Day 1: Beware, 49ers fans, this is only about the Raiders

Coach Mike Singletary and general manager Scot McCloughan are scheduled to meet with the media tomorrow. Today, Raiders coach Tom Cable was at the podium for a Q&A session.

So this one is dedicated to the Raiders fans in the audience:


Question: How does it feel to be the second-longest tenured coach in the AFC West?

CABLE:  It’s good. It’s the business, obviously. It’s volatile. It’s a crazy year in that division. It is what it is and you just go for it.


Q: Three new head coaches, what does it say about the division?

CABLE:  I think it’s a pretty even division. Obviously, San Diego has a very talented football team and they have for some time now. How will the rest of us change? Hopefully for us, we’ll just continue to get better and move up from where we were at the end. You got to figure out who Denver is going to be now with Josh (McDaniels) there. And with Kansas City . . . again, figure out who they’re going to be and the path they choose. We play each other twice, so it’ll become familiar.


Q: How will you change?

CABLE:  I think we’ll be much the same. I think the thing I’m most excited about is going to work in the offseason and getting a chance to put it all in, rather than piecing it together in the middle of the season. As I’ve mentioned before, the first six weeks it didn’t feel like we were making much headway. The last six weeks, better. We improved the attitude and some of those things. I think the ability to do that now, starting in the offseason, is great.


Q: How much is Al Davis responsible for this new wave of young coaches, after hiring guys like Gruden and Kiffin, or guys getting their first shots?

CABLE:  Obviously, with Mr. Davis, it’s about getting back to the Super Bowl and getting a playoff team and a competitive team put together. Certainly, it’s well-noted that he strives for that, and if you don’t get there, you don’t make those kinds of improvements, he’s going to change. That’s part of it. I think the NFL has become more like that all over the place. Whether it’s getting young guys – or guys who haven’t had the opportunity – a first time, it’s a matter of trying to win. It’s become so competitive and you have to do it now.


Q: Did you have to convince Al why you should be given the job full time?

CABLE:  Not really. I thought the last six weeks I did that – the team did that. We made some changes in the roster. We sat some guys down, played some guys, played some younger guys. And I’ve always believed what you do on Sunday speaks for itself. That’s the path I took, and I felt the team spoke for me.


Q: Have you had a chance to look at the offensive tackles in this draft and what is your view of them?

CABLE:  I have. I’ve looked at a lot of players prior to coming here. I have a pretty good feel for who is here and all that. There are a bunch of good receivers and a bunch of good tackles. There are good defensive ends. Collectively, I think the group is right. I think we’re fortunate who we have on the football team. We certainly have to get better.


Q: How do you view your situation at tackle?

CABLE:  We played with Mario Henderson the last few weeks. We drafted him a couple years ago from Florida State. He played very, very well. He didn’t allow a sack in the last three weeks. So I think there’s a young guy. I just mentioned playing young guys and putting in that position, and giving them that opportunity so show what they can do, and he did. So I feel pretty good about it. Cornell Green has been pretty solid for us at right tackle.


Q: How do you assess the combine as opposed to what you see on film?

CABLE:  You put your stock in this: how they prepared themselves for this; are they in shape? Did they improve themselves physically? You get a chance to talk to them face to face. But ultimately it comes down to what they put on film and what they’ve done and who they are, not only the team concept, but this shows you how much they’ve grown and improved themselves and how important this is to them. And then you get a chance to talk to them one on one.


Q: Do you watch a lot of film?

CABLE:  For example, as an offensive-line coach, I’ve always made my own cutups. I always had my own ideas of what I was looking for, regardless of what everybody else said – what an analyst said or any of that. I never got into that. I always looked at it the way I saw it and what I was looking for and made a cutup that way, and put it all together and see how it all filtered out.


Q: Is there a team’s draft philosophy you admire?

CABLE:  I just think the most important thing is not to waste it. That’s the thing. If you look at the history of the draft and the teams that have had the most success . . . for example, if they had eight picks, six of those guys and maybe a seventh really panned out and became part of their team. That’s the real issue. You don’t want to have a team with seven or eight picks and next thing you know they keep four or five out of that group. That’s not enough. That’s too much wasted selection, too much wasted time, all those things. And, quite honestly, the team is not getting better that way. If there’s a philosophy, it’s not to waste it.


Q: Were you surprised you kept Shane Lechler? The relationship wasn’t as good as you’d want it to be at the end of the year.

CABLE:  That’s actually not true. Shane really never wanted to go anywhere. It was a matter of what direction the team was going and how we’re going to get there, those kinds of things. Once he was comfortable with where we’re headed, it really impacted this last week.


Q: Did you sit down and talk to him about that?

CABLE:  We did. We talked before he left and we talked a number of times on the phone since then.


