Since UCLA fired head coach Rick Neuheisel, the rumors that UCLA and Tom Cable are mutually interested in one another is something that should be disturbing to Seahawks fans.
If you’re head coach Pete Carroll it should be particularly troubling, but it’s the chance you take when hiring a guy like Cable and it speaks volumes about Carroll himself. A less secure head coach hires assistants that aren’t a threat to him or won’t be plucked from his staff.
You must have the guts to hire coaches that are so good that you run the risk of losing them to the coaching carousel that takes place every year at the professional and college level. That’s what Carroll signed up for when he hired Cable back in January.
After the Seahawks ran for 165 yards against the Cowboys’ fourth-ranked rush defense, I interviewed Cable with Bob and Groz on “The Huddle.” It’s easy to see why the Raiders hired him as their head coach in 2008. Cable is a born leader and during our time with him on the air, you could feel that “it” factor that will land him on a lot of teams’ short list when looking to hire a new head coach.
The “it” factor is often talked about yet rarely explained. The best explanation I can give is that you just know you should respect Tom Cable. It’s the way he carries himself, the look in his eyes and the words he chooses. Not everyone has it, and Wade Phillips, the superb defensive coordinator of the Texans’ top-ranked defense, was a perfect example of that. Wade is a great football coach but not a head coach, and I figured that out in Denver when I played for him during the 1993-94 seasons.
I did experience it during my days with the Chuck Knox Seahawks though. I remember sitting in the main meeting room before Chuck came in to address the team every morning. The room would be raucous and loud, guys talking and telling stories, but when Chuck came through the door, the room went dead silent. Not once did he have to ask for anyone’s attention.
The first order of business every day was coach Knox’s list of fines. There were fines for being overweight, late for meetings or missing appointments for treatment with the team trainer. The dollar amount was usually in the $50-$150 range and no threat to anyone. It was the fact that he was calling you out in front of the team that was the threat. You didn’t want Chuck singling you out for anything. A successful year for me was when Chuck never mentioned my name at all.
It’s not as if Chuck could beat me up and there were years that I made nearly as much money as he did. I was never worried that he would scream at me or berate me in front of the team. But he had that “it” factor. It was similar to the way I always felt about my father. Because I held him in such high regard, I cared what he thought of me.
This is the respect that Cable has from his players and the main reason the Seahawks signed offensive guard Robert Gallery. You could argue that Gallery’s play doesn’t warrant the contract he signed but his real value is that the younger players see that Gallery would run through a brick wall for Cable.
Cable’s value as an assistant is that Carroll put a lot of stock in Cable’s opinion and it’s starting to pay off. Since the beginning of training camp, we were promised a running game. Cable was the guru responsible for some of the best rushing attacks in the NFL in years past, and with his input in April’s draft, the Hawks took some surprise picks in offensive linemen James Carpenter and John Moffitt. The signing of Gallery and tight end Zach Miller were also on Cable’s wish list.
Just as Seahawks fans were beginning to lose faith, the Hawks went to Dallas and ran for 162 yards against the Cowboys, one of the best front-seven defensive teams in the league. The NFL’s leading sack artist, DeMarcus Ware, was held sackless and running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 135 yards.
Since then, the Hawks have ran for 141 yards per game, an average that would place them in the top five in the league at this point. Lynch has averaged 118 yards and that would put him 24 yards ahead of Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy, who leads the NFL in rushing yards. The injury-plagued line held Baltimore (No. 1 in sacks) to a single sack and the Washington Redskins (No. 3 in sacks) to two. That’s with Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini starting in place of Carpenter and Moffitt. Zach Miller’s blocking prowess has been evident but now his pass catching ability is beginning to show why he was a Pro-Bowler with Cable down in Oakland.
With Friday’s news that left tackle Russell Okung is out for the year, Cable’s skills will really be put to the test as he plugs in a replacement for Tarvaris Jackson’s blind side. If the Hawks offense can continue to run the ball and protect Jackson with 60 percent of his offensive line depleted, Cable’s reputation in Seattle will be set in stone.
But don’t fret, 12th Man. The good news is that professional football teams can pay their coaches as much as they want. Mr. Allen may want to provide a little extra incentive to keep Cable on board – there’s no salary cap for coaches.
Furthermore, Cable strikes me as a guy who wants to just teach football. At the professional level, there’s no babysitting players’ grade point averages or attending pep rallies with boosters. It’s all about doing what Cable does best – coaching football. I don’t see Cable, a Snohomish native, buying into the glitz of a Southern California, powder-blue-jersey-wearing program like UCLA. I doubt he has the patience for recruiting, either. Especially in today’s world of YouTube press conferences and parents asking the question, “What are YOU going to do for my little Johnny?”
During a visit with then Stanford head coach Buddy Teevens back in 2004, he told me a story that is the kind of story I’m sure Cable is wary of.
While Teevens was an assistant coach at Florida, he was in charge of recruiting a high-profile player in Atlanta. As Letter of Intent Day drew near, the kid told Teevens that he was going to sign with Florida and asked him to come to his press conference for the signing.
Teevens made all of the necessary plans, kissed his wife and kids goodbye and hopped on an Atlanta-bound airplane. At the press conference, the kid took the podium in an orange Florida T-shirt and cap as promised. He then ripped off the Florida shirt, revealing a bright red University of Georgia T-shirt, tossed the Gator hat into the crowd and declared, “I’m going to Georgia!”
Come on, Tom, you don’t need that!