Lechler: 'Huge setback' if Cable doesn't return

Lechler: 'Huge setback' if Cable doesn't return

Dec. 27, 2010


Paul GutierrezCSNCalifornia.com

ALAMEDA Shane Lechler has been through Jon Gruden.The five-time All-Pro punted for Bill Callahan and Norv Turner. He endured Art Shell and Lane Kiffin.Theres just something different about Tom Cable, says Lechler, who maynot only be auditioning for a sixth trip to the Pro Bowl, but alsocampaigning to lead the Cable fan club in the Raiders locker room.
Lechler did not mince words when asked Monday if it would be a mistaketo let Cable, whose contract is up a few weeks after the Super Bowl,float away into the ether.It would be a huge setback, Lechler said. Weve invested so much ofour time and theres been so much commitment, starting from the day hetook over. Not only this year. He had a plan. The plan is working. Itwould be a terrible disappointment if there was a change because hesthe guy for this job. This job is for a blue-collar, hard-nosed coach.Thats what we need. You cant have a flashy guy come in. Ive heard it too many times.Every coach comes in, Oh, Im going to fix this. Im going to turnthis thing around. Bull.. You cant say that every time becausepeople start calling your bluffCables the hard-nosed, blue-collar guythat we need for this job. Tough words coming from a punter, you say? Fine, but the feeling was mutual from players on both offense anddefense. Especially with speculation over Cables job security pickingup steam in the wake of the Raiders being eliminated from their firstplayoff chase since 2002 before losing to Indianapolis, 31-26, onSunday.
RECAP: Raiders come up just short in 31-26 loss to Colts
Every coach, from the moment they are hired by Al Davis, is on a hotseat to produce positive resultsimmediately. Cables production hascome in both chemistry he has changed the culture in the locker roomfor the better and in wins and losses the Raiders ended theirwoeful streak of seven consecutive seasons with at least 11 losses andhave a chance to finish 8-8 overall, 6-0 in the AFC West, by beatingKansas City in the season finale this coming weekend.RELATED: Spotlight on Kansas City
But there is a negative to going perfect in the division; Oakland would still not qualify for the playoffs.So what carries more weight in Davis mind marked improvement, orblowing just enough games to keep the Raiders out of the playoffs? Anddont forget Cables bungling of the quarterback carousel mid-season,when his toying with the most important position in the game turnedJason Campbell into a sympathetic figure and Bruce Gradkowski into ateachers pet. Stereotypes neither man deserved.I mean, Al D., he knows who he wants and hes going to bring back whohe wants, sniffed defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. Nobody knows that buthim. I dont got no problem with Cabes; Cabes a good coach. I mean, hekeeps it one hundred (percent honest) with you. Hes a straightshooter. Every year hes been the coach, wegot a little better, so youcan see progress. It just, everything depends on the Old Man. How hesees it through his own eyes. Nobody knows that. Kelly laughed. It was an uneasy laugh but a truthful one. The performance of Cable, who was 4-8 as an interim coach in 2008, 5-11as a first-time, full-time head coach in 2009 and 7-8 thus far thisseason, is not all to be considered here. Hue Jackson has dramaticallyimproved the offense, though there are still a lot of head-scratchingplaycalling moments (trying to run on the edge against the Coltsspeedy ends instead of pounding the ball up the middle against theNFLs No. 28-ranked run defense and passing the ball 42 times?) Yet heis sure to be hot commodity this offseason. Jackson, though, is stillunder contract.
WATCH: Tom Cable reacts after being eliminated from playoffsAnd with the looming possibility of a lockout next season, the easiestpath would seemingly be to let Cable go and promote Jackson fromwithin. Just dont mention that to certain long-tenured Raiders. Obviously, I dont make that decision, said left guard RobertGallery. I know this locker room want (Cable to return). I think weneed that. We didnt accomplish what we wanted to this year, going tothe playoffs. But we definitely took a step forward from where wevebeen. Hes a big reason for that step. Gallery is an impending free agent who made the switch from tackle toguard at the behest of Cable. Linebacker Quentin Groves is a first-yearRaider who never knew Cable before being acquired in a trade. We love him man, and hes a great guy to play for, Groves said. Hesa players coach, and I never knew what that was until I came here. Heis really a players coach. He doesnt beat your body down. He takescare of your body during the season. He is actually a players coachand I would hate to see him go. Cable said the only discussions hes had with Davis have been aboutgames, not his future, adding it was not hard to compartmentalizecoaching as a pseudo-lame duck. I mean, Im good at what I do, Cable said in his weekly Monday mediaconference. So Im going to coach football. I mean, thats what I do,you know? In terms of being here and all that, I know that I want tocoach this football team. But thats for after the season, in terms of how its discussed and when its discussed. Theres a certain serendipity at work here. A true Lincoln-Kennedy (theformer U.S. Presidents, not the former Raiders offensive lineman)coincidence-penny moment. Heading into the final game of the 1999 season, the Raiders were 7-8and word was an increasingly impatient Davis harbored thoughts ofcanning Gruden, who was in his second full season. Especially ifOakland lost the season finale at Kansas City. Sleepwalking through much of the first quarter and trailing 17-0, theRaiders rallied and beat the Chiefs in overtime, 41-38, finishing 8-8and effectively saving Grudens job. A year later, Lechler and placekicker Sebastian Janikowski were drafted, the Raiders went 12-4 and played in the AFC title game. Were close, said Lechler, who has been asked for his advive by Davison such team matters as coaches before. If we win this weekend comingup, sweep the division, that would be a huge step for us. Were right there, right on the edge. But are they about to fall off, or fly? And with, or without Cable?

