Tom Cable is still employed...for at least the day. Then again, Al Davis rarely, if ever, fires a coach so soon after the season finale. What is clear is this, though, at least from my vantage point - either Cable or quarterback JaMarcus Russell has to go.
And while no one in the Raiders' locker room is about to come out and say it, you get the sense the players would side with the coach. Crazy, huh? Especially in a league driven by players, and not coaches.
But Russell not showing up for the team's morning season exit did not sit well with some in the locker room, even if the purported franchise quarterback's absence was excused by Cable.
A transcript, then, from Monday's final postgame media conference of the season:
CABLE: "Just to follow up yesterday, two guys who got nicked in the game - Charlie Frye is undergoing an MRI right now. Seemed to be a lower back strain and about the same this morning as it was yesterday after the game, pretty sore and tight. And then Darren McFadden got a pretty good stinger in the shoulder but did come back in and went back out and came back in, so, we'll just make sure he's O.K. there.
"In regards to yesterday's game, really, what I said after the game, really hit it on the head. I mean, we had a great opportunity, tremendous effort, didn't get it done in the second half, when we had a real chance, I think it was 14-13, kind of grabbed momentum and then gave it up. Too many rushing yards with their offense, obviously, and, you know, but a game you walk away from feeling like you had a chance to win but you just didn't get it done."
QUESTION: Do you immediately dive into player evaluations now?
ANSWER: "Yup. Yup. We'll start on that probably this afternoon and that will be the next deal, spend a few days doing that. And then we'll take a few days to kind of relax and refresh."
Q: What is the checkout process, meet as a group?
A: "Yeah. We met as a team, and then physicals for everyone, exit physicals, and information where everybody will be, that sort of thing, and then team meeting and then we're done. This afternoon, the coaching staff will start on the evaluation."
Q: What was the message to the team?
A: "Well, you know, it was kind of a follow-up to yesterday. The next step for this organization is to not just compete and be in them, but now to win them and get over the hump. The next step, I think, is the biggest one, and that's what I tried to explain to them - that there has to be an individual standard set and then one that will combine as a team to set our own standard next fall. But that's going to be the most difficult one. And it takes a greater commitment and it takes a little more work and giving of yourself a little bit more and just focus on that. Next year, there can only be one goal, and that's to be a playoff team. Not to win and all that, it's to clear up all this inconsistency and those sort of things and become a playoff team."
Q: How do you get guys to work harder?
A: "I think whenever you end the year like you did and you're 5-11, albeit very competitive and all that, not winning enough, I think that's all you need, you know? At the end of the day, it still comes down to winning and that still has to be the greatest motivator, is success."
Q: Is this a playoff team with some tweaks here and there, or do you need to bring in a lot of guys?
A: "I think when you get done evaluating it, have a better chance to answer that. But certainly there will always be change. You've got to make the team better and look at every area, every aspect of it, all positions, both sides of the ball, kicking game, whole deal, and really, have some real honest evaluation. Don't window-dress it. It's got to be very black and white."
Q: Was everybody at that full team meeting this morning who you expected to be there?
Q: JaMarcus Russell there?
A: "Uh, he was not. But I knew he wasn't going to be there."
Q: Why not?
A: "Because he was excused."
Q: For, personal reason?
A: "Same reason Richard Seymour was - personal issues."
Q: Who do you want to be your QB next year?
A: "Well, again, that's coming down really to the evaluation process, you know. Getting all that done and saying who you're going to have on your team and build this team with and then, I think, once you get through that part of it, which will be free agency, the draft, then it's time to really put your team together, in terms of who's going to play where and what."
Q: Did you know when you were hired to coach this team that it would take more than one year to get it going?
A: "Yeah, I think I said that, even, in the beginning, that there would be a process to go through to get there. Certainly we hoped we could do it right away. But we're much better and much closer but we're not near close enough."
Q: With poor rushing game and so many QB sacks, how much of a disappointment was the O-Line play?
A: "Well, I think on both sides of the ball. You're asking specifically about the offense but I think on both sides we have to get better. There's no question. And the good teams in this league, really, they're bui;t on the line of scrimmage. And the cohesiveness it takes, whether it be on offense or defense, is extreme. And I didn't think we had enough of that on either side this year."
Q: Still sold on the zone-blocking scheme?
A: "You know, really, when you look at it, the teams that are leading the league are still predominately zone blocking teams. So I'm not sure it's the scheme that's the issue, it's how are we teaching it, how are we playing it. Those kinds of things to me are more of an issue."
Q: Did this team underachieve, overachieve or play to expecations?
A: "I think there are some times I felt like it underachieved. There's some times I think we played to our potential. And then learning how to win, I think that's the next step, and I think we've learned the little things it takes to ensure that you win. When you have it 14-13, make another play. Just keep playing, make another play. That would have been the difference yesterday."