Q: How vital is it you get Nnamdi Asomugha a long-term deal?

CABLE:  I think it’s important. Our goal is to try to get them both done if we could. We’re still working on Nnam, obviously. But they’re both good players. And you have to weigh the importance of each one and how the fit on the field. The thing I’m most comfortable with is they want to be Oakland Raiders. That’s the most important thing. The rest of that stuff will work its way out.


Q: How is the draft structure set up?

CABLE:  We’re different because we spend a tremendous amount of time in studying and breaking it all down. One of the things that works for me in Oakland, I like to break each kid down over and over and over. So Mr. Davis’ philosophy really fits for me. I like to spend all that time. Some guys don’t. It gets too monotonous and all that. But the thing that’s valuable is you know the league then. You know this class. You know them in three or four years when they become free agents. So you can draw on that and go back and look at them when they came out and really study what you thought about them and put the thing together a little more. It is a long process, but it’s a great process.


Q: Al Davis puts a premium on speed. Is that as important to you as it is to him?

CABLE:  Sure it is. You want your whole team to run, whether it’s offensive linemen or defensive backs. It doesn’t matter. The team that wins championships in this league can run – can really run.


Q: Where is JaMarcus Russell and what does he need to work on in the offseason?

CABLE:  The thing about JaMarcus, he came in his rookie year and sat out and didn’t play much until the very end and started one game. So I felt like this year was his rookie season. The first four weeks are kind of behind me. I looked at it like two seasons: the first six weeks after I took over and the second six weeks. The first six weeks he was about 51-, 52-, 53-percent completion percentage. And the last six weeks, he was anywhere from 63 to 67. So that part of it is really going to come. Where I want to see him really grow is with his maturity, his understanding of his responsibility. Not so much taking the snap and handing off, but his responsibility as a starting quarterback in the National Football League. That’s a lot of things. That’s being able to grow more and come out of those post-college years and be more settled. Understand that you really are the face of the organization, so you have to handle that the right way and act the right way and do all those kinds of things. And he’s been great at that. He and I would meet every Wednesday and talk about those things, and I think his improvement and maturity is really going to come. It’s just a matter of that continuing. I think he’s done a good job already of being at the complex and already working with Paul Hackett, his quarterback coach, so I feel we’re really going the right direction. I want us to just keep moving forward.


Q: Do you think JaMarcus could’ve been playing a lot sooner that rookie year?

CABLE:  Maybe you could say that when it got to week 10 or 12. I think that’s a fair statement of ‘come on, let’s get him in there and go.’ At the same time, we’ve all seen it happen, if you get thrown too early to the wolves, they get eaten and they don’t come back. It happens all the time to those guys. For me, I like what happened this year. Could we have played him three of four games earlier in ’07? Probably.


Q: You have until 4 p.m. today as far as franchising Asomugha, where does that stand?

CABLE:  We’re working and he’s working. It’s a lot of fun right now and we’ll see how that turns out.


***UPDATE: Asomugha has agreed to a lucrative contract extension that will keep him with the Raiders at least another two seasons.



Q: Do you have a vision for what you want out of an offensive lineman: Do you want a mauler or a more athletic guy?

CABLE:  I want everything that everybody else does. It’s interesting because of our system, people think we must want a different type of guy. That’s not true. If you can get me a 330-pound guy who can run and is smart and tough and will choke you every second, that’s just as good as a team that runs a power play every play. So I just want the best player. They got to have the right frame. They have to have toughness, and have some explosive athleticism.


Q: Are you comfortable with the situation with center Jake Grove, who’s scheduled to be a free agent?

CABLE:  Not really. There’s a place in free agency where all that pans out. We want him to be back, obviously. So if he’s not there or until it’s resolved I’m not very comfortable at all.


Q: How does the centers in the draft look?

CABLE:  I’ve looked at all those guys. I think there are three really good ones: (Eric) Wood from Louisville, (Alex) Mack from Cal and (Max) Unger from Oregon. Really, three fine, fine players.


Q: What do see from the offensive tackles?

CABLE:  I see a lot of size and real athletic. Normally, you have some good athletics and a bunch of big guys. I think there are a lot more big guys who are athletic this year. There’s a little more depth.


Q: How do you compare it to last year?

CABLE:  It’s similar. I think there are a couple more guys.


Q: You’re the second-longest tenured coach. What does that say about your division?

CABLE:  You better win.


Q: Is this a winnable division for you guys next season?

CABLE:  I mentioned when I got the job permanently, the No. 1 issue for me is to get this team competitive so it can have a shot, a realistic shot, to make the playoffs. Right now, really the last few years, it’s been the said goal at the start of the year. Then, it’s oh, well, here we go again, I want to get us through that here-we-go-again phase and see if we can compete and have something to play for in December.

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