Those who have known Tom Cable since his days at Snohomish High School know two things about the Oakland Raiders’ new head coach.
His latest job will not be easy, and the tough-minded Cable is just the kind of man who can handle it.
“He’s very driven,” said Snohomish High athletic director Mark Albertine, who was a Panthers assistant football coach when Cable was a senior there in 1981-82. “He’s not one to go around the problems; he’s one to take them head-on.”
In Cable’s new gig, that might be just the personality needed to succeed. He was named head coach of the Raiders earlier this week, shortly after Lane Kiffin was fired because of a long-standing tiff with owner Al Davis.
The 79-year-old Davis has pushed aside plenty of head coaches — Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden went on to win Super Bowls after Davis ran them out of town — and has gained a reputation of being a difficult owner.
Cable, who was the Raiders’ offensive line coach before getting promoted on Tuesday, said earlier this week that a one-on-one conversation with Davis convinced him that the opportunity was too good to pass up.
“When I heard in his voice that he believed that I could take his football team (and) his organization where he wants it to go, that is all that I needed to hear,” Cable told reporters in Oakland on Tuesday, according to a transcript on the team’s website. “Because my passion and my love for the game, my love for the players and coaches that I work with every day, it does not wane.
“Once that I heard it in his voice that he believed in me, I knew that this was the right thing to do.”
Davis is not the only hurdle in Cable’s sudden gig. The Raiders haven’t won more than five games in a season since 2002, and they’re off to a 1-3 start this year.
There’s also the difficulty of taking over a team after the start of an NFL season.
“As I could tell you, sometimes taking over something very late is not always the optimum deal,” said Seattle Seahawks receivers coach Keith Gilbertson, who coached Cable at the University of Idaho. “So I’m hoping for the best for him.
“I feel bad for Lane Kiffin; he’s a good guy. But I’m rooting for Tom. He’s a bright guy, and I’m thinking he’s going to do a good job.”
Asked whether he was comparing Cable’s situation to the one that Gilbertson inherited at the University of Washington, the Seahawks’ assistant shook his head and held up his hands.
“I’m not equating it to anything,” he said. “This is just an old coach saying that sometimes things are very, very difficult. You’ve just got to bow your neck and go.”
Cable played under Gilbertson’s father, Keith Sr., at Snohomish High before graduating in 1982. Gilbertson Jr. recruited him to the University of Idaho, where Cable was a three-year starter at guard. He eventually joined the Vandals’ staff as a graduate assistant, kicking off a 22-year coaching career that would take him to San Diego State, Cal State Fullerton, Nevada-Las Vegas, Cal, Colorado, UCLA and, two years ago, to the NFL.
Cable, who finished his collegiate career as UCLA’s offensive coordinator, joined the Atlanta Falcons in what would become Jim Mora’s final year as head coach there in 2006.
“I’m excited for him,” Mora, the Seahawks’ defensive backs coach, said Wednesday. “I think he’ll do a tremendous job. I think the players will play really hard for him. It’ll be fun to watch.”
Said Albertine: “I would expect his players to be ready to play. He’s very thorough. He was a physical player, and I believe his team will play the same way.”
Cable’s only other experience as a head coach came at his alma mater. He went 11-35 as head coach at Idaho from 2000 through 2003 before getting fired and moving on to UCLA.
Cable, 43, is believed to be only the second Snohomish County native to serve as head coach of an NFL team. Everett High School graduate Dennis Erickson spent four seasons as head coach of the Seahawks and another two with the San Francisco 49ers.
Gilbertson, also a Snohomish native, and Cable are the only county products currently serving on NFL coaching staffs. Despite their age difference — Gilbertson turned 60 in May — the pair has maintained a close relationship over the years.
“The game came easily to him in terms of learning and understanding it,” Gilbertson said Wednesday when asked what coaching traits he saw in Cable as a college player. “He could verbalize it back to the youngsters. And he was really a tough-minded player. He was a good, college football player.”
Gilbertson believes Cable will succeed in his new job for one reason above all others.
“It’s what he always wanted to do,” Gilbertson said.