Tom Cable walked into the room dressed in just enough black to cover his thin veil of patience. He clearly was unhappy yet summoned the resolve to convey continued belief in his football team.
Given how badly the Raiders were walloped Sunday in Tennessee, a 38-13 season-opening loss to the Titans, Cable's 11-minute news conference Monday was a remarkable display of nobility and valiance.
Given the ease with which Oakland's offensive line was abused in pass protection, he also exhibited a detectable amount of denial.
Asked if he believed those failures are "correctable," Cable didn't hesitate.
"Yeah. I do," he said. "Has to be. I do believe that."
Like most football coaches, Cable is programmed to be abidingly loyal to his players and his boss.
When he says the team is better than it performed, it's an expression of confidence in individuals. When he says the roster is not the problem, it implies enough talent has been supplied by owner/general manager Al Davis.
"We're not going to sit around and overanalyze or overcook it," Cable said. "We're going to look at what the issues are and fix it. We feel great about our team. We just really did not play well yesterday."
In other words, the GM has done his job and the players will improve. So it's up to the coaches to conduct video evaluation and "fix it." By the time Cable left the podium, he had fallen on enough swords to leave him bleeding for a week.
But some cold facts can't be rationalized, much less obscured.
And one of those cold facts is that Oakland's offensive line, despite Cable's attempt to cover for it, is bad for the health of a quarterback. As dangerous as it was for a slow, ponderous QB like JaMarcus Russell, it was no safer for a mobile passer like Jason Campbell.
The left tackle, the likable Mario Henderson, drafted by Oakland in 2007, is the worst in the NFL, according to some statistical data. At the very least, he remains a "project" masquerading as an NFL starter.
Right tackle Langston Walker was drafted by the Raiders in 2002, signed a lucrative free-agent deal with Buffalo in 2007, was released after two seasons and landed in Oakland six weeks into last season.
That this was a weakness should not be a mystery to Davis or Cable. Weren't they watching last season?
Yet Davis presumably believes Henderson and Walker were better than anyone available through free agency or by trade. So, by extension, does Cable, who conceded the weakness but still is convinced it's temporary.
"Keep working it at," Cable said when asked what can be done. "We've got to play better at tackle, and that's the bottom line here. And we will do that. We'll keep working at it, putting it together, using different ways to help them. Just keep coming up with a process to help those two guys with their issues."
In other words, it's up to the coaches to coax improved play from Henderson and Walker.
But the offensive line problems didn't end with the tackles. Jared Veldheer, who played tackle at Division II Hillsdale (Mich.), was a rookie making his first NFL start -- at center, before a noisy Nashville crowd. Robert Gallery, drafted by Oakland in 2004 to anchor the line from left tackle, washed out in that role and was moved to left guard. Right guard Cooper Carlisle is a solid run blocker.
This is how far the line has fallen from the days of Steve Wisniewski, Lincoln Kennedy and Barret Robbins -- much less Art Shell, Gene Upshaw and Dave Dalby.
Few men in football know offensive line play as well as Cable. It's his area of expertise. It's why Davis hired him after the 2006 season. Cable is inviting upon himself and current line coach Jim Michalczik the challenge of making lemonade from lemons.
And Cable thinks they can do it. He hinted at the possibility of changes but, frankly, Oakland's Pro Bowl linemen are all retired.
"Every issue that's on that film, we've been through (and) probably had it happen already in preseason and been able to fix it," he said. "So we need to be a little more focused, a little more attention to detail."
Bless the man. Cable is filled with the faith of a fresh season. He can point out that it's only one game. He can buy into the comfort of having plenty of time to address and solve the problems before him.
It would be easier to believe him if these problems weren't so familiar.
Contact Monte Poole at email@example.com.
Tom Cable, players remain upbeat despite another opening loss. Page 7