Friday, October 03, 2008

Thirsting For Stability

Many Raiders fans have focused on the recent Davis press conference announcing the firing of Lane Kiffin. We have talked about this season, 4 games in. The blame game and finger pointing has both Kiffin and Davis in the cross hairs.

We have discussed the brief Kiffin tenure ... the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Numerous blog posters including myself, Raider forums, and the media have discussed the past 5 seasons of double digit losses. We talk about ad nauseum about each Head Coach (HC) that failed and why.

One of the posters (Tooz 72) on my site brought up an interesting point that I had to do a double take on.

The Raiders have had 10 HCs the past 20 seasons. Let that sink in. The Raider organization has not had real stability and continuity in the coaching ranks for over 20 years.

1988 to 2008
1. Cable (interim)
2. Kiffin (1.25)
3. Shell (1)
4. Turner (2)
5. Callahan (2)
6. Gruden (4)
7. Bugel (1)
8. White (1+)
9. Shell (5)
10.Shanahan (1.25)

The only times we've been successful in those 20 years (success = playoffs) is when a HC had more than 2 years of tenure. Yes, I realize Callahan was the HC when we went to the SB but he inherited a team that had been to divisional and AFC championship games. 8 HCs lasting 2 years or less is a recipe for failure.

Now, take the statement of "To be successful in the NFL, a team needs to have stability and continuity in the coaching ranks." and examine it from the inside, out:

If Davis wants success he MUST value stability and continuity. In order to do so, he must make his HC selections wisely and with foresight.

Let's assume that Cable does a good job for the remainder of this season and the Raiders win anywhere from 5 to 7 games of the remaining 12 games. Let's also assume that Russell continues to develop and the team is unified. Davis will need to commit to giving Cable every conceivable chance to be successful well beyond 2008.

Davis will have some difficult decisions at the end of this season. His decision on Cable should be based on record, performance, team morale, and other factors. However, more importantly in my judgment, it should also be based on a long term vision and plan. When stability and continuity at HC becomes priority #1 you can truly start building for long term, sustained improvements and ultimately, excellence.

To continue to shuffle HCs out every year or 2 impedes any real progress. It has become a self fulfilling prophecy of sorts ... Coach Y was fired because he lost X number of games so let's take another crack at it with Coach Z. At some point you've got to stick with what you've started and that begins with the HC itself.

It has gotten to the point where I believe it would be close to a miracle if a HC lasted more than 2 years. What is wrong with this picture? There is absolutely no chance for traction and true rebuilding.

At this point in time I would happily endorse a guy like Cable 3 years to set his mark. Allowing Cable to take the ups & downs of his profession and grow as a HC is a far superior long term plan than the current cycle we have been on. If Cable fails in the 3 years then you move on but at least you gave stability and the HC every chance to succeed.

I hate to be a simpleton but ...

When you look at the big picture and review the Raiders complete history, 1 pattern emerges:

The team has shined when we have had a long tenured HC AND a QB with above average skills/leadership AND a roster filled with above average talent AND a solid GM/Ownership duo in place. You could easily make a case for this premise with all 32 NFL teams.

HC Stability: Madden, Flores, Shell I, Gruden

QBs: Stabler, Plunkett, Hoss, Gannon

Roster: HOF players and elite players (too many to list)

GMs: Wolf/Allen working with Davis

A good chunk of the credit for these successful Raider teams in the past goes naturally to Davis. He picked the HCs, acquired the talent, worked in a joint effort with a GM.

This formula for success hasn't changed even as the game has changed.

* Davis needs to make the selection and stability of the HC a priority.
* Davis needs to use the salary cap space prudently.
* Davis needs to wisely utilize the draft, trades, and free agency to upgrade the talent base.
* The Raiders coaching staff needs to develop and support Russell as our franchise QB.
* Davis needs to identify a GM who he can work with in a collaborative effort to improve the product and shoulder some of the heavy lifting.

Where are we today ...

* Cable has an uphill battle in front of him the next 13 weeks to earn the right to have the interim tag removed. 5 wins is the minimum for him to see year 2 as the HC. I am hopeful that he is given every opportunity to establish the stability and continuity NECESSARY to gain traction.

* This team has a solid talent base core especially in terms of young, gifted players. We need to infuse more talent at OT, DL, WR as immediate needs.

* Our QB has a very bright future. The talent that we knew about from his days at LSU translates extremely well in the professional ranks. Some of the intangibles (leadership, poise, team first attitude, humbleness) are starting to emerge. Reading Ds, learning the game, the game slowing down for him, and taking a bigger leadership role are right around the corner.