Q: Have you done enough to retain your job for next year?
A: "It's not up to me."
Q: Do you feel you have?
A: "Yes, definitely."
Q: Anticipate a formal meeting with Al Davis?
"We have talked this morning, and we'll talk again next week."
A: "Sometime next week."
Q: Did he give you any reassurance?
A: "No, it's not about that right now. Right now it's about getting this team evaluated."
Q: Feel like you and Al were on the same page regarding the QB situation?
A: "I do, because his words to me were, 'You're the coach. Make the decision.'"
Q: Was the play of the offense over the final seven weeks a bright spot and offer promise?
A: "Yeah, there's no question."
Q: Scoring was still an issue, though.
A: "We were at nine points a game before, and it went to 16-something in the last seven weeks."
Q: What did you learn this year?
A: "Ha-ha! A lot. Really. What a great experience. I learned be careful about trying to do too much. I'll put that at the top of the list. Be careful about trying to do too much as the head coach. You gotta do a lot. You gotta have your hand on everything. But I think I've always been one to just roll 'em up and go at it, whatever needs to be done, get in and get it done. I think that's why you have the coaches you have and the staff you have and those kind of things. So I'd say that'd be at the top of my list."
Q: Of all your roles, which would you like to keep next year?
A: "I think first thing is to get through this week, evaluating the players. And I'm gonna do that next. That's kind of second on my list. I don't think it's time to answer that question, but it will be soon."
Q: Did you overextend at times?
A; "Yeah, I think you can sometimes do so much that you're not good at the things you should be, you know?"
Q: Are you open to having someone else call the plays?
A: "Oh, yeah. At the end of the day I'll do what's best, for sure. For sure."
Q: Did you tell Al you wanted to stay?
A: "Umm. We don't have conversations like that. Right now, there's a process every team's going through that's not in the playoffs, and that's really to evaluate where you're at, who you are, right now at the end of this thing. And then, from those evaluations and from those discussions, you make some decisions."
Q: Does Al Davis share your optimism about this team?
A: "Well, I hope so. But again, we don't have those types of conversations. So when you're in the locker room and you're on the field every day, I think your thought, your approach to it is very real, 'cause you see it. You see it for what it is."
Q: What was the nature of today's meeting with Al?
A; "Yeah, just to plan the evaluation, and discuss what we'll talk next week, and we'll go from there."
Q: Richard Seymour a guy you'd like to have back next season?
A; "I hope so. Again, that's part of these next few days and evaluating this whole thing. But he certainly did a lot of good things since he's come here."
Q: Decision to focus on passing game in camp hurt the running game?
A: "That's one of the things on my list to look back on. It certainly could have. I think at the time it was the right thing to do. Even though there were struggles early, it certainly kind of worked itself out to where we improved that area."
Q: Should you have changed QBs earlier?
A: "It's not time to do all that right now. What it is is let's evaluate our players and see where we can make our team better. And then we have to do those kind of things, we have to answer that kind of question."
Q: Gradkowski one of the surprises?
A: "I think so. He and Charlie both did a nice job when they were given the opportunity. They were prepared and all that, so yeah."
Q: Expect open QB competition?
A: "Again, I haven't even thought about all of that."
Q: Young receivers, you like what you see?
A: I'm excited about that group, for Chaz (Schilens) and Louis (Murphy). And we'll get Darrius (Heyward-Bey) back and get him through the first-year blues, if you will, and get him relaxed and calmed down and continue to develop the group. You can throw Brandon Myers in there. I think that's someone in the future that's going to help us with Zach (Miller). There's a nice core there, a nice nucleus to grow with."
Q: How will building the roster for next year be affected by the threat of a lack of a CBA?
A: "I think it's going to have an affect on all that. I think every team is going to go through the same ups and downs with it. That's why to me it's so important that the evaluation you do in the next few days I think has to be very, very critical and has to be very detailed. You have to really get some bottom line things answered."
Q: See the billboards and the fans' campaign for a General Manager and are you in favor of it?
A: "You know what? I really haven't. I was told about it and that's about all I know about it. I don't have any feeling on that."
Q: But are you in favor of it?
A: "I think right now let's see where this team is and again that's part of how do you get us better."
Q: What does it mean to have the players' support?
A: "It means that they trust you and you give them everything you've got, and they know that, that you try to give them a chance to succeed and that you respect them and care about them. That's really what it means. Again, I made a point a little bit ago, when you spend all that time with them, be it weight room, locker room, on the field, camp, on and on and on, it either is a good fit for a coach and the players or it's not. We try to do it right and we certainly are learning to play for each other and grind for each other the way you're supposed to. Now let's get to winning football games."
