As Al Davis keeps Tom Cable twisting in the wind, the hiring of Lane Kiffin at USC is a reminder that the Raiders once could attract top young coaches, if only to audition for a better job.
That’s why Jon Gruden came to Oakland. He knew the problems of working with Davis but he was strong enough to battle with Davis to get rid of the under-producers and bring in his own players.
Davis couldn’t stand the fact that Gruden’s face was on billboards around the Bay Area. There can be only one face of the Raiders, and that won’t be the coach’s. When Tampa Bay wanted Gruden, Davis “traded” him for a bounty of draft picks, none of whom ever did much for the Raiders.
The team that Gruden built made it to the Super Bowl the next year — and was obliterated by the team Gruden was coaching.
Since then, it’s been an unmitigated disaster, as the Raiders have set an NFL record with seven straight seasons with double-digit losses. Their coaches in that time: Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell, Kiffin, Cable. Turner is the only one to have NFL success after leaving. Kiffin is the last young coach to come to Oakland, and he was scheming to get out almost from his first day.
Davis’s only rival for meddling owner has been the Washington Redskins’ Dan Snyder, but Snyder finally backed off this week, hiring Mike Shanahan and giving him control of player moves and the draft.
Davis should do the same, but he won’t. He talked in 2008 of hiring somebody to help him in the front office, but that person hasn’t arrived yet.
He does have a good scouting staff, which has come up with some good low-round draft picks,
including receivers Chaz Schillens and Louis Murphy.
But Davis makes the first-round picks, and the last three have been JaMarcus Russell, Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey. McFadden is the only NFL player in the group, and he probably needs to be switched to receiver because he isn’t durable enough to be an NFL running back.
Russell and DHB are absolute busts. Free agent quarterbacks Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye both played much better than Russell in the last season. Murphy, drafted three rounds later, was a much more productive receiver than DHB.
No young coach will come into this sad situation. Former NFL coaches like Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy are advising young coaches not to consider Oakland.
Dungy has done it publicly. Cowher did it privately with Ken Whisenhunt, who then wound up in a much better place with the Arizona Cardinals.
So, Davis’ choice is staying with Cable or going with a retread like Jim Fassel, who has been campaigning for the job.
It’s not a choice that should excite Raiders fans. Cable finally showed some independence in benching Russell and the players back him because he did that. But for most of the season, he showed why no other team had ever considered him to be head coaching material.
But Fassell or any other retread wouldn’t be any better. The Raiders have some talent but their offensive line is weak and their run defense is MIA. They’re not close to being a playoff team. The blunt truth: With Davis in charge, there is no hope for the Raiders.
9-19 Tom Cable’s record since replacing Lane Kiffin early in the 2008 season
5 Coaches the Raiders have had the past seven seasons
5-11 Raiders’ record this season
7 Consecutive seasons with at least 11 losses
17 Touchdowns the Raiders scored this season
50.0 JaMarcus Russell’s quarterback rating this season
3 Passing touchdowns by Russell this season
11 Interceptions thrown by Russell this season
8 Pick the Raiders have in the first round of April’s draft