* The GM situation seems to be in the works this off season which Davis hinted at in the press conference. The speculation about "local" candidates points towards Scot McCloughan (49er GM) who is the son of longtime Raider scout Kent McCloughan. Scot was mentored by former Raider GM Ron Wolf in his early career years. The other potential front office candidate is Tom Gamble (49er Director of Pro Personnel) who has had past conversations with Davis.

The key factors in moving forward are (a) how Cable fares (b) team unity (c) the development of Russell (d) the resigning of Asomugha (e) the hiring of a savvy, compatible GM (f) a solid 2009 draft (g) and a few key free agents.

What concerns me the most is if Cable doesn't last beyond 2008. If that happens 1 of 3 things will happen:

(1) We go for another diamond in the rough or hidden gem (similar to Gruden or Kiffin)
(2) We hire another internal candidate (Fassell, Hackett, Ryan, Lofton, Rathman) because there aren't any viable candidates willing and able to join the Raiders.
(3) We hire a NFL retread who is dying to become a HC but is unemployed for a reason.

If (1) happens we are right back where we started ... taking a chance on an unproven coach, thrusting him into a difficult situation and expecting miracles.

If (2) happens it is more of the same ... we promote Callahan, we promote Cable to watch them tumble.

If (3) happens it shouldn't be any secret that the HC lasts only 1 year.

It might sound silly to some but it seems to me that the only scenario that seems realistic, plausible, and positive is if Cable does well and we move forward into 2009 on firm ground.

We simply can't afford to take 1 step forward, 2 steps back to ever climb the steep mountain in front of us. The first step is usually to have a respectable 8 and 8 season followed immediately by being a playoff contender, a playoff team, a viable SB threat. It is sad for me to say this but that initial step of 8 and 8 by itself seems to be a VERY big first step.

On the lighter side of things, is it just me or does Tom Cable have an uncanny resemblance to Flintstones character Barney Rubble?


Blogger Stuporburg said...

Well stated. Needlessly to repeat, the greatest concern with the Raiders organization has been its chronic weakness in its coaching and GM/FO.

Speaking of the need for stability .... a few days ago in another blog, I said something about how well Kerry Collins has been performing under the Titans. (He was lucky ... Vince Young went out of action early.) Sadly, the very same Kerry Collins has not done so well with the Raiders of '04 - '05'.

My worst scenario: A franchise that does not provide coaching & GM/FO stability will also end up not able to retain pool of grown-up talents and skills. If I were to put myself as a talented and skilled youngster, once I become eligible for the free agency market, I would be open to another employer who provide the stability.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous gary said...

Good post CJ... I wonder if the biggest problem we have now isn't so much that Al keeps hiring bad coaches, just that they aren't Flores or Madden? The people that keep pointing out how quickly Al fires coaches for no reasons forget that Madden and Flores lasted 20 years between the two of them. The difference? They always won and brought Al his rings.

Gruden was close but didn't close the deal and then started looking for another job. I just got done listening to Howie Long talk about how if Kiffin thought he could get away with pursuing another job while still a Raider, he was sadly mistaken.

That isn't an Al mistake... that is the mistake of Kiffin not knowing what Al is all about... something Howie mentioned too... and it;s not like he didn't have people to talk to about it... Gruden could have told him that.

Oh well... hopefully Cable will dazzle Al by winning, keeping his trap shut (not airing your dirty laundry in public) and being loyal to the Raiders.

Those are the only things Al really cares about. If a coach doesn't understand that going in, they shouldn't take the job in the first place.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Being loyal, not airing dirty laundry in public and winning ... sounds fairly simple. The real question is the last part of this 3 part formula to retaining your job in Alameda.

The winning part is a little bit more difficult to define. When a new HC takes over a struggling franchise, exactly how long of a leash does he have to start winning his fair share of games? And how many games is considered 'winning'? 8?

For example, let's use Cable. We all know Cable is loyal and won't air dirty laundry in public. You could use this same description for Turner by the way.

Moving forward, how long of a leash do you think Cable has to start 'winning'? Is it this season alone to win a minimum of 5 of 12? 6 of 12? 7 of 12?

Further, if Cable is retained for 2009 ... how many wins do you think he needs to retain his job for 2010?

Is 8 wins the barometer for job secruity? Gruden went 8 and 8 in his first 2 seasons. The third season was the breakthrough.

In my opinion, Davis needs to have the patience, forward thinking, and long term vision to understand that a HC needs at least 3 years to truly turn around a team. This is especially true of a franchise that has been struggling so much the past 5 years.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Tooz 72 said...

Spot on as always, CJ.

Had to go to a 49ers game today with a client. First time in 20 years or so. Last time, a guy wearing no. 8 came off the bench to replace an injured guy wearing no. 16. My how their fortunes have changed. The Pats slapped them pretty hard today. Talk about having a hard choice on who to root for!

