Tom Cable took the podium for his Monday press conference with a new lease on life. With the Oakland Raiders surprising upset of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Cable slipped into the second tier of NFL Coaches Most Likely to Be Fired, dropping behind names like Washington's Jim Zorn.
Cable, however, is still the frontrunner in another category: NFL Coaches Most Likely to Be Charged With Assault.
But the Napa Police Department still hasn't announced the results of its investigation into claims by former Raiders assistant Randy Hanson that Cable attacked him and broke his jaw in training camp last August. Perhaps the N.P.D. will have a statement later this week, perhaps not. Maybe there's a backlog of viticulture crimes.
So Cable remains safe for now. The Raiders picked up their second win of the season, which means they can't finish behind Art Shell's woeful 2006 Raiders team. And with no criminal charges filed, Al Davis currently has nothing to put on his overhead projector, detailing why he won't have to pay Cable's salary.
It's all in a week's work in the odd world of the Oakland Raiders. And now Cable can concentrate on the hardest task of all: getting a second consecutive win.
"The biggest issue in that locker room is how do we handle this?" Cable said after the biggest win of his 18-game head coaching career.
The New York Jets are coming to Oakland, riding a three-game slide. To make the Eagles game meaningful, the Raiders need to take advantage of another road weary East Coast team on their home field. For all the ridicule aimed at Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, he's only a few points behind Mark Sanchez at the bottom of the league quarterback ratings (56.7 to 51.0). Russell trails Sanchez in interceptions (10 to 6) and GQ spreads (1-0).
Cable is good at parsing words in his description of Russell. The third-year quarterback was coming off one of his better games, but Cable wasn't effusive.
"Where he is, where he goes with it will ultimately be up to him," Cable said. "How good he wants to be, how much he's willing to put into it to get what he should get out of it."
Cable can only hope his team remains the one that shocked the Eagles with its fight and not the one that New York Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce described as an uninspired scrimmage opponent.
"You have to go out and take a win, reach for it with both hands and grab it," Cable said. "That's what we did [Sunday]. We fought for ourselves. This league is so balanced. It's the teams that will go out every Sunday and fight their rear ends off for each other that are the best teams in the league."
The stocky former offensive lineman is walking the Raiders tightrope, one that has been the undoing of past coaches. He's trying to navigate how to make his team better while not losing his job. He has some tools at his disposal. The Raiders have some talent on defense, including Richard Seymour, acquired by trade from the New England Patriots late in training camp. Seymour is one of the few Raiders who knows what its like to win.
"He's a pro," Cable said. "He talks to the other players and he's constantly working his trade with the guys around him, with his coaches. He's showing everybody else ' How to' and I think that's a big deal."
In other words, Seymour can help change a losing culture, if he doesn't get beaten down by it first. Cable can't say that directly because you're not really allowed to acknowledge that the Team of the Decades is a black hole of losing and dysfunction. So Cable has to find a backdoor way of addressing the issue.
Cable is not blatantly subversive or defiant, like his predecessor Lane Kiffin. But -- in the context of Raiders culture, where Davis rules as dictator -- Cable is trying to find his own way. And we're not just referring to the matter of allegedly beating up Hanson, Davis' handpicked assistant and a diehard Raiders loyalist, whose actions a year ago helped to undermine Kiffin.
On Sunday, the Raiders brought a different look to the Eagles game on defense. They blitzed and played zone -- a departure from the defensive scheme Davis prefers. It was something of a revolution, according to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha said he lobbies every week for a more aggressive attack and less predictable coverage, but usually to no avail.
"We were shocked," Asomugha said, "because coaches say we're going to run it in practice, but we come to a game and that never happens."
Asomugha said defensive coordinator John Marshall finally agreed to make changes. "He said that he might get yelled at for it, but he'll keep going," Asomugha said.
When asked about Asomugha's claims, Cable evaded the issue.
"I think we'll do what we can, and what we think it takes to win every Sunday," Cable said.
And who would be "yelling" at Marshall?
"I don't know, maybe one of the players," Cable said with a shrug. "I have no idea."
In the rest of the NFL, a change in defensive scheme wouldn't be considered a revolution. But this is the odd world of the Raiders.