GUILTY OR INNOCENT? That is the biggest question looming over coach Tom Cable and another troubling Raiders season.
Quarterback JaMarcus Russell's development — or lack thereof — is becoming a sorry backdrop to the curious case of Cable.
Publicly accused last weekend by assistant Randy Hanson of breaking Hanson's jaw in a training-camp rumble, Cable remains remarkably steadfast that he is going to beat this.
"I know the truth and I trust in the system, the process," Cable said Monday. "I just know that what's supposed to happen will happen."
Listen to that confidence. He oozes more there than he does with his bust-bound quarterback, matador linemen, grease-fingered receivers and overall squad that has just one win after five error-filled games.
Cable had better have an amazingly honest story to tell, and he'd better do more than simply attack Hanson's credibility.
Do tell. Do tell.
Or be prepared to do hard time.
Hanson finally has spoken, publicly fingering Cable as his attacker in that alleged Aug. 5 scuffle. Police have handed off the case to the Napa County district attorney.
Cable's side of the story remains unknown, thus keeping yet another dark cloud over the NFL's stormiest franchise. The less said, the better? Perhaps legally, but not in our rush-to-judgment society.
Cable doesn't want this Hanson controversy to consume his team. It is too late. It is a mystifying distraction to the Raiders' on-field, jaw-dropping inferiority.
"I've not let it become an issue," Cable insisted. "I've not put a lot into it. And quite frankly, I haven't brought it to the team because it's not their issue, it's mine."
Now Hanson is speaking out on the issue, a migraine that was two months in the making.
The 41-year-old defensive assistant went public last weekend with accusations that Cable's actions during a verbal spat led to physical violence. Hanson's interview with Yahoo! Sports provided a detailed and damning — albeit one-sided — account of the Aug. 5 incident.
"From my blind side, Tom Cable threw me from my chair and into a piece of furniture that a lamp sat upon," Hanson said. "He was screaming, 'I'll (expletive) kill you! I'll (expletive) kill you!' And I have no reason to believe he wouldn't have killed me if they hadn't pulled him away."
Hanson is squealing. Cable is left squirming.
Cable claims he wants to talk, too, and he remains certain the truth will set him free, all so he can keep living in the NFL coaching purgatory that is the Raiders.
In the wake of Sunday's 44-7 loss to the host New York Giants, Cable outlined a three-pronged approach to end the Raiders' three-game skid: No. 1, raise the standard; No. 2, practice better; No. 3, eliminate distractions.
It stands to reason this Hanson fiasco has distracted Cable from coaching up a team with the league's worst offense and second-worst defense in terms of yards per game.
"I would never believe that," Cable said.
Asked if it's hard to press the mute button on his side of the story, Cable said: "Sure."
Three of his assistants apparently didn't stay quiet. Mike Silver's Yahoo! story said defensive coordinator John Marshall, defensive backs coach Lionel Washington and assistant defensive backs coach Willie Brown corroborated Hanson's story in interviews with Napa police.
Whom should we believe? Hanson? Three witnesses? Cable? All the above?
One longtime Cable acquaintance says Cable told him he never struck Hanson and that Hanson's character is in question.
Players constantly have lauded Cable's ability to tell the harsh truth. That has been his trademark attribute since he took over as coach from Lyin' Lane Kiffin a year ago. Cable's truth-telling salvos remain ever-present.
"He'll tell you what he saw. He's a pretty blunt, honest guy, and you appreciate that from a coach," defensive end Jay Richardson said. "If he needs to call out somebody, he has no problem doing that. That's what you want from a coach, being straightforward and honest."
Added center Chris Morris: "He does what he needs to do. He's a coach. If you do something wrong, he'll let you know about it. That's what coaches are supposed to do."
As opposed to attacking other coaches.
Truth? Or dare?