McKenzie: Raiders will take 'different approach' drafting No. 24 overall

McKenzie: Raiders will take 'different approach' drafting No. 24 overall

Khalil Mack said atop Reggie McKenzie’s draft board back in 2014. While it probably felt like forever, the Raiders general manager only had to weather four picks before selecting the star edge rusher at No. 5.

McKenzie loved Amari Cooper in 2015, believing his athleticism and demeanor would pair well with quarterback Derek Carr. Cooper only had to survive three selections before McKenzie made him a Raider.

McKenzie shouldn’t hold his breath this year. The Raiders have the 24th pick. He’d pass out.

The Raiders now experience the downside of success, with lower selections than normal throughout the NFL Draft. They earned top 10 draft picks every year from 2004-15, when the Silver and Black became relevant again. McKenzie selected safety Karl Joseph No. 14 overall last year in his original draft slot, but a 12-4 record and a playoff birth pushed them way down in the draft order.

Thursday’s No. 24 pick will be the lowest since 2003, when the Raiders selected Nnamdi Asomugha 31st following a Super Bowl year.

That obviously turned out well. The Raiders need this deep-round pick to follow suit.

McKenzie likes several players in this draft, but there's no telling if they'll be available. NFL teams have a general idea who will make it down the draft board, but an unexpected move could turn the round upside down.

“The one thing that’s been more difficult, you have no idea who’s coming down at 24,” McKenzie said. “When you’re picking No. 4 or No. 5, you can have a clue, a few players that you can pick from. The draft is a funny thing. Players that you don’t think may be at the 24, could be there sitting right in front of your face.”

McKenzie certainly hopes a highly rated prospect falls in his lap, especially if the best available player fills a position of need. Or the cluster would be empty.

The Raiders must be ready for anything, with a draft cluster of players worthy of that particular pick.

“We’re going to study it continuously until that day,” McKenzie said. “Then you never know how trades go. It’s a different thing. But when you’re down that low in comparison to where we have been the last few years, it’s a different approach.”

