SEATTLE – Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable is a product of Snohomish, Wash., where he played for one of the state’s legendary high-school coaches, Dick Armstrong.
But while he grew up here, he just didn’t grow up a Seahawks fan because by the time the franchise played its first game in 1976, Cable was an 11-year-old who had cast his loyalties.
“I’d always been a Raiders fan,” he said.
That’s the kind of clout the Raiders used to wield, a franchise with so much swagger its allure extended two states, appealing to a kid in Snohomish County.
Now, the former University of Idaho coach is the Raiders coach, trying to resuscitate one of the league’s truly iconic franchises. Iconic and for the last seven seasons largely irrelevant. The Raiders have lost at least 11 games in every season since 2002. “The Team for All Decades,” is a franchise motto. “Not so much this past decade,” is a more accurate reality.
That could be about to change. The Seattle Seahawks will arrive in Oakland this weekend to play in front of an unwaveringly rabid fan base that is hoping their Raiders are finally rebounding after scraping bottom repeatedly the past few years.
Oakland beat Denver 59-14 last week, the most points the Raiders have scored in their 50-year history. At 3-4 this season, is it possible that these Raiders have turned the corner?
“The feeling is there that this is the type of standard that we set, these are the things that we can do,” Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. “But in order to completely turn the corner, we have to put together a string of wins.”
The Raiders haven’t won consecutive games since December 2008.
It didn’t used to be like this. The Raiders were not just Seattle’s division rival in the AFC West, but its measuring stick. It was the Raiders who beat the Seahawks with a Super Bowl berth on the line in January 1984, and the Raiders whom the Seahawks beat in a playoff game in the Kingdome the following season.
As recently as 2002, the Raiders remained among the league’s heavyweights. They played Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl that season, and then promptly took a header into cellar. Oakland hasn’t won more than five games in any season since then.
And it’s too bad. The league is more interesting when the Raiders are relevant. In the increasingly corporate climate that is today’s NFL, they’re a team as unique as their owner, Al Davis. Their silver-and-black color scheme has come to symbolize the rebellious streak woven into the fabric of this franchise and its fan base.
“This place is notorious,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, talking about the fans at the Oakland Coliseum.
In a league full of diehard fans, the Raiders’ following carries a reputation that isn’t just renowned, but infamous. In 1993, Carroll came to Los Angeles – the Raiders’ former home – as the Jets’ defensive coordinator.
“I’ll never forget that our players from the Jets didn’t want to get off the bus because of all the guys that were hanging around,” Carroll said.
Plenty has changed since that afternoon, but on Sunday the Seahawks will be facing a franchise attempting to rekindle the success that once was standard.
Around the league
Brett Favre (ankle) missed his second straight day of practice for the Minnesota Vikings, and will likely be a game-time decision Sunday against the Patriots. … St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (finger) said he will play Sunday when the Carolina Panthers visit the Rams on Sunday. … Saints running backs Pierre Thomas (ankle) and Reggie Bush (leg) both missed practice and are listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers … The New York Giants have placed defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka on injured reserve with a neck injury.