Q: Why the lack of production from Darren McFadden, injuries?
A: "If you're going to put your hand on one thing, it'd probably be it. Yesterday, he's in, he's out, he's in, he's out, with a stinger. That happens a number of times. I think again he'll be fine. I think we've got good runners there. To me it's more a product of getting more success early so you can grow your confidence and you can become the sort of explosive team you want to be because then it makes weapons like Darren that much more special. You can do these things with him and be as creative as you want to."
Q: Thoughts on Sebastian Janikowski and his recent accomplishments, 61-yard field goal, 1,000 career points?
A: "Well, it's tremendous. You think about scoring 1,000 points and you can argue all day about him being the Pro Bowl kicker in the AFC. He's done it since 2000 certainly since I've been here a very high level of consistency. Just a lot of positive for Sebastian and what he's done in his career. He's not very old so he's got a long life left as a kicker in this league. Hopefully we'll get something worked out with him and he'll be a Raider."
Q: How often do you think about your job status?
A: "I don't because all I know is I have a contract right now. Whether or not that's honored is not up to me. I'm a ball coach. I'm a damned good football coach so things will work out. They always do."
Q: How much have you learned to ride through storms here?
A: "Tshh. I'm the master. Any of you got problems, just call me. Believe me. I can help you with your alternator and those kinds of things, your travel plans. But seriously, I think you asked me what I've learned. I think that's the next biggest thing I've learned is everything I was raised to be and understand and believe in got me through the year. I think it justified a lot of things for me but it also taught me some things about just how strong you really have to be. Not for yourself, it's for the people around you, whether it's your coaches, your team, your family, whatever that is. I think that's No. 2. Don't try to do too much and No. 2 , really realize what you're capable of but also understand just how tough you have to be to get through it."
Q: Outside stuff behind you?
A: "Well, I hope so. I have no control over any of that. I know the truth, we all know the truth, it was proven and so you got to move forward."
Q: You seemed to have changed the culture here.
A: "Well, I said that from the very beginning. I said one of the things that would really have to happen for us to get back to being a team that would have a chance to make a run at the playoffs and have success was you had to change the attitude and you had to change the mentality and the defeatist attitude that gets in the locker room when you struggle for a long time. The thing I'm most pleased about from the season is the fact that our talk now is about we can and we will. It's not 'Oh well, this happened, here we go again,' that kind of BS. It's we can and we will. I think that's really a big deal."
Q: Can Luke Lawton be around the team during his suspension?
A: "No, if I understand the rules, really, it's a suspension. You're out, you're away and all that."
Q: Honest mistake on Luke's part?
A: "I don't really know. Coaches are not part of that deal."
Q: Who was a pleasant surprise?
A: "Sure there was. I mentioned our safety play, to me Michael Huff really became a big-time guy, a guy who you can count on, a guy who can make plays, was solid from beginning to end. Tyvon Branch just seemed to get better every week. Matt Shaughnessy, better and better every week. Trevor Scott. The play of Nnamdi. The thing I'm most, and I don't know how many of you really know this, but to me Nnamdi became a much better player because of how he became a much better leader and how he became more solid in those aspects off the field. I'm really proud of Nnam just because of who I think he is become. He's becoming complete. He's become not just a guy respected because he plays great. I think because he's doing the right things all the time and I think that's pretty impressive, how he works, what he puts into it, those things. So valuable because young guys see that, Mike Mitchell sees that and that's what you want him to see. Mike Mitchell's a guy I think in the last six weeks has really come alive and can really help us. Desmond Bryant, another one, I really think that kid's got a big big upside. Richard has already been talked about. Trevor Scott, talked about. Offensively, I think Zach had a fine, fine year. The young tight end Brandon Myers I think is going to be a very good player in this league. The receivers was talked about, they're coming along. I'd like to as I said get Darrius maybe a little more confident and settle down a little bit, don't feel like you've got to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, just play. Samson Satele had some really good moments and I think there's really something there to build on in terms of stability at that spot. In the backfield, those three guys, albeit up and down, a lot of time the situation dictating what we could or couldn't do, pretty solid for us."
Q: Thought on Mario Henderson in his first year at left tackle?
A: "I think, like a lot of guys on this team, there were some really good moments, some times when you're really excited about him and then there's some times where he's got to improve. There's some things, he'll be the first to tell you, there's some things he has to get better at and improve on."
Q: Assuming you return, keeping the staff?
A: "Well I hope so. This is a group of good teachers. One thing about them, they've always gone out and I think the response of the players kind of proves that this staff has given these players the opportunity to have success at what they're doing."
Q: Did Paul Hackett's or Ted Tollner's job change with the changing of quarterbacks?
A: "Not really. No. O.K.? Thank you all."