It was time for what seems to be the annual news conference circus at Raider headquarters in Alameda. This time there was no overhead projector involved as there was when “Lance” Kiffin was fired “with cause” and Davis never had to ask for any information on his newly hired coach as he did with Tom Cable initially. This one went down much more as you would expect any coaching hire news conference to go down. But with this being the Raiders as well as Al Davis sitting for a rare question and answer session (something he hasn’t done since September of ’09), the subject matter went from coaches, to players past and present, to stadium issues. And it was just as informative and entertaining as ever.
It started with Al Davis speaking for about ten minutes about how excited he is with the Raiders’ current players. He made special mention of the newest members of the team making a big impact. He is pleased most with the draft class and the acquisition of Jason Campbell at quarterback, taking another opportunity to compare Campbell to some of the great quarterbacks of the past that had slow starts such as Brett Favre and John Elway. Then he turned it over to Hue Jackson saying he is “proud as hell” to introduce him.
Hue Jackson began by thanking his family, his manager, and the Raider organization, with a special thank you to “Coach Davis” for this opportunity. He then listed off several players saying, “We have some tremendous players on the offensive side of the ball: Darren McFadden, Jason Campbell, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, Michael Bush, just to name a few.” The inclusion of Darrius Heyward-Bey to that list of “tremendous players” is questionable at best. But Jackson got this job in part because he knows what to do and say to please Al Davis. Mentioning DHB with that sentiment is clearly one of those things.
Jackson went on to praise the play of rookie left tackle Jared Veldheer: “As a rookie, coming in and playing like he played for us, the future is so bright on the offensive side of the ball.”
The new coach then moved to the defense where he started with “Ronaldo McClain.” No, that is not a typo, he pronounced his name “Ronaldo.” So it seems one of Hue’s first orders of business will be to get to know his defensive players a little better. He went on to call Richard Seymour, Matt Shaughnessy, and Tyvon Branch the “cornerstones” of the defense.
He proceeded to praise the team’s accomplishments in 2010, but each time he mentioned something positive, he quickly added a disclaimer about it not being good enough. We all saw how displeased Al Davis was when Cable appeared pleased with an 8-8 season. Jackson was sure not to take that same approach.
“This is a very young talented team that this past season did very well in the AFC West,” said Jackson. “Obviously we were 6-0 in the AFC West and we all know we gotta learn how to do better outside of our division, but that challenge is something we’re looking forward to… We were the second ranked rushing team in football. We did score points, obviously not enough to our liking, where we want to go — but we think again the players are in place for us to have an opportunity to get it done.”
Jackson reserved his optimism for what he thinks the Raiders are capable of accomplishing in future. He went as far as to say, “There’s no question that we’re gonna win this division and we’re gonna get in those playoffs and we’re gonna challenge for the Super Bowl.” No mincing words there.
He said his two reasons for joining the Raiders were: “1) I’m from California and I love being back home, but 2) The opportunity to work for Coach Davis.” He added that Al Davis was “one of the greatest coaches of our time.” He even went as far as to name every owner he has worked for in the NFL and that none of them compare to Al Davis. He listed off Dan Snyder, Mike Brown, Arthur Blank, and Steve Bisciotti saying that in his years under those owners he never had the opportunity to sit and talk football with them the way he can with Davis.
When Jackson took a moment to mention the Raider coaches that “did everything we could to get this organization where we wanted it to be,” the only two names mentioned were Mike Waufle and Kevin Ross who happen to be the only two coaches still under contract.
One of the most revealing moments came when Jackson was asked about the possibility of Al Saunders coming aboard as the offensive coordinator, to which Jackson said that he will remain the primary play caller. That was one of the big questions — if Hue Jackson became the head coach, would he also still call the plays? That is important because then the questions surround whether he can pull double duty. If he were to give up play calling duties, the questions would surround whether the offense would function as well under yet another new offensive system.
Jackson did leave open the possibility of bringing in Al Saunders or another offensive mind to work with him in an offensive capacity.
The questions shifted back to Al Davis at which point Davis immediately began talking up Jason Campbell and again compared him to great quarterbacks of the past. This time it was Steve Young, Elway again, and Rich Gannon.
Davis was asked many times why Cable was not brought back, about which he spoke at great length. He said the primary reason was because Cable couldn’t handle the head coaching and play calling duties. He said that his bringing in of Jackson to take over play calling should have been the first clue, saying of Cable, “I just didn’t think he could do it.” Davis and Cable also didn’t see eye to eye on the use of the zone blocking scheme. Davis pointed out that Cable is “a zone blocking purist.”
The other reasons Davis gave for Cable’s dismissal were dealing with the Randy Hanson assault incident causing “turmoil in our coaching staff” as well as the separate accusations of domestic abuse that came later. He also said, “We had a spouse accuse the head coach of personal relations that were not good. And at that time there were a lot of people who wanted me to take action.”
For those reasons, Davis made it clear that he intended on firing Cable even before the 2010 season. He even said that it wouldn’t have mattered if the Raiders had made the playoffs. He claimed his only reason for not firing Cable before the season began was he didn’t want to cause more turmoil for the team. He also said that he didn’t consider firing Cable midseason either, since he “wanted to see how we finished.”
News came out recently that Cable had been fined $120,000 by the Raiders for undetermined reasons. Davis said that he was taking $20,000 a month from Cable for the final six months of his contract for the legal fees resulting from the lawsuit filed against the Raiders by the woman Cable was accused of assaulting. Davis added he had to deal with “the wrath [Cable] brought on the Raider organization.” Yet another coach Davis has made sure left the complex a bit lighter in the wallet.
In non-Cable news, Davis compared Jackson to John Gruden. A surprising statement by Davis but specifically pointed to the comparison in terms of his offensive coaching. He said they were both “feisty.”
Al, of course, got in his usual mentions of the successful draft picks and player trades and acquisitions to remind everyone that he’s still got it. In particular he mentioned drafting Asomugha, trading for Seymour, trading for Jason Campbell, and the Raiders’ 2010 draft class. He didn’t bring up JaMarcus Russell or Darrius Heyward-Bey in that statement although he was asked about Russell at one point and blamed Russell’s personal problems for his downfall. I suppose that’s fair if you consider having no work ethic or ambition and being grossly overweight as personal problems.
The last subject briefly discussed was the issue of a new stadium. Davis said he would prefer a new stadium on the same site in Oakland where the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum currently stands. He would not comment on his feelings with regard to sharing a stadium with the 49ers.