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Bad blood lingers in Raiders @ Seahawks match-up

The Oakland Raiders will take their second road trip of the year this Friday, this time to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. There has been a growing rivalry during this offseason – actually a renewal of an old divisional rivalry – as the Seahawks have managed to snag some big names from the Raiders’ 2010 squad. The off the field words and expressions that are being used right now in the offices and locker rooms one can only imagine. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on those walls right now?

It all started back in January when the Raiders announced that they would not renew the contract of then Head Coach Tom Cable. Shortly after that, Cable signed on as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach for Pete Carroll’s squad. While Cable’s departure had been abundantly clear in the national media, the players were still somewhat stunned by the dismissal of their beloved players’ coach.

From the early onset of the 2010 offseason, it was clear that Cable was on the hot seat. When Al Davis pretty much forced him to choose between his job and hiring somebody else to run the offense, it was made apparent that the coach/owner relationship had become strained. When that new offensive coordinator was hired, Cable claimed it was all his choice and he was wearing too many hats in 2009, but nobody bought it.

Then when that offensive coordinator, a.k.a. Hue Jackson, started implementing a power blocking scheme toward the end of training camp, the rumors flew about how Cable and Jackson had gotten into it about the offensive line scheme and how the owner had backed the coordinator. Later, in November, it was rumored that the two coaches had butted heads yet again in a coaches meeting. Cable vehemently denied such conduct during his next press conference and claimed that the two were just laughing about the rumor prior to him taking the podium to address the media.

It turns out, Jackson was brought in to be more than an offensive coordinator – ultimately he would replace Cable, meanwhile maintaining his responsibilities as the primary play caller for the team. Cable, however, was highly regarded by some of the Raider players many of whom did not hesitate to follow the coach out the door after finding out they would be unrestricted free agents. Some of those UFA’s were highly touted around the NFL, while others were not so much.

Two of those players decided to take their talent up the west coast to Seattle, without a doubt swayed by Tom Cable’s fatherly presence. Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller said Cable was instrumental on selling him on the Seahawks. The other player, eighth-year guard Robert Gallery, reportedly had become very close to the man who rejuvenated his career by moving him from tackle to guard.

Gallery’s agent had reportedly approached the Raiders about re-signing the guard to a long-term contract worth about $8.5 million per year. The team knew that Gallery had missed a bunch of games over the 2009 and 2010 season and offered him a mere $2.5 million; their thinking was that he still had not proven himself to be reliable in spite of Cable’s change of position. At that point Gallery knew he was being shown the door. Speculation was he’d end up in Seattle with his favorite coach ever, and alas he did.

While Gallery’s loss was expected and did not strike the heart of the fan base or the owner, the signing of Miller by the Seahawks reverberated throughout the organization and sent shock and panic waves through the club. Miller was expected to re-sign right after the Raiders restructured the contract of then franchised outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. But Miller later said that he did not want to wait for the Raiders any longer. By the time he visited Seattle, he had expected his contract to be signed so he could get in with his teammates and get back to work. Miller became frustrated by the Raiders’ lack of action and decided to jump ship.

Miller’s defection presented a whole new problem for a team that was already having salary cap issues. Now they needed to find a tight end, and not just any old tight end, but a number one tight end because they had nobody reliable behind Miller. Think of the Colts’ current quarterback situation – that was the Raiders’ tight end situation until they signed Kevin Boss a few days later. Boss was the best bet on the open market, and reportedly came in at about $3 million less per season than Miller would have. He also came with a Super Bowl ring and a Pro Bowl first alternate nod in 2008.

This upcoming game is laced with tension and animosity along both sidelines as well as in the luxury boxes. Of course the players all want the best for each other, and you’d expect to have the coaches shake hands after and have their little pow-wow before the game. But there’s that little part of you that thinks they are only being professional about it, and that little part of you is right. It is merely professional courtesy; there is no love lost here. It certainly would be more entertaining if this were a regular season match-up, or if the starters were going to play for a while like they did in week three, but this is entertaining enough nonetheless. Again, don’t you wish you could be a fly for just this week?

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