Raiders’ coach Cable under microscope
November 7, 2009
ALAMEDA – When Tom Cable was hired as interim coach of the Oakland Raiders last year, owner Al Davis memorably whispered to a subordinate that he did not know much about him. Davis needed a media guide biography before introducing him.
Just over 13 months later, the Raiders have learned quite a bit about their coach – much of it troublesome.
From the allegations this summer that Cable assaulted defensive assistant Randy Hanson and broke his jaw, to other disturbing charges that surfaced in the past week that Cable has a history of violence toward women, the portrait being painted of the Raiders coach has been mostly negative.
Less than two weeks after being cleared of possible criminal charges in the Hanson case, Cable was accused of assaulting women over the past two decades. His first wife, Sandy Cable, and former girlfriend, Marie Lutz, told ESPN that the coach physically abused them at various times during their relationships.
Cable acknowledged striking Sandy Cable with an open hand, but disputed allegations that he punched her. Cable said the altercation happened more than 20 years ago and was the only time he’s ever touched a woman inappropriately.
The latest accusations led the Raiders to issue a statement earlier this week saying they would undertake a “serious evaluation” of the charges. The statement ominously noted that employees had been fired in the past for misconduct, raising the possibility Oakland could be ready to make a second straight in-season coaching change.
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The players say Cable is holding up amid the allegations and calls for his suspension or firing, staying focused on his job.
“He’s a steady guy,” offensive lineman Robert Gallery said. “He loves football and he doesn’t really get fazed. Obviously he’s had his own issues, right or wrong, he’s dealt with them the right way. He’s here to win games. He’s doing everything he can in his power to help us win games. He hasn’t changed a bit.”
Cable met with Davis earlier this week to discuss the allegations and the struggles of the football team, but said his job status was not discussed.
“We didn’t even talk about that,” Cable said. “We talked about, like you’re supposed to, the team, personnel moves, the second half. Those are not issues for us to discuss. There’s no need to right now. Right now it’s about trying to turn it around and get us on track.”
That is no easy task as the Raiders reached the midpoint of the season with a 2-6 record for the sixth time in the past seven years. This has been the darkest stretch ever for the once-proud franchise, with losses on the field being rivaled only by the controversy off it.
Since going to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season, the Raiders are an NFL-worst 26-78, giving them as many losses in the past 6 1/2 seasons as the team had in Davis’ first 20 years with the franchise.
Cable is the fifth coach during that stretch, having taken over on an interim basis from Lane Kiffin four games into last season. Wins in the final two games of 2008 helped Cable keep what he called his “dream job.”
His first full season at the helm has been more of a nightmare, with the team’s struggles and the accusations he has faced. When asked to grade his performance at the midway point of the season, Cable gave himself a “C-plus, at best.”
“I’m not an excuse guy, but I think not having enough people healthy on offense has really hindered us,” he said. “I think I have to take responsibility of being 2-6. So that’s the bottom line.”
The Raiders have been without starting receiver Chaz Schilens all season, and missed running back Darren McFadden and starting offensive linemen Gallery and Cornell Green for big chunks.
But it’s hard to put all the blame for the lowest-ranked offense in the league on injuries. Oakland has scored just three touchdowns in the past six games and failed to reach 200 yards of offense in five of eight games this season. JaMarcus Russell has failed to develop into a franchise quarterback.
The Raiders drafted Russell first overall in 2007 because his strong arm was supposed to revive the vertical passing game Davis loves so much. He played sparingly as a rookie because of a lengthy holdout, and was not allowed to open up the attack much last season.
But with the addition of speedy rookie receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, this season was supposed to bring back memories of Daryle Lamonica to Warren Wells or Ken Stabler to Cliff Branch.
Instead, Heyward-Bey has only five catches midway through the season and the Raiders have shown no ability to throw the ball deep. According to STATS LLC, Oakland has thrown just two completions and five interceptions on 33 passes that have gone at least 21 yards downfield.
“We have got to push it in terms of throwing,” Cable said. “We have to have three or four substance plays throwing the football every day to win in this league, and you can’t shy away from that. You can’t say you’re going to run it every time. You have to do that in order to win in this league.”
Despite all the struggles, Cable has remained optimistic, saying that the players and scheme were in place and it would just take confidence to get the Raiders going again.
He has insisted the team was close to breaking through even during its roughest patches, and remains steadfast in his belief even now.
“I think you can see the top of the mountain now, but we’re not there yet,” Cable said. “But you can see it now.”
The question remains whether Cable will still be there when the Raiders reach it.