it. In every decade that's started since the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000 we've played in a championship game to start the decade. Now the vertical game, you gotta throw the ball deep. There's no one around who can win without doing it, whether it be Arizona, whether it be Pittsburgh, no matter who it is."

Why did you finally hire Cable?

Davis: "Just listening to him. Just what he did with the team at the end. I just felt that his excellence with the offensive line was never in doubt, he always did well with them, although it was a zone blocking scheme, which he's talked about improving on with some power, getting some power in there. He's good, he really is. He knows football. He has a passion for the goddamn thing, which a lot of these others, they have a passion for the authority it gives them or the focus with you people. It was that guy (Kiffin) every day would kill us every day. We took a left tackle (Mario Henderson) and didn't play him the whole season because he was my pick and then ... the couple games he played he dominated the game. He dominated Gaines Adams and he dominated Mario Williams. You didn't see him. Look, the things that move men, no one's going to explain that."

Do you want another executive in personnel?

Davis: "We have two executives in personnel but I don't know if we're going to keep, if they're going to stay. I haven't made up my mind exactly what I'm going to do but I'm going to do something. I haven't made up my mind exactly what I'm going to do."

Plausible to bring both Asomugha and Lechler back or are you resigned to losing one to keep the other?

Davis: "I'm not resigned to anything. But I say it's tough."

Would it be an option to franchise Nnamdi and if you lose him get a couple first-round picks back if a team signs him?

Davis: Well that would mean it's not an exclusive rights franchise tag. No, I would think that whatever I do would be exclusive with anyone.

Tough to envision sharing a stadium?

Davis: "I would have to know the economics and who would build the stadium and all the factors involved in it. I would have to know that and I would have to know how you deviate the two teams that are in the stadium."

Would you want to be majority in a shared stadium?

Davis: "No, no. I wouldn't think that anyone could have that. The Giants had it over the Jets and I wouldn't want that. I'm not looking for that. I'm looking for a place where our fans could go, it's our fans, and the economics make sense."

Q: You could see playing in Santa Clara?

Davis: "I told you I like this stadium right here. I like this location right here."

Can the Raiders succeed with the current stadium lease they have?

Davis: "It's very difficult. Succeed? It's very difficult because when you talk to me about free agency of course it's difficult. It's ridiculous not to say it. You've got to have the finance to compete with these other teams."

A new stadium brings you revenue?

Davis: "Well, if we can get it. It depends on what revenue you have to give up to built a new stadium. There are a lot of issues involved. When we came back to Oakland they fixed it. When we went to Los Angeles they fixed it. When we started in Oakland they built it. I'm not used to building stadiums. Go see Amy she'll tell you everything that's going on with stadiums. She's very alert, she's very aware, she's smarter than I am."

Where are you at in the process of working on an extension of the current lease?

Davis: "Why don't you talk to Amy? We're not working on an extension of the current lease. I don't think so. I really don't."

Does JaMarcus have the proper work ethic to succeed?

Davis: "I think JaMarcus can be a great player. I'm not interested in what you're talking about. Let me tell you something. Go back to the 70s and the 80s I had a guy here by the name of Stabler. You talk about work ethic? But he could win."

Might the Raiders trade a running back?

Davis: "That wouldn't be right. Tom is going to help make every decision."

Do you notice when Kiffin takes potshots at you?

Davis: "No, Lane Kiffin's a flatout liar. He could take anything he wants. What potshots has he taken?"

Mentions the Raiders being dysfunctional a lot.

Davis: "Did you ever ask him what the dysfunction was? He did say it was a crisis. What crisis. John Herrera said it best - the dysfunction was caused by Lane."

Role of son Mark.

Davis: "When you go by the pecking order it's Mrs. Davis and then Mark. He'll be a strong owner. What you're asking is he going to make business decisions and football decisions. He's not ready for that because he hasn't taken it over yet.

"What's the matter Lowell?"

Cohn: I think he was asking when you're planning on dying.

Davis: "He's allowed to do that. It's my life."

Is there a plan to integrate Mark more?

Davis: "I'm not ready yet to give up where he can take over."

--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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