Dec. 27, 2010
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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?