Couple of observations:

1) Crappy 70's Giants era orange seats. No cup holders.
2) Horrible PA system. Couldn't understand a G.D. thing that was announced.
3) Miserable environment. The combined attendance didn't have half the football spirit of one Raider fan in the Coliseum.
4) Moss caught a 60+ yard touchdown bomb. So much for "not being able to run."

They retired no. 8's jersey at halftime, which was pretty cool. But all in all, it was just people going through the motions. There was absolutely no passion in the stands. Even the loud ones that tried only seemed to be imitating "what real fans do."

So, even with the horrible soap opera that has dogged the Raiders the last god-knows-how-many years, I'll still take a Raiders game in the Coliseum with real live Raiders fans any day over one at the 'stick.

Go Raiders! Go CJ!

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

Great post CJ. I hope Al reads it. I'm sure he would argue that the reason Madden and Flores were around so long is because they won. Actually, Madden didn't win a lot against the Steelers, and this type of drama played out in his tenure. Every off-season there was tremors that Madden would be fired after losing a heart breaker to the Steelers. Then, he got the monkey off his back.
Flores was a good coach. He made no excuses when we were horrible; and he was a humble guy. Very brilliant football mind. But even he had his share of tremors in the coaching realm with Davis. At the end of 1987 Season, the last game was December 27th against the Chicago Bears. How do I know? I was there, and it was pretty significant. It was Walter Payton's last regular season game; it was also Tom Flores' last game as Oakland Raider Head Coach. After a turmoil season, a win could have had us clinch a wildcard; but we lost 6-3. So in came Shanahan. Flores went on to coach the Seahawks for a few seasons before he retired.
All of that to say, even with the two longest tenured coaches in our history, it wasn't without the drama of our owner. The difference between these 2, and some of the others? They had a good GM that Al trusted, and could talk sense in to them.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous The Raider said...

I really hope that there will be at least 1 full season of these players and this staff together, under Cable.

I can see Cable being the HC this year and even respectfully stepping back for another current staff member to take charge as HC next season, yet staying on as the assistant HC/OL coach. I can also see him getting the extra OL/DL help, that will add the needed talented depth for a full 2 seasons as HC. The next offseason signings will have a lot to do with who will be HC in 09.

Callahan was the OL coach and got upgraded. He did not have the personal quality a HC needs in this league or any level. There are HCs out there that look good, because they have great coordinators and position coaches heavily involved in each players on and off the field lives. Some have even won SBs, but the ones most respected both as a person and boss, win often.

In my opinion, Cable has all of the right qualities.
I'm excited about the game in New Orleans this week. I think Brees will have the guts to pass on Nambdi's side and it will finally give us that game changing play, we've been waiting for. It seems that our Special Teams will be the key to victory. I'm not sure why we dropped J. Cooper. He was a huge part of our ST. Our Offense is slowly progressing upward and our D just needs to keep up the pressure. I really hope to see a wide variety of blitz packages by our D and more play action pocket protection by the O. J-Russ is so close to breaking out multiple big plays. I hope he isn't pushed too much faster, under Knapp's control.

I've always wondered what it would be like if Gannon was brought in as a QB coach, but I also can see him barking more than helping in most cases. Put him in the booth as a coordinator, is a thought. Wishful Thinking on my part.

I totally disagree with bringing in a new HC. That means changing most, if not all of the coaching staff. That might of worked in pieces, under Turner's arrival, but it won't work with all of these 2 and 3 year players we have today. It is tough enough to be a vet and learn a new playbook.

I want a coach that won't melt down on the sidelines all the time and let the media effect his judgement. I want a coach who does not have an agent and lawyer telling him what to do about his job status, when he already has an awesome job.
Tom Cable is that guy.

Seems like yesterday, Tom was unwilling to coach anymore, but Newberry, our ex-center (goes way back with Cable) was a big part in the signing of Cable. Tom transformed the worst line in the league and is getting more and more players to work with. I have faith in his ability to continue teaching the line, while focusing on the tempo and emotion needed by all of the players.

Looks like Fargus is back!

Go Raiders!

10:54 PM  
Blogger kigleigh said...

Nice piece CJ,valid points about long tenured Head Coach's being the only ones associated with success but surely the two are intertwined?
Coaches who win will remain in a job and usually continue to win more than they lose or continue on to win silverware,or on the flipside,coaches who lose are usually fired long before a long tenure can be secured.
Its just an observation CJ,in reality i am wholeheartedly in agreement with you in the hope that Cable wins emough games to get that long term contract which might right this ship at last.
In fact,if i could spare one, i would give my right arm to make it happen..
Hopefully it all starts this week in N.Orleans with a strong performance and (please god)a win..GO RAIDERS !!

1:37 PM  

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