Given a slight nudge from their rivals across the bay, the Oakland Raiders will begin their 17th season since returning to Northern California with their ninth different head coach.
On the same day they granted permission to the San Francisco 49ers to speak with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson for their head coaching vacancy, the Raiders put the following announcement on their Web site: "The Oakland Raiders will not extend the contract of Tom Cable for the position of head coach.
Cable was informed that his contract would not be extended on Tuesday. If the Raiders had extended the contract, Cable would have been owed $2.5 million per season in 2011 and 2012.
Cable, whose contract expired at the conclusion of the 2010 season, posted a 17-27 regular season record as head coach of the Raiders." It went on to express gratitude to Cable for his contributions.
Despite the Raiders' improvement to an 8-8 record, the first time in seven years they didn't have 11 or more losses, the move did not come as a major surprise.
Cable's contract had expired with a two-year extension at the club's option. At the same time, first-year offensive coordinator Jackson, hand-picked by Davis the year before, rejuvenated one of the NFL's most inept offenses.
Given that Jackson is a minority candidate who satisfies the Rooney Rule, he was bound to attract notice as a head coaching candidate. It happened almost immediately when the San Francisco 49ers came calling.
Although considered a longshot for the 49ers job, for which Jackson interviewed Wednesday, Davis was faced with the possibility of losing either his coordinator or his head coach.
Jackson's stated goal is to become a head coach, something he and Davis no doubt talked about at length in the interview which brought him to the Raiders from the Baltimore Ravens.
The 49ers request was a formality, as the Raiders can't deny permission to talk to a coach who could be in line for a promotion from head coach to coordinator. They're expected to be making serious run at Jim Harbaugh, and those close to Jackson said he expects to be talking to Davis very soon.
At Cable's season-ending press conference on Monday, as well as in a Sirius Satellite Radio interview less than an hour before the club announced he wouldn't return, he was expressing hope to remain the Raiders' coach.
He attempted to brush aside speculation he wouldn't return by ESPN's Adam Schefter and former Raiders' executive Mike Lombardi of the NFL Network by invoking the Raiders' past history of head coaches.
"I think it's more the culture of what it's been like here," Cable said. "It's been so up and down for a number of years. Am I surprised by it? No. I'd like for it to just go away and have Al and I sit down and discuss it, which we will. I know what we've done.
"I think everybody else who knows football knows what we've done. Whoever says it or writes it probably doesn't know what the hell they're doing. You can quote that."
Given how quickly the Raiders' announcement came after the Sirius interview, there wasn't much of a discussion involved -- only a pink slip.
Before that pink slip arrived, Cable expressed his desire to keep his job.
"It's out of my hands. I want to be head coach of the Oakland Raiders," Cable said. "If that's not to be, by someone else's decision, then I'll be a head coach somewhere else. If not, I'll coach the (offensive) line for somebody, and I can do that pretty darn good. I want to be the head coach here. I just don't have any control over it."
Although Davis has not spoken at length to the media in 15 months other than a brief talk with Gil Brandt on Sirius Radio, his main issue with Cable is that although the Raiders improved to .500, he felt the talent was such that the Raiders should have been a playoff team.
The Raiders went 6-0 in the AFC West, a huge point of pride within the team, and were 2-8 outside of it.
There was also the handling of quarterback Jason Campbell, who Davis compared to two-time Raiders Super Bowl winning quarterback Jim Plunkett in the Brandt interview but was benched twice in favor of Bruce Gradkowski.
The first time came at halftime of a 16-14 win over St. Louis, with Gradkowski eventually sustaining a right separated throwing shoulder and giving way to Campbell, who was quarterback during a three-game win streak.
When the Raiders came off the bye with a 5-4 record and Campbell struggled against Pittsburgh in a 35-3 loss, Gradkowski was given back the starting role in a pivotal home game against Miami that the Raiders lost 33-17, dropping them back below .500.
--Left guard Robert Gallery, who got a stalled career going when coach Tom Cable switched him from left tackle to guard, as disappointed with the coaching change.
