TOM CABLE is absolutely right when he describes himself as a "darned good football coach," as he did this week. He knows and loves the game. He teaches it well.

Cable is, as I've noted before, a very good football man.

But knowing and loving and teaching the game — and being an outstanding football man — are not nearly enough to excel in the exceedingly difficult job that is coaching the Al Davis Raiders.

That's why Cable has to go.

The job in Oakland — which has the most challenging working environment in the NFL, maybe in all of major professional sports — is too big for Cable. It's too big for most. It was too big for Norv Turner, who during the past three years in San Diego has won more games than any AFC coach except New England's revered Bill Belichick.

Joe Bugel, as good a football man as there is, was devoured in a matter of months by the unrelenting demands of working for Davis. And that was in 1997, when the boss was younger and decidedly less cranky.

Oakland's players, bless their well-meaning hearts, openly campaign for Cable's return. They like the guy, they respect him, they believe in what he says. There is an actual relationship with the big lug of a man they know would like to suit up with them.

We saw what can happen when that chemistry is at its percolating best. The Raiders swarmed Philadelphia and Cincinnati, two playoff teams, in Oakland. They went on the road in December and rallied to beat Pittsburgh and Denver, both of which entered the final Sunday of the season in postseason contention.


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In all four games, the Raiders were aggressive and relentless and resourceful, a reflection of their coach. Those games are cited as "proof" that Cable is onto something and, therefore, is the right coach.

At least six games, though, provide evidence of the opposite.

Coaches who truly have a grip on a team don't have to explain away numerous blowouts within a season, as Cable did. The Raiders lost by 23 at Houston, by 37 at New York (to the Giants) and by two touchdowns at Cleveland. They lost at home by 20 to Denver, by 21 to Washington and, in their most humiliating performance of all, by 38 when being shut out by the New York Jets.

The Browns won five games, the other four by a combined 23 points.

Washington won four games, the other three by a combined 15 points.

The Jets, with quarterback Mark Sanchez making his seventh NFL start, lit up the Coliseum scoreboard for a season high in points.

Rather than blitz the rookie back to Oakland International, the Raiders got worked. Their relatively vanilla schemes that day may have had less to do with the desires of defensive coordinator John Marshall than with Davis' aversion to frequent blitzing, but the result was disastrous.

As loud as the big wins might have spoken, none led to another win. If anything, the victories may have misled Cable and his players into thinking the Raiders were better than their record.

The losses, meanwhile, shouted out the team's shortcomings. The Raiders were outscored by 182 points, the largest deficit by any team not from Detroit or St. Louis. They scored 197 points; only the Rams scored fewer. Meanwhile, the 379 points allowed by Oakland ranked 12th in the 16-team AFC.

If Cable, 45, is to take some credit for the wins, as he should, he also must take some blame for the losses. Such wild inconsistency comes back to the coach, who is responsible for getting his team ready each week.

Cable's passion and expertise do not blind me to his 9-19 record in Oakland or the lack of a winning record in any of the seven months he was on the sideline.

But the dismissal of a head coach or a manager generally is linked to at least one of five factors: 1) He has lost/alienated the team; 2) he has lost too many games; 3) he has lost the fan base; 4) his image or character is at issue or; 5) there is a rift with ownership.

The latter four being in play, to varying degrees, justify his firing.

The best thing for Cable, even if he doesn't see it, is to go to work elsewhere and fix an offensive line. Do what he does as well as anybody at any level and be appreciated for it.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.