Depending on who you talk to, Al Davis either controls every facet of the Oakland Raiders or he’s as far removed from the daily activities as Sarah Palin is from the oval office.
When Tom Cable was named interim head coach last season he sought to run the team his way. His maverick ways resulted in the Raiders closing the 2008 season with consecutive victories for the first time since 2002 and the interim title was removed.
One year later, Cable is continuing to shake things up.
After spending half of the season waiting for the 25-watt bulb to go on in JaMarcus Russell’s head, Cable benched the $60-million dollar arm in favor of journeyman Bruce Gradkowski.
The results are undeniable.
Gradkowski has led the Raiders to two wins in three starts with two of those coming against a first place Cincinnati Bengals team and the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
Before that victory in Pittsburgh, top pick Darrius Heyward-Bey was announced to be out of commission with a foot injury. Consider Tim Kawakami among those who see DHB’s absence as more of a benching than an injury.
I have gained some more respect for Cable in the last few weeks–he benched Russell for Gradkowski and he benched Darrius Heyward-Bey (claiming a mysterious injury).
Neither thing is an Al-sponsored move. DHB is Al’s prize. Benching him had to be a major debate–because DHB had done nothing in the previous 11 games, yet getting major playing time.
Many believe that it is Mr. Davis who has insisted on his newest toys (Darren McFadden, Russell and DHB) being shown more field time than more deserving men on the roster. Given how much money has been committed to the last three number one picks, one can understand exactly why Davis is so eager to see a return on investment.
Given the way the three young Raiders have played this year, it is hard to argue for any of them to continue to see any relevant field time.
McFadden might be the lone exception. His injuries have severely limited his young NFL career and Cable’s offense still hasn’t figured out the best way to utilize his talents.
Russell and Heyward-Bey are indefensible however.
Both have been given ample opportunity and both have failed to contribute in meaningful ways as of yet. Both are young and both have time on their side.
Unfortunately, Cable doesn’t.
Coach Cable knows that the only way to salvage his job is with wins. Therefore, you’re beginning to see some of that urgency trickle down to his men in the locker room.
So, is Cable calling his own shots without getting prior consent from the boss?
According to Cable, the choice to bench Russell was his decision alone. No input from Al Davis. No guidance from the owner. Just the head coach acting on his own accord.
Heyward-Bey has caught just 9 balls in 11 starts. His most memorable moment has been dropping two very catchable balls at two very inopportune times against the Kansas City Chiefs.
If DHB makes a healthy return to the starting lineup after the way Louis Murphy, Chaz Schilens and Johnnie Lee Higgins performed in Pittsburgh. Then there can be little doubt as to who is calling the shots.
If it is true that Al Davis would rather see his team lose with inferior talent on the field, then he is clearly telling Raider Nation what he thinks of their unconditional support.
If it is true that Cable would prefer to see his offense struggle as young players learn the NFL ways, then he is unaware of the nature of his employer.
Davis won’t hesitate to send Cable the way of Lane Kiffin, Art Shell, Norv Turner and Bill Callahan before him. Playing Al’s favorite players won’t keep Cable employed. Only winning will keep Cable collecting a check in the East Bay.
If what happened in Pittsburgh on Sunday was a direct result of Coach Cable going rogue then I have only one thing to say: “Go out there and make Sarah Palin proud against Washington this Sunday.”
No matter who is calling the shots, the results are all that matters.
Just win baby!
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Tags: Al Davis, Oakland Raiders, Raider Nation, Fans, Popular, Featured Art Shell Bill Callahan Bruce Gradkowski Chaz Schilens Darren McFadden Darrius Heyward-Bey JaMarcus Russell Johnnie Lee Higgins Lane Kiffin Louis Murphy Norv Turner Sarah Palin Tom Cable