Cable weathers the storm just fine

Tom Cable has taken a lot of criticism this season but the Raiders head coach still has the support of his players, which says a lot.

Tom Cable should be worn out by now.

Be it accusations of breaking an assistant's jaw, stories of past domestic abuse against an ex-wife, dealing with an underachieving quarterback and a sputtering offense, not to mention trying to work in one of the most difficult environments in all of professional sports, the big man has been through the ringer more than a few times this season.

Through it all, however, Cable has remained as stoic as a poster.

Never once did he flinch throughout the Randy Hanson saga.

Never once did he flinch as serious questions about his character arose following the ESPN blindside story regarding Cable and three women from his past.

Never once did he flinch as quarterback JaMarcus Russell and the offense made mistake after mistake while the losses piled up.

Heck, he even had the National Organization of Women breathing down his neck while clamoring for the Raiders to fire him.

In short, Cable simply refused to let any of the outside influences affect what he was trying to do within the walls of the Raiders' headquarters, which was to convince the team's 53 players they were capable of great things.

Great things like beating a damn good Cincinnati team and doing it with a journeyman backup quarterback, rallying from behind to steal a win from the Bengals when everything indicated the result would go the opposite way.

"He's been like he always has," Robert Gallery said. "He has one goal, and that's to win. He believes in us and it doesn't faze him. He takes some scrutiny over some stuff, right or wrong but we'd go to war for him. I'd play for that guy any day." Gallery has an affinity for Cable that goes beyond the normal head coach-player relationship. That's because it was Cable who helped save Gallery's career when he joined the Raiders as an offensive line coach and moved the former second overall draft pick from tackle to guard.

Line coaches and offensive linemen always have a tight relationship, but Cable is also a popular figure elsewhere in the locker room.

That's why, one could easily argue, Oakland's season hasn't gone completely south. Whereas past head coaches like Mike White, Joe Bugel, Norv Turner, Bill Callahan and even Lane Kiffin were more concerned with self-survival, Cable has operated without a safety net and without a second thought as to what may happen with his coaching or legal future.

"He just cares. Not that others haven't, but that's all he cares about, winning," Gallery said. "He doesn't blow smoke. If you're not doing you're job he's going to call you out. That's what guys need. Whatever decisions have been made or what not, he sticks with it and gives us the best chance we have to win with whatever he has to deal with."

One of those decisions Cable made was to bench Russell. It was a move that had been coming for weeks, granted, but it was nevertheless a tough call to make simply because the Raiders have invested so much in the young quarterback. But Russell has regressed for much of this year and the offense has struggled as a result.

Russell's replacement, Bruce Gradkowski, didn't exactly bring the house down with his performance against Cincinnati but his quick throws and decision-making kept the offense moving long enough until a few breaks went the Raiders way.

In an even bigger sign of Cable's influence, he has been able to convince owner Al Davis to let defensive coordinator John Marshall open up the playbook a bit more and use blitzing as a more common component of the team's package.

The blitzing worked wonders in a Week 6 win over Philadelphia and it played a big role in Oakland's ability to keep Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer from getting untracked in Week 11.

"Since that Philly game (Marshall has) been doing it more," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "It hasn't been landing. It hasn't been getting there as much, so it's not really noticed as much. But every single game he has at least three all-out blitzes, and then he's blitzing a lot throughout the game."

That's no easy task considering Davis abhors the idea of blitzing. It's almost as if he sees it as a sign of weakness.

Yet Cable, unlike most of his predecessors, got the Boss to concede, even if only a little.

Before the Raiders' win over the Bengals, there had been growing speculation that Davis was considering firing Cable and would use story brought up by ESPN as an excuse. That, of course, was ridiculous since Davis needs no excuse to fire anyone. It's his team and he's never been shy about dumping coaches he didn't want in the past.

And since Davis has one of the tightest inner circles known to mankind, anyone suggesting they know what he's going to do before he does it is either fooling themselves, lying, or both.

That's not to say that Cable is assured of coming back to complete the second year on his contract in 2010. The Raiders could go back into the tank and finish 3-13, which wouldn't exactly help his status. Or they could surprise us all and run the table, finish 9-7 and maybe sneak into the playoffs.

Rest assured, too, that in Oakland we probably haven't seen all of the craziness that this season will bring. The Raiders, unfortunately, can't seem to go more than a few weeks without something odd cropping up to keep the franchise in the headlines.

Whatever happens, though, it's a good bet that Cable's demeanor won't change one bit. Considering all that has gone on this season, that's as encouraging sign as any.

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