"I think it was obviously a huge surprise with the progress we made from last year to this year," Gallery said. "But I guess the owner made a decision for his reasons. Our locker room is definitely behind coach Cable. I think this is going to hit 99 percent of the room really hard because people respected how he dealt with us and where we were headed."
--Campbell, benched twice during the season by Cable in favor of Bruce Gradkowski, took a "sports is a business" approach to word of a new coach.
"I think it probably came down to the relationship between Mr. Davis and coach Cable and their view on things and how they saw things," Campbell said in a Sirius Radio interview. "I really didn't get a chance to see that, because I was always in offensive meetings and I got there late in the offseason so I really didn't get a chance to be around coach Cable a whole lot one-on-one and be around Mr. Davis one-on-one."
Cable, who always seemed to qualify his remarks with regard to Campbell, noting some limitations, continued to do so in his radio interview just before he was let go.
"As long as you do the things around him, meaning, run the football, run the football, run the football, and let him explode with deep passes, we have a chance because we certainly have some talent at the receiver position," Cable said.
Notably, Hue Jackson was more effusive in his praise of Campbell when he talked with reporters going into the season finale.
"Jason is a young man who can stand in the pocket and throw it and obviously has the ability to move around and throw the ball," Jackson said. "I am surprised by his mobility and ability to make plays outside the pocket. He's done it, but not to the extent he's doing it now."
Campbell, for his part said he and Jackson had melded as the season went on.
"We have a better feel for each other," Campbell said. "You don't just come out of the middle of nowhere and light it up. It takes time to get to know each other, to know my strengths ad well as what I need to work on."
--P Shane Lechler, initially the Raiders most outspoken critic of Cable being let go, is concerned that it will hurt the team in free agency. The Raiders have 27 players whose contracts expire, although many of them may be restricted in terms of movement depending on how the CBA shakes out.
"I think it's going to influence a lot of guys' decisions," Lechler said. "You're going to for darned sure lose Robert Gallery now. You're going to lose Michael Bush, for sure. You're going to lose a bunch of guys that are great football players because of the move. I've talked to them, I'm friends with them, I know what they're going to do."
Gallery was still processing the news but said free agency would be an option.
"It's definitely something to think about," Gallery said. "Coach Cable and everyone else knows how I feel about him and the things he did as far as getting my career back on track. He's a guy I wanted to play for. We'll have to see what happens when free agency does come."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The last time I was this disappointed was when Jon Gruden was traded to Tampa. We went to the Super Bowl that next year but I'm not so sure that wasn't with Jon's team." -- Raiders punter Shane Lechler on the decision of Al Davis to not pick up the option on Tom Cable.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With the change in head coaches, it remains to be seen whether the Raiders will continue to be what is essentially a run-first team that relies heavily on play-action passes.
The play-calling and offensive philosophy was that of Jackson, but outgoing coach Tom Cable had at least some influence and made it clear he wanted the Raiders to be a tough, physical running team against all else.
When the Raiders strayed from being persistent with the run, Cable would occasionally note it during his weekly press briefings without mentioning Jackson directly.
Wide receiver: Louis Murphy was once again the team's leading receiver with 41 catches. A veteran presence is needed here, and coordinator Hue Jackson, if he's named head coach, has a good relationship with Chad Ochocinco.
Offensive line: As good as the Raiders were running the ball, their pass protection was spotty at best and it's possible second-year lineman Bruce Campbell will not be ready to step in at right guard should the Raiders replace Cooper Carlisle. Right tackle is also an issue.
Safety: Starting free safety Michael Huff can void his contract, and starting strong safety Tyvon Branch had lots of tackles but missed a lot too, in addition to surrendering eight touchdown passes.
MEDICAL WATCH: The Raiders were remarkably healthy in 2010, with the only major injury being a torn ACL by defensive end Trevor Scott. Scott was well into the rehab process as the season ended and is expected to be ready by training camp. Bruce Gradkowski, on I.R. with a twice-separated throwing shoulder, was playing on a one-year tender. The injuries which kept Richard Seymour (hamstring strain) and Darren McFadden (turf toe) out of the season finale were considered relatively minor.