Ann Killion
Tuesday February 2nd, 2010

We interrupt the NFL coronation festivities for a word from the dark side of the league.

About the Oakland Raiders.

Was it really just seven years ago that the Raiders were in the Super Bowl? Since that day in San Diego, when they were crushed by Tampa Bay, the Raiders have spent the seven years perfecting the art of football dysfunction.

They are on their fifth head coach -- who may or may not be retained. They have chased away their fans. They have won just 29 games.

And Al Davis' latest trick is figuratively removing his head coach's manhood and placing it on a jar on his desk.

Tom Cable is still the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. But that doesn't mean he'll actually be the coach in a day or a week.

Since the season ended, he has been under "evaluation." When a news organization jumped the gun and said that Cable would be retained, the Raiders were quick to issue a denial.

"We've never made any statements that the head coach would not be back," the team announced in a statement. "That has been media speculation from the beginning. We've consistently stated that we're going through an evaluation process to determine the direction that the organization needs to go. The process is ongoing, and it has not reached a conclusion.

The Raiders usually fiercely deny reports that they've fired someone. Now they're denying reports that they've hired someone.

The so-called "process" may include seeing just how much Cable can take. The real cynics in the crowd think the "process" is just a twisted attempt to get Cable to quit so that he won't have to be paid. Kind of like a low-key version of Davis' overhead projector press conference regarding Lane Kiffin.

Among the humiliations Cable has suffered:

Randy Hanson was brought back into the fold. Hanson is the assistant coach who accused Cable of punching him and breaking his jaw. He went to the police in an attempt to have charges brought against Cable. Davis brought Hanson back into the Raiders organization last December. Cable can't help but notice that the man he reportedly wanted to kill has more job stability than he does.

Hue Jackson was hired as Cable's offensive coordinator last month. Jackson -- who had been the Ravens quarterbacks coach -- told Baltimore's team Web site that he'll be calling the plays, meaning Cable has been stripped of that duty.

• The hiring of Jackson has led many to assume that JaMarcus Russell will be back as quarterback. Jackson is credited with helping Joe Flacco develop. The Raiders have said Jackson will work with "whoever the quarterback might be." But the events indicate that the team isn't done with the unpopular first overall pick, who has been criticized for not being in shape or working hard enough.

If Russell is back, Cable would be the head coach of a team led by a player he has absolutely no faith in. Cable benched Russell in an attempt to win games and retain his job. At the end of the season, Cable blamed the team's record on Russell, saying that the Raiders would have fared better if they got more production out of their quarterback. Such a statement not only makes the relationship seem irreparable, it also reportedly infuriated Davis.

After a month of no comments, Cable finally did an interview last week talking to a Sacramento radio station, saying he "absolutely" expected to be retained as head coach. If so, it's unclear what authority he will have. He won't be calling the plays. He will have an offensive coordinator and quarterback that he didn't choose. The former offensive line coach, Cable might still be in charge of the linemen, but even that's not clear.

Davis doesn't care about head coaches. He's made that abundantly clear over the years -- undermining their authority, overruling them, becoming unhappy when they become too popular or successful, cutting them out of the decision-making loop.

But Davis is taking his emasculation of his head coach to a new level with the Cable saga.

Cable is in a no-win situation. And with the Raiders, that may be a literal job description.

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