Raiders players say they like Tom Cable. If so, they should have played for him at critical junctures of the season, which would have saved his job.
There were times when it seemed the Raiders were on the verge of a breakthrough. The first came when they entered their bye week on a real high, three straight wins: a 59-14 extravaganza against Denver, a 33-3 whipping of Seattle and, most important, a 23-20 win at home against the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs.
But after the bye, they went to Pittsburgh and laid an egg, a 33-3 loss to the Steelers. Well, OK, the Steelers are one of the top-tier teams in the league and playing at home. But the next Sunday, at home against a Miami team that finished 7-9, the Raiders lost again, this time 33-17, and it wasn’t that close. They had the ball for only slightly more than 18 minutes.
If they were trying to save Cable’s job, they weren’t doing a very good job of it. Then, they rebounded with a 28-13 win over the Chargers in San Diego, probably their best game of the year.
But once again, they blew their playoff chances by losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars, a .500 team, on the road in a game they led late. That effectively ended their playoff chances.
The fact that they finished strong against the Chiefs in Kansas City is meaningless. The Chiefs had nothing to play for, having clinched the division title.
Nonetheless, the Raiders thumped their chests as if they had really accomplished something. They bragged about their 6-0 record against AFC West rivals, which, of course, meant that they were 2-8 against teams outside the division. Maybe they don’t understand that they have to play well against nondivision teams, too.
They finished at 8-8, which was an accomplishment only because the team has been so wretched since 2002, setting an NFL record with seven straight seasons of double-digit losses.
This improvement came almost entirely because of good organizational decisions, both on players and the hiring of Hue Jackson.
It’s always difficult to tell which decisions are strictly Al Davis’ and which are made by others in the organization, but the trade for quarterback Jason Campbell and the hiring of Jackson were strictly Davis’ moves.
Campbell isn’t a great quarterback, but he’s a competent one, which JaMarcus Russell was not.
Jackson’s play-calling was a big improvement over Cable’s in the previous year, with an imagination that often fooled other teams.
Their draft provided considerable help. The first two picks, linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, were solid from the start. Jared Veldheer, a big man from a small school, was a very pleasant surprise, filling the vital left offensive tackle position. He should be a good one for a long time.
It took Jacoby Ford some time to break into the lineup, but when he did, he was a huge factor, with his kickoff returns and receiving. He has the speed of Darius Heyward-Bey, with the pass-catching ability that DHB lacks.
Cable contributed nothing to any of this. If Davis decides to end his head coaching career, as has been widely speculated, the Raiders will be better off.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.