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: Osemele gave Raiders OL teeth, Nelson eased Woodson's loss

McKenzie: Osemele gave Raiders OL teeth, Nelson eased Woodson's loss

Raiders general manager built a foundation of talent heading into the 2016 offseason, but needed more to get his team over the hump. Draft picks were essential, and expected. He had significant salary cap space, where he could find some immediate impact players on the open market.

McKenzie signed six unrestricted free agents, a few of them at a hefty price. Most veteran imports worked out well, though some thrived more than others.

It was a solid group that, in addition to the 2017 draft class and some key undrafted pickups, helped McKenzie win the Pro Football Writers of America’s executive of the year award.

He singled out two members of the 2016 free-agent class that helped set the tone for a 12-4 regular season and the team’s first playoff berth since 2002.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele was the first. The former Baltimore Raven signed a record contract for interior linemen but was worth the price, adding attitude to the offensive line during an All-Pro season.

“I think Kelechi solidified our offensive line, from the standpoint of what we wanted from our run game, from a physicality standpoint, what we had always talked about from Day 1,” McKenzie said Thursday in a conference call. “He added to that and he put some teeth into the whole offensive mentality. I felt like that was an impact. I was happy to see him get his first Pro Bowl. That was good to see.”

McKenzie also highlighted free safety Reggie Nelson’s efforts. He signed late in the offseason for relatively cheap, but was voted a team captain after his first preseason as a Raider and helped the secondary function with confidence. That was required after losing the eminent Charles Woodson to retirement.

Nelson also had five interceptions and two fumble recoveries, including three takeaways that secured victory.

I thought Reggie [Nelson] made some plays and was a true leader back there. When we lost Charles Woodson, from the leadership standpoint, communication standpoint, I felt Reggie came in and did a solid job to help ease that transition. You can never replace a Charles Woodson, but he was able to help ease that transition, especially when we had a young rookie back there (in Karl Joseph).”

Let’s take a look at the Raiders unrestricted free agent class and how they fared:

LG Kelechi Osemele
Contract: 5 years, $58.5 million ($25.4 million guaranteed)
Impact:Osemele ranks among the league’s elite left guards, and brought a nastiness to the Raiders offensive line. He helped immensely in the run game, and didn’t allow a quarterback sack all season. He was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All Pro, the results McKenzie hoped for after offering Osemele a massive contract.

LB Bruce Irvin
Contract: 4 years, $37 million ($14.5 million guaranteed)
Impact: Irvin started slow but rounded into a dominant player and an excellent compliment to star edge rusher Khalil Mack. Irvin had seven sacks and an NFL-high six forced fumbles, showing enough versatility to play well in coverage and against the run.

CB Sean Smith
Contract: 4 years, $38 million ($15 million guaranteed)
Impact: Smith was benched in his first game, and struggled against Julio Jones in his second, but played better after than and largely well the rest of the year. His quarterback rating against was 114.0 and he allowed too many big plays. More is expected from a No. 1 cornerback. Smith had shoulder surgery after the season and vowed to be better in 2017.

FS Reggie Nelson
Contract: 2 years, $8.5 million ($4 million guaranteed)
Impact:Nelson wasn’t perfect in his first year as a Raider, but made some big plays during a Pro Bowl year. He had seven takeaways, including five interceptions, and some big hits in the clutch. He was a solid leader in the back who should be better with a year’s experience in a new system to his credit.

S Bryden Trawick
Contract: 1 year,  $675,000
Impact: Trawick was brought in to be a solid special teams player, and he thrived in that role. He was strong in kick and punt coverage, with a team-high 14 special teams tackles. He showed some defensive prowess late when forced into action, and the safety made some nice plays over the last two games.

LB Daren Bates
Contract: 1 year, $850,000
Impact: Bates is a special teams player first and, along with Trawick, helped anchor the coverage units. He had seven special teams tackles over the year.

Lott-led group still working to keep Raiders in Oakland, 'playing to win'

Lott-led group still working to keep Raiders in Oakland, 'playing to win'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Oakland civic leaders and deep-pocketed investors fighting to keep the Raiders from moving insist they are still in the game despite team owner Mark Davis formally applying to the NFL to relocate to Las Vegas.

A local investment group that includes Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott said Thursday they continue to negotiate with government officials, the team and the NFL to build a $1.25 billion, 55,000-seat stadium in Oakland.

"We are in this game and we are playing to win," Lott's group said in a statement. The statement said the Raiders' filing Thursday was expected and done to "keep its options open in Las Vegas."

The Raiders have been seeking to replace their dilapidated home for years. The Coliseum has suffered from sewage backups and other infrastructure problems. It's also the only remaining NFL stadium to also be home to a baseball team - the Athletics - and lacks many of the modern, money-making features of new stadiums.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has been negotiating with Davis and investors to find a new home for the team in the city but has said public financing is not an option. She and other local boosters support the bid by Lott's group to keep the team on Oakland.

"Only Oakland brings the Raiders and the NFL a competitive stadium proposal, along with legacy and loyalty," Schaaf said in a prepared statement.

The city and Alameda County still owe a combined $100 million for upgrades made to the stadium in 1995 to lure the Raiders back to Oakland after the team spent the 14 previous years playing in Los Angeles. The city and county were left holding the bag after personal seat licenses failed to cover the cost of the $220 million renovation that added more than 10,000 seats and luxury boxes.

The city is willing to give the team 60 acres of land on the Coliseum site to build a new stadium.

The local investors are competing with a Las Vegas plan that calls for $750 million in hotel room tax revenue, $650 million from billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson's company and $500 million from the Raiders and the NFL.

League owners are expected to vote on the proposed move in March.

Local boosters argue that Oakland offers a better football venue than Las Vegas, a transient tourist town with no professional football history. They say the San Francisco Bay Area's television market dwarves the Las Vegas region's and that it will cost the team $500 million to relocate.

"I think we continue to offer a far superior deal," said Scott Haggerty, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Haggerty is also on the board that manages the Coliseum.

"I think that Mark Davis has been very patient in trying to come up with a stadium plan and I don't blame him for keeping his options open," Haggerty said. "But the Raiders belong in Oakland."

Haggerty and others also say that a Raiders move out of the region threatens to alienate fans who re-embraced the team after it left Oakland after the 1981 season and played for 14 years in Los Angeles only to move back to the Bay Area.

Davis has said the team will continue to play in Oakland until the Las Vegas stadium is finished, likely by the 2020 season. The Raiders have two one-year options to play at the Oakland Coliseum in 2017 and 2018 and are already taking season ticket renewals for next season.

"I'm incredulous this could happen again," said 57-year-old Jim Zelinski, a lifelong Oakland resident and Raiders fan. "I'm disgusted, to be quite frank."

Nonetheless, Zelinski has co-founded a fan organization that is lobbying the Raiders and the NFL to keep the team in Oakland.

"We want to combat the narrative that most Raider fans are neutral and don't care if the team moves to Las Vegas," said Zelinski, who must decide by next month if he wants to renew his season tickets. "The Raiders need to do the right thing."