ALAMEDA – Tom Cable had options choosing his next coaching job after leaving the Seattle Seahawks. The respected offensive line coach wasn't initially sure if the Raiders were the right fit.
After all, he and the franchise had a history.
The former Raiders head coach, and position coach before that, was fired and then shredded by late owner Al Davis in an hour-long press conference held to announce Cable's successor.
Honestly, it was a mess.
Cable took Jon Gruden's call anyway, and agreed to meet him in Alameda. Skepticism remained, however until he formally landed at Oakland International Airport.
"Once I got off the plane, it was like being at home," Cable said Thursday. "I really think from the car ride over from the airport to here, it was great peace. Then when I went through the gate, it was like this is where I belong."
Cable didn't know Gruden well before this winter's meeting, but bonded quickly over a shared old-school football mentality, shared experience of being a head coach under Al Davis and dueling impressions of the late Raiders owner.
Davis traded Gruden to Tampa Bay in early 2002 for a king's ransom. Davis fired Cable after two-plus seasons, the last of which was an 8-8 campaign in 2010 and the Raiders first non-losing season since the year Gruden left.
"When I left here, I left here and I didn't want to. That's just the truth," Cable said. "I put that team back and got it up off the mat. Dusted itself off, got to .500 and then we're going to change. It was like unfinished business. It was really kind of natural and a comfortable decision to be back and wear these colors again."
Cable could've held a grudge. Davis fined him $120,000 to cover potential legal costs, then publicly explained why while new head coach Hue Jackson and family sat in awkward silence.
Davis brought up a 2009 incident in Napa, where Cable allegedly punched then lower-level assistant Randy Hanson and broke his jaw. Davis unearthed allegations of physical abuse by multiple women first reported by ESPN, including a lawsuit brought by an ex-girlfriend who named the Raiders as a co-defendant. Davis also brought up Cable violating team rules by bringing his girlfriend with him on the road.
The lawsuit was settled, and no charges were filed in aforementioned legal incidents. Cable was not punished by the NFL.
Cable, a Modesto native and longtime Raiders fan, didn't let a relationship strained impact how he thinks of Al Davis and the Silver and Black.
"All the great things that Al Davis had done; to me, those are valuable," Cable said. "Did we always get along? No. There are not a lot of people that probably got along with him all the time. My respect for him is unblemished. I think that's where people would say, ‘Why aren't you bitter?' Well, because you see for me it's different. He's a teacher to me. He's a mentor to me. Whether I get along with him or not, wasn't the issue. I took so much from him."
Al Davis orchestrated several eras of Raiders greatness. Cable believes Gruden can drive the next one. Cable wanted to get there as Raiders head coach, and that dream hasn't died.
"I think for guys like he and I, at least as I get to know him, it's more personal. You know?" Cable said. "This has been my team since I was a little boy, so it's not like it changed because I got run out of town. It probably just made it a little bit deeper for me, which is cool. That's why I'm here."
Cable is here to get a hulking, expensive offensive line playing to vast potential. He is here to help Marshawn Lynch run strong and resurrect Doug Martin's career.
Cable's a tough guy, a good teacher and more diverse than he reputation as a zone-schemer suggests.
"With Cable it's definitely one of those things where it's a challenge and a strain, mentally," left guard Kelechi Osemele said. "He kind of wants to ‘dick with you,' as he would say. Like kind of mess with you a little bit. Kind of see if he can catch you with some trick questions and stuff like that. Make sure that you're actually studying. … It's just tough coaching with Cable, so that's been good."
Returning to the East Bay as been a positive experience thus far, working with old friend Marshawn Lynch, an established interior line and rookie tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker.
Getting the offensive line right will be key to Cable's ultimate goal of helping the Raiders sustain success. His unceremonious exit from the Raiders early this decade won't change that.
"To have the opportunity to come back and help make this right, like the vision I had earlier was and to help Jon see this though the right way, that's pretty powerful to me," Cable said. "I don't really think there's any place for bitterness. I think this is a chance to really go back and say, ‘This is where I belong, this is where I'm supposed to be.' And I look forward to it."