By Steve Corkran
ALAMEDA — Tom Cable is back, and so are the Raiders. Managing general partner Al Davis made official the first part of the equation in a news conference Wednesday. Cable made clear the latter in an unprompted proclamation.
The process of putting behind them the 2008 season and shifting their attention toward the 2009 season and beyond kicked off with a 55-minute question-and-answer session at the team's year-round facility.
"The Oakland Raiders are back," Cable said in response to his being promoted from interim coach to full-time boss. "They're back. We're going to go win football games, and we're going to be a playoff team. You hear me? I'm not afraid to say that. All that negative aura; it's done. It's our time now."
The past 37 days were Davis' time to decide on how best to shape the future of a franchise that has lost at least 11 games each of the past six seasons and 72 of 96 overall.
In the end, Davis opted for Cable over New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, Green Bay Packers assistant head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss and two other undisclosed candidates.
Cable's passion and lifelong admiration of the Raiders won over Davis despite strong competition from Gilbride, Davis said, without naming Gilbride.
"He was steadfast in his belief in the Raiders, steadfast in his passion for the Raiders," Davis said of his decision to name Cable the team's 16th coach — Art Shell served two stints. "Some of the things he did with the football team "... showed me that we have a chance, we have a hope, that we can go and do the things we think we can."
Cable is thinking playoffs right away, with a you-just-never-know approach if the Raiders reach the postseason for the first time since the 2002 team advanced to the Super Bowl.
Davis isn't quite so sure this team has the necessary talent to win the Super Bowl next season, though winning the AFC West title isn't out of the question.
"I do like to win Super Bowls, but I'm also realistic," Davis said in a post-news conference interview. "I know where we are. We can win the division. We have to do a little bit more to win the division, but winning Super Bowls, no, I don't think this team is ready yet. We may be a year away from putting another good group together."
The matter of who is in charge of coaching the players crystallized Wednesday with Cable confirming he has hired former 49ers quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner as his passing game coordinator, John Marshall as his defensive coordinator, Concord native Mike Haluchak as his linebackers coach and Sanjay Lal as his wide receivers coach.
Cable said he will retain his role as offensive play-caller. Cable stripped departed offensive coordinator Greg Knapp of the play-calling duties midway through last season and handled the role the final eight games.
Davis said part of the allure of hiring Tollner came from the 49ers' willingness last season to incorporate long passes into their game plan.
That's an area in which the Raiders struggled for most of last season. The Raiders are hopeful that Tollner's influence and Cable's willingness to incorporate young wide receivers Chaz Schilens and Johnnie Lee Higgins into the offense will rectify that shortcoming.
The Raiders employed a 4-3 defensive scheme for four of departed defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's five seasons. Cable said Marshall favors the same alignment as his base defense.
Davis was criticized for taking so long to announce his decision for the coaching spot. He said extenuating circumstances dragged out the process.
In short, Davis wanted to see if Cable could assemble the coaching staff he envisioned; Cable's father died Jan. 8, which necessitated Cable's being away from the process for 10 days or so; and Davis didn't want his announcement to detract from the Super Bowl proceedings.
None of that matters now, Cable said. He said he is anxious to build upon the successes the Raiders enjoyed last season.
"Tom's a great coach," linebacker Sam Williams said. "He did a wonderful job. Toward the end of the season, you could see he still had the fire and the desire to be coaching the Raiders. You could see all the players buy into what he was telling us, and we finally reached the point where we believed we could win. He's taking us in the right direction."
Center Jake Grove said Cable won over the team in the middle of the season, when the Raiders were in the midst of slipping off track.
"Our record wasn't very good and things could have gone either way," Grove said. "He wouldn't let it happen. That's what we needed, and he is going to get us back to where we belong."
Contact Steve Corkran at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Title 2009 staff 2008 staff
Coach Tom Cable Lane Kiffin/Tom Cable
*Offensive coordinator Ted Tollner Greg Knapp
Defensive coordinator John Marshall Rob Ryan
Special teams John Fassel Brian Schneider
Quarterbacks Paul Hackett John DeFilippo
Wide receivers Sanjay Lal James Lofton
Running backs Kelly Skipper Tom Rathman
Tight ends Adam Henry Kelly Skipper
Offensive line TBA Tom Cable
Defensive line Dwaine Board Don Johnson, Keith Millard
Linebackers Mike Haluchak Don Martindale
Defensive backs Lionel Washington Darren Perry
Defensive backs assistant Randy Hanson Randy Hanson
Squad development Willie Brown Willie Brown
and defensive backs
Strength and conditioning Brad Roll Brad Roll
*Tollner's title is passing game coordinator because Cable will call all offensive plays