Draft trades are always a possibility, especially as the round unfolds. The Raiders are in an interesting spot, a slot above the quarterback-hungry Houston Texans. Teams might want to leapfrog them to secure a coveted passer, giving the Raiders leverage in last-second trade talks to move down.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t moved up in the first three rounds during his Raiders tenure, but this year might be an exception considering his roster is strong save a few important positions. He won’t leap all the way up the draft board, but a small move up is possible.

“I will not hesitate if I have to move up a little bit to get an impact player that we feel is on our board,” McKenzie said. “If we have to move up a little bit, I will not hesitate.”

Will Raiders GM McKenzie break mold and draft inside linebacker early?

Will Raiders GM McKenzie break mold and draft inside linebacker early?

It’s not like the Raiders haven’t been looking for linebacker help. They just haven’t found any entering this week’s NFL draft.

They brought Zach Brown in for a visit, but he didn’t like the team’s offer and left without a contract. They have interest in bringing last year’s starting middle linebacker Perry Riley back, but their valuations don’t match right now and the veteran remains on the open market. They let two-year starter Malcolm Smith join the 49ers in free agency. 

Right now, the position group is a skeleton crew with brittle bones. Free-agent signing Jelani Jenkins is the only interior linebacker with double digit starts, and could man the weak side, or end up a roving backing.

There isn’t much experience or talent or depth there right now, meaning the Raiders might draft an inside linebacker early for the first time in general manager Reggie McKenzie’s tenure.

Sio Moore was a third round pick in 2013, but was a strongside linebacker and edge rusher before switching spots in deference to Khalil Mack. Outside that, McKenzie took Miles Burris (fourth round) in 2012, and choose Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball (fifth round) in 2015. Those picks haven’t worked out well.

Neither have free-agent stopgaps Curtis Lofton or Nick Roach -- a quality player who fell victim to concussion issues – or waiver claim Ray-Ray Armstrong.

It’s been an unexpected black hole considering McKenzie, head coach Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. all played on the inside.

“We want good linebacker play,” McKenzie said. “Both Jack and I know what a good linebacker is supposed to look like. We’re going to get us a couple, I hope, at some point before we play in September. Whether they’re in this draft or post draft or trade, somebody gets released, we’re going to do everything we can to upgrade our team; every position, including linebacker.”

While there are post-draft avenues to acquire inside linebackers, it might be time to go big at that spot.

There are attractive options likely available at No. 24 overall, where the Raiders can find the immediate impact starter they so desperately need. Let’s take a look at some who could be available when the Raiders pick.

Good fits: Raiders fans may shudder at the thought of selecting an Alabama interior linebacker with question marks. That’s expected after the Rolando McClain experience. Ruben Foster (6 feet, 229 pounds) is a top tier talent who could be slipping in this draft. He had a drug sample come back diluted at the NFL scouting combine, where he was sent home for arguing with a hospital employee. He has had shoulder troubles, though re-checks reportedly went well.

Foster is also an excellent player, the type of athletic thumper the Raiders are looking for. It’s still hard to see him sliding all the way to No. 24.

Florida’s Jarrad Davis (6-1, 238), however, seems like a near-perfect fit. He can cover and tackle, with a killer instinct necessary at that spot. He’s also praised as a high-character player and person focused on football. Analysts say he has good vision, closing speed and has physical gifts to help his continued development shoring areas of weakness. Davis has been well hyped recently, and there’s some thought he too could go higher than No. 24.

Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham should be available there, and could ready right away. Analysts says he’s a playmaker with good instincts, technique and play diagnosis. He’s a quality tackler with a nose for the football. He’s durable and fast enough to handle tight ends and running backs in man coverage. Detractors say he isn’t good getting off blocks and struggles with leverage at times, but Cunningham could be a productive three-down NFL linebacker soon.

LSU’s Duke Riley is a quick linebacker who can chase ball carriers down, and finished with a solid senior season. He might be a strong Day 3 pickup should the Raiders target other positions early in this draft.

Note: Temple's Haason Reddick wasn't mentioned here because he isn't expected to be available at No. 24.