Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Strangeness of the Raiders, Part II

Here’s the transcript from the second part of Al Davis’ news conference Tuesday, featuring the introduction of interim Raiders coach Tom Cable:

Al Davis: “Ladies and gentleman, this is Tom Cable, the new interim head coach of the Raiders. He’s been our offensive line coach for the Raiders, last year, first year, this year, and has a tremendous record as a coordinator and an offensive line coach at Atlanta. I think he was No. 1 rushing team in the league in Atlanta. At UCLA he really developed some outstanding Pac-10 teams as a coordinator. ... He can tell you about himself, tell you about our team, and I think he’ll do great. I know it’s tough on you listening to me saying someone’s going to do great, but I’ve watched him now, I didn’t him until last year when he came to us. I’ve watched him operate with the offensive line. I think anyone will tell you that if they’ve watched our offensive line work, he knows what he’s doing, schematic, he’s very good, trying to sell him on some things to do, but it’s tough with them today, the young ones. I’ll just introduce you to Tom Cable, and I’m proud to say that he’s an Oakland Raider head coach.”

Tom Cable: “Thank you all for coming. The first thing I want to say is this is in many ways a strange day, obviously. I have a friend who’s lost a job. It’s difficult in this business, but as we know this is a business. It’s time for us to move forward. It’s time for us to put the past behind us, what’s gone on up to this point, and that’s what we’ll do. We have a good coaching staff here. We’ve got a good football team here. Make no mistake about it, this is a good football team. There’s a process you go through as you learn how to achieve and succeed in this game, and we’re on that process. We’re right in the middle of it. That won’t change. As we move forward, we’ll sit down with the staff here shortly after this press conference and we’ll have some discussions. Probably a lot of questions you might have will be handled in those meetings. We’re going to move forward and we’re going to take this football team where it needs to go.”

Q: With Tom doing such a good job with the offensive line, are you concerned it will affect their play with him being the head coach?

Cable: “No, that won’t happen. That ain’t going to change. I’ll coach the line. That’s what I do. That’s what I am. Those guys in that group, I’m always very familiar and most familiar with in that group. And there’s a bond there, there’s a bond that won’t be broken and can’t be broken. We will move forward with that happening every day, when we go to work, do what we do. At the same time, we’re going to bring that work, and that commitment and that bond to the rest of this football team as the head coach now, and that’s really what this amounts to. There’s no reason to make any changes that way. This is a good coaching staff, we’ve got people in the right place, we’ve got good players, and the bottom line it’s up to us to go win football games because at the end of the day, that’s all this is about. This is a good football team.”

Davis: “I was concerned about it. I really was, but he knows how to sell, and he knows how to talk, and he’s very strong, very forceful, and I think it can be done. It has been done in the past, and I think if anyone can do it, he can do it. But I thought that this team needed him.”

Q: Will Greg Knapp call plays?

Cable: “Yes, Greg is going to call the plays. Greg and I will work side-by-side . I had the fortune of being with Greg in Atlanta in this system. We’re very familiar with each other. He’s very good at what he does. So there’s no issue there. I will have final say in how we do it, how we game plan, how we’re going to get after you, how we’re going to attack you, how we’re going to manage the game. But as the game goes in terms of his role in play calling, the right decision right now, is for Greg to do that and I’m very confident in him doing that well.”

Q: How difficult were the last three weeks?

Cable: “You know what you can control in this game? You can control how hard you work. You can control what kind of plan you give players to succeed. You can control how hard you play on Sunday. You can control, you can look around the room at the guys that are in there with you, whether it’s on offense or special teams, and you can look in their eyes and you can control, I got your back today, I’m going to play for you today. That’s what you can control. All that other stuff, it really doesn’t have a place in this game, it doesn’t have a place in what I believe and what I think of this organization, this organization is a championship organization, it’s been that way, there’s tradition, there’s history here. I grew up a Raider. I grew up loving this team from the time I was a little boy. So to me, you go out and you do your best. You don’t worry about all the other stuff. On every Sunday, you get back on a plane, you go back in the locker room, and you’re 1-0, then you did what you’re supposed to do.”

Q: Why will this team be better with you than with Kiffin, and with the title of interim coach, does that mean you’re a short-timer?

