It’s seems to be the way to go to say that Al Davis takes who he wants without input from anybody else or letting anyone else have a say in who the Raiders decide to grab in free agency or the draft.
However, head coach Tom Cable might be a different kind of presence in Alameda. One who Al Davis actually invites input from. One who Davis actually gets along with…what’s up with that?
Now, before I start rambling, I will say some moves are straight up Al Davis picks like last year’s first round pick of the draft. Tom Cable actually told the media after the pick, yet still during the draft, that the team "Knew who we were taking about a month before the draft."
Which leads to another misleading theory, as Cable dispelled any communication flaws that some people might have thought existed within the general management and the coaching staff before coach Cable made said statement.
Before the 2010 draft, I’d like to examine what kind of impact coach Cable has been granted in terms of player personnel with the Oakland Raiders.
Many players have outwardly expressed their affection for Coach Cable. Nnamdi Asomugha went so far as to say that team captains were ready to go into Mr. Davis’ office and lobby for their desire to keep coach Cable on as the head coach of the team.
Cable was recently cited as being a "players coach" by team quarterback Bruce Gradkowski in an interview with KNRB 560 AM.
Tom Cable has a certain player type that he likes, and it’s not necessarily the height, weight, speed approach that Mr. Davis is apparently so found of. It’s obvious that Cable and Davis have differing ideas of what talent actually is.
Cable likes player who are versatile, perhaps they played other sports in college, or they were members of MENSA. Cable likes team captains; players who put their team above themselves and play with a tremendous amount of heart.
Mr. Davis tends to be an assessor of raw talents; players who need to be coached up to reach their full capacity. Mr. Davis likes physically gifted athletes who have the potential to be great…someday.
The problem with the Davis hypothesis lately is that the Raiders coaches have been like a revolving door. It’s not necessarily that they were bad coaches without the ability to teach, it’s more that they haven’t had an opportunity to develop their system inside of the Raiders revolving egress.
That may be about to change with the consecutive tenures granted to coach Cable. Now that we have the type of players that each person likes fresh in our minds, let’s take a look at the ’09 class of Raiders and try to decipher which players look like Al Davis players, which players look like Tom Cable’s guys, and which players are a combination.
Perhaps the two pre-draft players who stand out the most are the free agent acquisition Khalif Barnes and the trade for former Dolphins center Samson Satele. Both of these two men have Coach Cable’s stamp on them and it has been reported by several media members that Cable lobbied hard to get both players on the roster.
The fact that both players will be retained with the coach only confirms the fact that these two guys are Cable’s guys. One thing that stands out to me is that both players are young. While Barnes isn’t as inexperienced as Satele, perhaps it can still be said that neither of these two players has reached their full potential. With Cable as their coach for the second consecutive year, the Raiders may be able to expect big things from both players this year along the offensive front.
Another thing worth noting during the pre-draft period of 2009 is that coach Cable said that he did not want to stir up the locker room with a big name free agent acquisition. This turned out to be a presumptive statement, after which Raiders fans could assume that no big names would be brought in through the free agency market.
At that time, it was very much unlike the Mr. Davis of yesteryear who live for big name free agents. Cable’s affect on Davis could be seen this early in the year last season.
Moving on to the 2009 draft; Mr. Davis has consistently taken the guy with the most potential in the first round dating back to who remembers when. The list goes on and on, people know that Davis is going to take his guy first no matter who thinks it’s a reach or who agrees with the pick.
It can be assumed that Davis is enamored with the players combine numbers. The more the draft approached last year, the more people began to think/know who Davis was taking. When DHB was selected, it sent shockwaves through the Raider Nation, as their biggest fear had been realized.
The second round offered up another surprise, Ohio Universities own Mike Mitchell. Despite his impressive stats (212 tackles, 126 solo, 90 in run support, and 15 for loss, and defended 20 passes with seven interceptions, two sacks, and four forced fumbles), scouts didn't think that he was legit. They overlooked this hard-hitting, versatile, outstandingly quick, powerful safety, who showed a knack for making plays in the box.
He had one of the best pro days of any college player in the country. He benched 225 lbs. 21 times, jumped a 37.5" vertical jump, had a 10'3" board jump, and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash.
Coach Cable said after the Raiders drafted him 47th overall, "When you see tape of this guy you’re going to see a guy that has that Ronnie Lott, that Jack Tatum mentality. He literally knocks people out. It allows you know, to get back to that Raider style of football, which is really the reason I wanted this guy so bad."
Maybe we should call Mitchell a combination pick. He obviously had the impressive numbers that Davis liked, combined with the team mentality that Cable opted for.
