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.
I know believing in Al Davis is not the "politically" correct thing to do at the moment, especially after his numerous blunders in the draft, free agency, and the coaching carosel we are forced to endure. However, through all of Al Davis' mistakes, he did field an incredibally talented team this year, and the fact that Tom Cable was happy with an 8-8 record with as good a team as he had to coach, and the fact that we went 6-0 in the division and missed the playoffs is an absolute disgrace, and Cable deserved to be released of his coaching duties, regardless of how popular he was with the fans and the players. The Raiders are a very good team now. This is is a team that has the ability to make a very deep run in the playoffs and Al Davis knows this. He also knows that he needs a coach with a high football IQ to take this team to the next level. Hue Jackson is that man. Whether you believe it or not, Raiderdoc, I do, and everywhere Hue has been, he has left a positive impact. Look at his work with Carson Palmer and Joe Flacco, two great quarterbacks in this league. Both players loved him, and have said nothing but positive things and how great a coach he was. Ochocinco said he was one of the very best coaches he has played for and would love to play for him on the Raiders, and has the utmost respect for him both as a man and a coach. Player respect is huge, especially considering the caliber of the players I mentioned, and if you still doubt Hue Jackson, just look at how the Raider offense improved under his direction. Nitpick all you want about a few mistakes he made over the year, but you cannot discount the overall play of our offense this year, and the numbers back it up. Bottom line, improved numbers equals success, and the Raiders had their best season in (8) years because of an offensive turnaround, that was led by HUE. In my mind, he is without question deserving of the promotion. Also, I am very impressed by his background, his connection with the players, his IQ for the game, and his dynamic personality. Hue is a winner, and I firmly believe that the Raiders struck gold with him, and if you cannot accept that Raiderdoc, than that is on you. I can only express what I believe, and I truely believe in Hue Jackson, and know that Al Davis did his homework on this hire, and in a years time, you will see why I and so many others believe that Hue Jackson is the perfect fit for the Oakland Raiders....
Hue's attitude is great. He is going to be an incredible fit for this organization, and Davis is right on when he compares Hue to Gruden. Many people doubted Gruden upon his hire, and he turned out to be one of the best Raider coaches in years. The same doubt is casted by many Raider fans with Jackson, however, we all just need to trust Al Davis' decision on this one and support him, as GREAT things are bound to happen with a charismatic, dynamic and highly intelligent guy like Hue calling the shots. Remember folks, Mike Tomlin was criticized by many upon his hire, and the Steelers are now poised to contend for a second Superbowl victory under him. Hue Jackson has that Tomlin fire and special vibe, and we are one hell of a lucky team to have him on our side....
Spartacus, I appreciate your enthusiasm for Hue, and his enthusiasm for everything, but why do you feel we should "trust Al" given his recent history of giving us no reason to trust him? I mean come on, you have seen the nearly bi-yearly press conferences declaring coach X the "next great Raider coach." The only time he has been correct in 20 years was Gruden, and we all know how great Davis must have thought Gruden was given he was traded and not worth keeping around.
I agree Hue has some potential, and I am hopeful, but there really is no evidence he is much of anything. There are a lot of really enthusiastic guys who can do a thing. We don't need a cheerleader, we need a coach. As I've stated elsewhere, I don't even give Hue credit for the offensive turn around. 99.9% of the credit for that goes to Jamarcus Russell. If Hue had Russell as QB we would be just as bad. The offense was infinitely better in the games even before Hue when Jamarcus was out. Then you look at some of the insane play calling where we tried to be a passing team against team and abandoned the run, I have to question exactly how smart Hue is. When you have Bush and McFadden, why would you turn to Campbell and DHB? We did this multiple times during the season and it more than anything else cost us the playoffs. Maybe it was Cable or Al over riding what Hue wanted to do, but Hue gets the credit when it goes well, he should get the blame when it goes bad.
I truly truly hope I am wrong, but given the recent history with Davis I am going to have to take a wait and see attitude. Hope and pull for the best. Kind of expect the worst. Cheer and yell and pull for the Raiders either way...
All due respect to Al, and while I have not seen the conference yet, it does sound like he was a little more put together than some past conferences. That said, the man is an idiot sometimes. He is quoted as saying "That lawsuit created a tremendous amount of work, stress and turmoil," ... my god, is he kidding? Is that lawsuit really in the top 10... or even top 20 items of stress and turmoil in Raiderland?
Oh well... hopefully Hue will continue the turn around, and Al can find enough money to keep most of the free agents that are the reason we made progress. We finally took a step forward, the nation deserves a team that doesn't take any more backward.