Cable: “No, it means to me I’ve been given a great responsibility. I’m thankful to Mr. Davis for this opportunity. What it means is this, we’ve got 12 games to play, starting in New Orleans, and all we’re going to do is go out and play each one as if it’s the most important thing on that day and try to be 1-0. You can’t address it or you can’t approach it any other way. I don’t think there’s any other way to do it. You’ve got to believe in who you are and what you do and the people around you. I have great conviction that way, and I feel good that we’ll go out and do what we need to do. It’s not up to me to worry about those kinds of things. What it’s up to me to worry about is tomorrow. It’s practice, tomorrow, and that game a week from Sunday in New Orleans. If I worry about those other things, I’m cheating every guy on this team and I’m not going to do that.”

Q: And why do you think you’ll do better than Lane Kiffin?

Cable: “Well, the way that we went out and did it, you have to look at it, I think, from a couple angles. One, this football team is better. This defense has gotten after people’s rear ends in the last couple weeks like nobody’s business. And what we gotta learn how to do is finish football games. Let’s call it what it is. Went to Kansas City and did what we needed to do, walked out of there with a win. It’s hard to do in that place. Hasn’t been done there very much. Ran for a bunch of yards, played great defense. Special teams, awesome. Then we go out to Buffalo. We got ’em right where we need to have ’em to finish ’em, to get it done. And we don’t finish it. For whatever reason, it doesn’t get done. Last week the same way. You’re leading 15-0, it’s 15-3. You get a sack, fumble, it’s 15-10. You’re still leading. What this team has to do is learn how to win football games at the end. It knows how to take the lead, that’s well documented. It knows how to compete, it knows how to grind, it knows how to throw its body around, it knows how to go out there and put it out there. But at the end of the day, the job’s not done till they say it’s done, the clock goes zero. So that’s what we have to learn to do, and we’ll do that. That’s where we’re gonna be different.”

Q: How was your relationship with Lane, and did you ever dream you’d be sitting here as head coach?

Cable: “Yeah, I had that dream. I had that dream like every young boy. I’ve had great teachers in my career, great coaches who taught me, great parents, all the things that I think are quality in life. So yeah, I’ve had that training. My relationship, to answer the first part of the question, with Lane is good. I respect Lane Kiffin, I love the guy. I think he worked his tail off. However, whatever that’s gone on here is between him and Mr. Davis, and I’ll leave it at that.”

Q: How do you instill the ability to win in this team?

Cable: “Well, I think you first gotta understand something. The spirit of the team is of utmost importance. All of these guys, to be professional football players, have been winners. They are winners. They didn’t get here because they were second hand or they couldn’t achieve or any of that. So you gotta draw that out of them. You gotta take them back and find that spirit, and then you gotta do it collectively as a team. And that’s what we’ll plan to do, that’s what we’ll work towards doing. How you finish games? You don’t let up. You don’t let up. You throw the football to score points in this game. You run the football to win it. And you gotta find a balance between those two. You gotta get your playmakers the ball in their hands, and you gotta be able to do that to finish. Defensively, you gotta be able to choke ’em out. You gotta be able to get out of drives. You gotta be able to intercept balls, cause fumbles. To me, you emphasize and talk about those things, but you know at sometimes it’s just better to go out and play, pull out the spirit of these men. They’re good football players, they’ve always been winners. That’s why they’re pros.”

Q: What’s the strength of this team, and have you had a chance to address your staff yet?

Cable: “I have not, will do so later this evening. As I mentioned earlier, I think the strength of the team is the character of this football team. I think you got great men on this team. I think you got guys who can fly around, and playmakers on defense. You’ve got a defensive coordinator that, I watch him daily, is gonna put everything he has into it. That’s his life, it’s all of our lives. Rob’s no different than any of us, and he’s done a great job. He’ll do a great job, even more so now. Uh, the rest of the staff, they’re a very, very, very solid group of guys. Good teachers, and I think fundamentally that’s the most important thing. This football team, its strength to me is its character. To me it’s we’ll run fast, hit you in the mouth, we can run the football at you, we got a quarterback that I think’s a special guy, and now it’s up to us to get him in a position to succeed. Obviously, we’ve been attempting to do that. We’ve gotta do it better.”

Q: Will you be hands-on with JaMarcus now?

Cable: “You know, Greg is his teacher. John DeFilippo, those are his two teachers. But understand this: I coach that offensive line, but I don’t just live in that little world. I don’t go down to my corner and disappear and just wait for them to call us up when we do that. I know who they are. I go in that locker room, I know who they are, I shake their hand, I talk to them about life, I talk to them about their families. Do I need to get to know some of them more? Yeah, I do. But I know who the guys on this football team. I’m proud to be sitting in this chair and to lead this football team.”