The next pick was a defensive end from Wisconsin named Matt Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy earned letters in football, basketball, and track in his high school days. In his junior year at Wisconsin, he was named team MVP for the year. Matt was overlooked by most scouts due to an injury-limited senior season.
His numbers were not that impressive, average size at 6’5" 266lbs., a below par shuttle that was a half second slower than the leaders in that category for defensive ends. He was the thirteenth DE on most draft boards and wasn’t projected to go until the 5th round by most experts.
Shaughnessy is quite clearly a pick that Tom Cable had to have a convincing speech about for Mr. Davis to consider strongly, let alone draft.
After Shaughnessy came Louis Murphy, the Florida WR who won two national championships in his time with the Gators. Murphy was a guy who the Raiders were surprised was there in the middle of the fourth round and was a consensus pick without question.
Murphy was a team captain on a national championship team with good values which appealed to Cable, as well as a height, weight, speed guy with a 6’3" 203 lbs. frame who ran a 4.32 forty and was projected to go one round earlier in the draft.
I don’t think there was any argument from anyone when Murphy was selected. Murphy did not let anyone down with his rookie performance either, scoring a touchdown (or two depending on who you ask) in his first professional game.
Of the drafted rookies after Murphy, really the only guy worth mentioning at this point in time is TE Brandon Myers. Myers was rated the 23rd tight end in the draft by NFLScouts.com, and was projected to be undrafted.
Coach Tom Cable had been looking for a second tight end to "merry" with Zach Miller who could take some of the blocking load off Miller’s shoulders and assist the Raiders in increasing the receiving numbers of Miller.
They traded their seventh round pick from 2009 and their sixth round pick from 2010 to get back into the sixth round and take Myers, who was considered primarily to be a blocking tight end from Iowa University.
This is a Tom Cable draft choice, and Mr. Davis was willing to trade two draft picks to get the one they took Myers with so that Cable could have his guy.
Following the draft, the Raiders brought in team players from small schools as undrafted free agents. They included a guy at DT who could start this year, former Harvard player Desmond Bryant, and a very little known player named Nick Miller from the University of Southern Utah who set a few Division II records during his time at the school.
It is my opinion, without going into too much detail, that Cable’s influence in the undrafted class was very strong. The fact that two of these guys made the final 53 man roster at the end of training camp shows how much control Cable had on the final roster.
But it doesn’t stop at the players. Look at the coaches who were brought in this offseason. They have connections to coach Cable as well. Hue Jackson and Cable worked together on the staff at Cal-State Fullerton in 1990 and at the University of California in 1996.
"I felt very comfortable at work with Tom, and we have very similar thoughts," Jackson said. "Every job you’re working against the clock, you never know if you’re going to be there from one year to the next. We’ve had great conversations about what we would like to accomplish as we continue to move forward," Jackson said of the Raiders head coach.
The new defensive line coach brought in for the 2010 season, Mike Waufle, spent time at the University of California as the Bears Defensive Line Coach from 1992-1997 with coach Cable, who oversaw the Bears offensive line from 1992-97.
Now to get to the pint of writing this article; I set out to show that Tom Cable has had a strong influence on players and personnel during his time as Raiders head coach. So far in 2010, there have been no big name free agents, and I presume there will not be any.
I also expect the coach to have an even stronger influence in this year’s draft class. Anyone who thinks Al Davis doesn’t care what his coaches desires are, I hope you can walk away from this article with a different perspective. Or at least it’s different with this coach.
So don’t be surprised if this year’s first round pick has some Cable influence on it. Cable was recently quoted saying, "You got to look at this thing and find who you think the best players are, rather than they jump the highest or run the fastest. It shouldn’t make a damn difference. He has to be able to play football good enough for you to become a championship team. At the end of the day, that’s what really counts."
The Oakland Raiders need help along the offensive line, nobody will argue that. Some people close to the situation, however, might say that Mario Henderson has potential at left tackle and Khalif Barnes is a guy Cable really pulled for to get him in Silver and Black, and to keep him in Oakland this offseason.
With that in mind, don’t be shocked when Roger Goodell walks up to the podium in New York and says, "With the eighth pick in the 2010 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders select, Mike Iupati, Guard, Idaho."
What does Cable think? "Absolutely…first of all, he’s an Idaho Vandal, so I’m biased. He’s a terrific player. I think his future will be very bright. He’s going to have to transition from that level to the NFL. But he showed he has the ability to do that at the Senior Bowl. I’m very proud of him. I’m pulling for him to succeed, big time."