Raiders End Year on Good Note

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

The last time the Oakland Raiders went into the offseason on a winning note, they ended up claiming division titles the next three seasons.

Interim head coach Tom Cable believes the team is again in
position to do that and is hoping owner Al Davis will take away the
interim label and let him lead the team in 2009.

"This team will be in the playoffs. I believe that," Cable
said at a season-ending news conference Monday. "Every great
franchise has gone through hard times. ... Hopefully this is just a
step in the right direction to come out of it and get back to being
a champion."

Oakland (5-11) won the final two games of the season under
Cable, giving him a 4-8 record since taking over for the fired Lane
Kiffin on Sept. 30.

The Raiders showed signs of improvement down the stretch as
Cable refused to let the season spiral out of control like so many
previous years had. Oakland ended the past three seasons with
losing streaks of six, nine and four games.

Two of those slides were followed by coaching changes with a
third coming a quarter of the way through this season when Kiffin
was fired.

"For this team we need some stability, something consistent
that we can rely on and build on and I think we've established
something good here this last half of the season and hopefully we
can continue to build on it," running back Justin Fargas said.
"I'd like to see him come back. He has a lot more to offer this
team and it would be good to give him a full season to see what he
can do with it."

Cable did not have a chance to meet in person with Davis after
Sunday's 31-24 victory at Tampa Bay that knocked the Bucs and
former Raiders coach Jon Gruden out of the playoffs.

Davis missed just his second game ever since joining the
franchise in 1963, as doctors advised him against flying cross
country following a fall earlier this month in San Diego that left
him with an injured knee and ankle. Davis, who also missed one game
in 1979 while his wife Carole was in a coma, feels fine otherwise
and was ecstatic about the final game, senior executive John
Herrera said.

He kept in close contact with Cable and the coaching staff while
at home over the weekend, getting briefed on the game plan and
roster moves.

Cable and Davis are expected to meet again this week to discuss
the full-time coaching job. Davis has to interview at least one
minority candidate to comply with the Rooney Rule before making a
decision, but Herrera said the team hopes to resolve the situation
quickly.

After lobbying for the job publicly last week, Cable declined to
answer most questions about it on Monday.

"I'm like everybody else in this league. I love coaching in the
National Football League," he said. "My contract will be up just
like all the rest of the assistant coaches here in a short time.
We'll see what the future holds. And that's really all I want to
talk about in terms of the job."

The season-ending victories over Houston and Tampa Bay marked
the first time that the Raiders go into the offseason with two
straight wins since winning the Super Bowl following the 1983
season.

The only times since then that they have won their final game
before the offseason came in 1992 and 1999. They hope this season
is like '99, when a win over Kansas City on the final weekend
knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs, salvaged an 8-8 record and
helped Gruden keep his job.

The Raiders won the AFC West the next three years, playing in
two conference title games and one Super Bowl before beginning the
darkest stretch in franchise history. Oakland is 24-72 since the
start of 2003, the worst team in the NFL over that period and the
only one in league history to lose at least 11 games in six
straight seasons.

"We need to play like we did the last couple of weeks,
consistently throughout the year," offensive lineman Robert
Gallery said. "The challenge next year is to come in and be a
playoff team and play like we did the last two weeks, play more
consistently throughout the year, and we will be a playoff team."

After taking over for Kiffin, Cable lost five of his first six
games as the team struggled to overcome the distraction of the
nearly yearlong feud between Kiffin and Davis.

But the team showed marked improvement down the stretch,
especially after Cable took over play-calling duties from offensive
coordinator Greg Knapp, and went 3-3 over the final six games.

Franchise quarterback JaMarcus Russell played his best football
after Cable took over the play calling, completing 61.2 percent of
his passes with seven TDs, four interceptions and a passer rating
of 88.5 in seven starts.

"He brought us from one direction and took us up the ladder,"
Russell said. "He always told us that deep down inside he always
thought we were a good football team. By him becoming coach, he
guided us in a different way. He talked to us about what needed to
be done, we need to make some changes and within that, I think we
did."


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