Davis: “One thing I said to Tom. I want him because he does have that personality to dominate that locker room, dominate those players. I’ve watched him with the players from other positions, and as I’ve told him, we don’t have to make an example of players publicly, we have to make those players want to be great. And they will be great. But we can’t bring them down publicly. And that’s an important thing, he has to dominate the locker room.”

Q: What can you tell Raiders fans to inspire confidence in you?

Cable: “Well, I think this. Everybody has a past, everybody has a journey in life, whether it’s professionally or personally. For me, it’s been a great journey. Not always successes, by the record I have at Idaho. At the same time, not too many people move the ball like I did in college football, whether it was at Colorado, Idaho or UCLA. So I’m very confident that way, very confident. My whole thing is you learn from your past, and I’ve done that. When I was head coach for the first time, I was in there, a young guy at 34 years old. So make some mistakes, you make those errors here and there, whether it’s how you handle people, whether it’s how you call the game, whatever that is. But you learn from it. The most important thing to me is, I was blessed to have those opportunities. Even more so, I’ve had the greatest teachers in this game. I’ve had Dennis Erickson as a college football coach, Keith Gilbertson was a line coach, Greg Smith was a line coach, Alex Gibbs has mentored me at this level. I have had great teachers: Steve Mariucci. Great teachers. So I’m well prepared to be sitting where I’m sitting, and I look forward obviously to the opportunity.”

Q: Did you consider Rob Ryan for the job, and have you talked to him about not getting it?

Davis: “I talked to Rob this morning, and I’ve always considered Rob. I considered everyone on the staff. I went down the staff, took a look at the staff, and my thought as to what we needed right now was someone who can lead men. Rob can lead men. But I think he’s more important right now over there on the defense, handling that. They played, at the start of that game the other day and in Buffalo, like we’re supposed to play. Just like Tom said, they got after your ass. They’re a tough bunch over there on defense, and you need a tough guy. I don’t know if we could afford to let him get away from the domination of that defense. Tom knows him. They get along very well. And that’s what I think you’ll find, that collectively we’re gonna be much better right now, as a group. It might now show right away, but we will win.”

Q: When did you decide on Cable?

Davis: “During the summer, when I say summer up in training camp, Tom and I were discussing Tom's future here with the Raiders as a coach because the season ends this year, it was his last year on his contract. We were discussing the future and the more I talked to him, the more I felt there were some things there that I liked that I thought that the Raiders needed. As I talked to other coaches on the staff about the future, about contract in the future, I just got to feel and watch him, I watch him work. I watch him work with the players and he dominates that offensive line. They do like him and they do love him. Look, we gotta win and I think he can win, and that's what we gotta do."

Q: When were you offered the job, and what convinced you to take it?

Cable: “We talked this morning and what he had to convince me of really was it was the right thing at the right time and he believed in me. That was really all it took. It was a surprise to me, at the same time, it's a dream obviously. I think when I heard in his words that he believed that I could take his football team and his organization where he wants it to go, that's all I needed to hear. Because my passion, my love for the game, my love for the players and coaches that I worked with every day, it does not wane, it does not go back in any way, it just gets stronger. Once I heard it in his voice that he believed in me that way, this was the right thing to do."

Q: Will the offense look any different under you?

Cable: “The biggest thing I need to do is go back and sit down with the coaches and get some input and give them some input about the direction we're going in terms of specifics. It's no secret what we have to do. You need to protect the football, you need to score points. And on defense, you got to get the ball away, you got to knock people's heads off and you got to keep them scoring points. And at the end of the day, win. It doesn't matter if it's 49-48, it don't matter if it's 1-0, win. That's how the whole approach has to be. In terms of the details of that, we go back and sit down, we'll talk it out, but we'll have a nice plan.”

Q: What does Tom have to do to get rid of the interim tag?

Davis: “Look, he's got a chance and if he does it, I'll be happy as hell but I think he's got a good chance. And that's what interim means, he's got to win and it may not be right away because we go to New Orleans, that's tough. Then that bunch from New York comes in here, they're riding high and throwing the ball pretty well. But we can play with them. We were a little banged up this week but we can play with them, and we'll see. We'll see. And that young guy has to come along. We have to bring him along. He's good. So we'll see.”

Q: Does this seem like a no-win situation considering all the coaches who have been fired?

Cable: “Not at all. First of all, I think the most important thing to understand is what's done is done in the past. If I worried about that, you're right, I will fail. What I'm going to worry about is right now and right now I plan on succeeding. It's the only way I know.”

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