Ratto: Can Cable, Raiders keep The Al happy?

December 20, 2010, 3:05 am
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Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

It is a measure of the confounding nature of the 2010 Raiders that they managed to win and lose at the same time Sunday. And in more than one area.They gob-smacked the Denver Broncos, 39-23, but only after, in the words of laughing defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, they had to endure a lot of cursing from the head man. He got everybodys attention. RECAP: Raiders outlast Broncos, keep playoff hopes alive
They gained 502 yards, their fifth time exceeding 400 this year after managing it only four times in the previous 112. And yet, they were only 2-for-11 on third down conversions.They improved their intradivisional record to 5-0, outrushing the Chargers, Chiefs and Broncos by 669 yards and nine TDs, while their record outside it remains 2-7.And they won their seventh game for the first time since 2002 and lost one more chance at a playoff berth, because the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens both won.
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In short, their vistas narrowed as their self-esteem expanded, and self-esteem matters less than actual achievement in the Darwin-was-a-sissy world of professional sport.Seven wins? Kelly said with a smile. Id rather have eight right now, but I guess seven is a good stepping stone.But for whom?I dont know about next year, he said. Ill handle next year when next year comes. I might not be here next year.Thats the problem with almosts, which is what the Raiders are looking at if Kansas City beats Tennessee or San Diego beats Cincinnati next week. Theyll be done, no matter what they do or dont do with Indianapolis at the Coliseum.And even if they get by the Colts and then beat the Chiefs on the final day, they have to hope the Broncos can beat San Diego and eliminate the Chargers from the tiebreaking formulas.Without playoffs to distract the masses, the what-ifs come into play. What if Darren McFadden, who has 1,113 yards rushing with two games left and two games lost, hadnt lost those two games? What if they hadnt laid such mighty eggs against Arizona, San Francisco, Miami and Jacksonville? What if they could have shown a little more gumption outside their enfeebled division?Which leads us inexorably to the Cable question . . . again. If, as seems likely, they will be among the outsiders again this year, will Al Davis view this as improvement or a blown chance? Will he see the 5-0 and smile, or the 2-7 and scowl? Will he decide not to risk Hue Jackson bolting for a head coaching job elsewhere, or decide that Cable has finally figured out how to keep The Al content?In short, can you start over and maintain momentum?Guessing at the inner workings of The Als brain box is always sketchy work, and its been so long since the Raiders werent down that it is hard to know how he defines up. For a man who is well known for his rigid philosophical views on football, to imagine him bending on something as elemental as the postseason is, well, difficult.And if he doesnt see this season as good enough to maintain the status quo, how can it be so?Again, we are working with the future, and the imponderables of The Als disposition. It is hard to see Jason Campbell finally winning the quarterbacking job beyond any question, or McFadden becoming an elite running back, or the defense developing beyond its subterranean numbers of years past.But one of the things about being relevant in December is the fact that you do look at a picture bigger than the postage stamps the Raiders have been churning out most of the decade. And these Raiders look great only in comparison to their grisly predecessors. They have miles to go before they can sleep well.But they can at least sleep for a change. When The Al is genuinely unhappy, as he has been for years now, nobody sleeps, ever. In fact, they may not sleep while he is deciding whether to be happy or not.But at least this year, for the first time in seemingly forever, he might be happy. Okay, content. Well, okay, mollified.Depending on his mood. And the day. And the weather.And thats a dramatic improvement by any measure.