Maybe Al Davis and Tom Cable are meant to be with each other for eternity. Or until something better comes along.

Nothing better has come along for either man for quite some time, which is probably the point, I would guess.

Davis possibly can't do better than Cable, though Al has taken plenty of time in consecutive Januarys to see if he could.

Cable can't do better than coaching the Raiders, though maybe once his contract runs out, he would enjoy perusing the non-Al options.

They're together for now, though not exactly in love. More like convenient consolidation.

Throw in JaMarcus Russell, and that's quite an assortment of mixed feelings, halfhearted embraces and relationships that might or might not ever seem comfortable.

All stuck together, bound and determined — but not likely — to end the Raiders' historic streak of seven consecutive seasons of 11 losses or more.

According to an ESPN report, after weeks of contemplation and speculation, Davis has decided to keep Cable as Raiders coach for the 2010 season, despite clearly having reservations about such a move.

Saturday night, the Raiders flatly denied that a final decision has been made about their coach.

For the record, it's hard to read into anything the Raiders say or don't say, because their trademark is to issue screeching assaults in response to even the most accurate of reports.

Until there's clear word, if there ever is, we can sift through what we know and figure out how deeply compromised Al must be feeling.

Since the end of the season, Davis has taken his usual prolonged amount of time to evaluate Cable after last season's 5-11 tumble and familiar offensive woes.

That's just what Davis did at the end of the 2008 season, when Cable was his interim coach and Davis famously put together a coaching staff before officially hiring Cable for 2009.

The result: another 11-loss season, troubled headlines and Russell vaulting far beyond the bust threshold.

This time, there have been reports — denied by the Raiders — of Davis gauging the interest of Stanford's Jim Harbaugh (probably not interested), the UFL's Jim Fassel, the CFL's Marc Trestman and possibly others.

We know that no elite NFL candidates have seriously considered the Raiders job for a half-decade or more.

We know Davis and Cable have met to evaluate the team and potentially for Cable to convince Davis that he has a plan for the offense and, most specifically, for Russell.

We can guess that Davis needed to hear a new plan for Russell, whether it's a new offensive system or tough love or hiring Jenny Craig.

We can believe that, if Cable is retained, Davis will insist that he hire an offensive coordinator, a role that Cable saved for himself last season.

And we can assume that Davis has long been mulling over the reports of Cable's altercation with Randy Hanson and allegations of domestic abuse.

Maybe Davis has opted to put those incidents behind him. He brought Hanson back to work late last year, and if Hanson's OK with Cable, certainly Davis could be, too.

Through all that, Davis had one question to ask himself: After burning through Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell and Lane Kiffin in the past seven seasons — none lasting more than two seasons — would firing Cable guarantee an improvement?

Cable is 9-19 as Raiders coach, so that's not a high bar to climb. He kept the locker room together. The players seem to remain focused.

They stole a couple of wins against far superior teams that were assuredly looking past the Raiders. It's not a Hall of Fame résumé, or close to a playoff situation, but it wasn't a debacle in 2009.

So maybe Davis has lowered his expectations. Maybe he just wants to avoid embarrassment.

In that context, and with Davis' energy level dropping, it's possible he decided — or is very close to deciding — that he can't risk doing worse than Cable.

Even if Davis has concerns about Cable, he probably is close to concluding that his franchise has fallen so low that his other options are quantifiably worse.

That might not make Davis proud, but even angry Hall of Famers have to be realistic, too.

Contact Tim Kawakami at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.