THEY ARE TOO stubborn to give up, and they wouldn't be men of status in the NFL if they weren't stubborn. So Al Davis and Tom Cable will not raise the white flag, the international symbol of surrender.
But if a flag can be raised to express exasperation, the Raiders boss and his appointed functionary can raise it any minute.
Maybe they already have.
The Raiders' latest exhibition of self-hatred, a 16-10 loss to the equally young and defective Kansas City Chiefs before more than 20,000 empty seats Sunday at the Coliseum, captured in full a team caught in a web of despair, operating under a thin and paralyzed management and an increasingly distant or uninterested ownership.
In between, we find a coaching staff completely bereft of answers.
Not much has worked all season, and not much worked on Sunday. It's beginning to look as if nothing the Raiders try, no matter how great it looks on paper or how well it works in practice, will translate into productive performance on game day.
"You keep expecting it to change," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "And it doesn't."
The Raiders (2-7) took the field healthier than they have been in weeks. Running back Darren McFadden was back, as were wideout Chaz Schilens, guard Robert Gallery and tackle Cornell Green. Cable had spent the week saying he and his staff had evaluated the first half of the season and believed they could solve the problems that plagued them while losing six of eight games.
Cable in the second quarter called for a play sending rookie sprinter Darrius Heyward-Bey deep downfield. The wideout has been a monumental bust partly because he has had few opportunities but mostly because he has squandered those he's been given.
As if on cue, Heyward-Bey dropped a gorgeous second-quarter pass near the goal line. He then disappeared until the final, desperate seconds — when he reappeared and killed Oakland's last chance by bobbling another perfect pass. Chiefs safety Mike Brown cruised over to grab it out of midair.
Cable was trying to deliver exactly what he knows his boss wants — probably demands — and got scorched.
The coach began by trying JaMarcus Russell at quarterback. Again. Russell, who has started every game, responded with an effort surely no worse than those submitted throughout most of this season but would have done better if not for at least eight dropped passes.
Agitated by several wildly errant throws by Russell, who missed open receivers no fewer than five times, Cable in the third quarter turned to backup Bruce Gradkowski, who was welcomed with cheers but threw two interceptions in nine passes.
So the results were basically the same. Each quarterback was bad and each was victimized by a Heyward-Bey drop that could have had a profound effect on the game.
The Raiders organization was, once again, victimized by its tendency to fail largely on the basis of decisions made for reasons seemingly unrelated to assembling a thriving football franchise.
Cable has been vocal in his support of and confidence in Heyward-Bey, perhaps because the No. 1 draft pick is widely known to have been identified and selected by Davis. Though DHB has rewarded his enablers with consistently poor production, he has remained a starter.
But that's the way this franchise rolls. It's as if the employees are standing outside their own burning building expecting the fire to extinguish itself.
There has been no dramatic move to upgrade the roster since the preseason acquisition of defensive lineman Richard Seymour. A snapshot of defensive creativity — successful blitzing against Philadelphia — was followed by a return to the familiar and futile. There is the inability to adjust when defenses started taking away tight end Zach Miller, the refusal to decide what to do with Javon Walker, the fear over allowing Asomugha to shadow routinely the opponent's best receiver.
And just when you think they've made progress in one notoriously troublesome area, the Raiders are flagged for a season-high 10 penalties.
Yet Cable has said all season he expects things to improve. There hasn't been a shred of evidence to support it, and none emerged Sunday. Yet, Cable said it again.
He said he has faith.
Better that than nothing. In the meantime, the team's ethereal concepts can be, and often have been, beaten on Sundays — 79 times in the past 105 games since the start of 2003 to be exact.
Maybe the appropriate flag will be raised above the Coliseum by the time the Cincinnati Bengals arrive next Sunday.
"Commitment to Excellence" has devolved into commitment to despair.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.