Jon Gruden's bringing Tom Cable back to Raiders raises eyebrows

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Jon Gruden's bringing Tom Cable back to the Oakland Raiders as his offensive line coach is the first head-scratching hire of Gruden’s second tenure in Silver and Blackdom.

Or have you forgotten how Cable’s first run in Oakland ended?

But first, let’s talk scheme.

Cable is, first and foremost, a proponent of the zone-blocking scheme, and the Raiders’ offensive line -- the most expensive line in NFL history -- is most comfortable running power. Running primarily zone schemes last season under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing was a huge detriment to the likes of left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele, center Rodney Hudson, right guard Gabe Jackson and right tackle Marshall Newhouse, and it did not take advantage of the unit’s strength.

If the ZBS was a mistake in 2017, why would using it in 2018 make sense?

According to Pro Football Focus, Cable and the Seattle Seahawks ran outside zone concepts on 41.81 percent of their halfback runs while running inside zone/man concepts 52.51 percent of the time. Just 11 total power/counter concepts (3.68 percent) were called.

Of course, there are ways to utilize zone blocking to fit the Raiders’ skill set in the trenches, such as pull and pin, but as PFF notes, if any offensive-minded coaches can figure it out, Gruden and Cable should be right there.

That seemingly would be good news for Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, who is due a base salary of $4 million in 2018 with a cap number of $6 million.

It was the addition of Lynch to Oakland last season that hastened the switch from power to zone on the line, and Lynch excelled in Seattle after Cable arrived in 2011.

Lynch broke off seasons of 1,204, 1,590, 1,257 and 1,306 yards rushing, with 12, 11, 12 and 13 rushing TDs, in his first four seasons with Cable as Seattle’s O-line coach.

Lynch is more than friendly with Cable. Asked his initial thoughts on the Seahawks’ O-line coach before Super Bowl XLVIII, Lynch did not hold back.

“Well, being from Oakland, all I knew about him was that he punched people,” Lynch said at the time. “That’s my type of person.”

Which brings us back to Cable’s stormy departure from Oakland after two-and-a-half years as Raiders head coach.

Cable did indeed change the culture in Oakland after replacing Lane Kiffin five games into the 2008 season. But even as he ended a seven-year streak of at least 11 losses by the Raiders with an 8-8 season in 2010, which included a 6-0 mark against the AFC West, his “we’re not losers any more” comment did not sit well with Al Davis.

“If that’s not being a loser in our world, I don’t know what is,” Davis said. “Come on, .500? That’s never been my goal.”

Plus, Davis fined Cable $120,000 from his last six game checks for the, ahem, strain he put the organization under as a result of lawsuits accusing him of assaulting assistant coach Randy Hanson and an ex-girlfriend.

Hanson accused Cable of breaking his jaw and knocking out some teeth in a training camp scrap by throwing him against a hotel room wall, with the left side of his face hitting a table. Hanson claimed Cable hit him again while he was on the floor, prompting assistants Willie Brown, John Marshall and Lionel Washington to pull Cable away.

After the story broke, Raiders players greeted Cable on the field with chants of “Cable, bumaye,” hearkening the chants Muhammad Ali heard in "The Rumble in the Jungle" against George Foreman.

Davis was not so, um, enthusiastic.

“Can’t get the story,” Davis said. “You know, it’s like Gitmo. Trying to find out: Did they waterboard those guys or not? No, really, it’s hard to believe. How many guys went in? Four guys went into the room with a guy, the guy comes out with a broken jaw, and no one saw it.”

Cable also was accused of physical abuse by three women, including two ex-wives, and Davis referenced those allegations as further reason for firing Cable, even as Davis allowed Cable to coach after the incidents purportedly happened.

Expect Raiders owner Mark Davis to have a sit-down with Cable and/or Gruden in the near future. Davis has a “zero tolerance” policy for domestic violence.

Cable's return to Oakland might not be as incredible a development as Gruden coming back, but it’s in the same conversation. Especially when you consider Cable’s comments in his final appearance as Raiders coach, when he was asked if he had any regrets from that 2010 season.

“Not a one,” Cable said. “I wish we were better in the turnover department. I wish we were better in the penalty department. I also like the fact we play our butts off, and we’ll hit you in the mouth.”