Hiring Hue Jackson is the only choice

The San Francisco 49ers sealed Tom Cable’s fate on Tuesday when they asked permission to talk to Oakland offensive coordinator Hue Jackson about their vacant head-coaching opening.

Apparently, Oakland owner Al Davis felt he had no choice but to respond by creating a head-coaching opening of his own.

Hours after the 49ers began their pursuit of Jackson -- who was immensely successful as Oakland’s offensive coordinator in his first season with the team in 2010 -- Davis announced Cable would not be brought back even though the Raiders finished 8-8, their best record since 2002.

Call it a coincidence if you like, but the reason Cable is out is because Davis didn’t want to lose Jackson to the 49ers.

Davis likely couldn’t stand the thought of seeing Bay Area rival San Francisco have a resurgence with Jackson as head coach. It’s been rumored since Jackson was hired as offensive coordinator last offseason that Davis wanted to make him the head coach. So, with the threat of another team coming after Jackson, Davis began the process of making him his coach.

While I don’t think Cable deserved to be canned after the progress Oakland made this season, the only reason this move can make some sense is if Jackson is hired as head coach. It will be a disaster if Oakland is left without Cable and Jackson.

I’m not sure if Jackson will make a great head coach, but he made a great impact on Oakland’s offense this season. Oakland was sixth in the NFL in points and 10th in yards gained in 2010. In 2009, it was 31st in points and 31st in yards. The combination of the release of quarterback JaMarcus Russell and the addition of Jackson paid dividends for Oakland.

Oakland’s running game flourished, especially third-year running back Darren McFadden. The Raiders were more aggressive on offense and attacked defenses unlike in recent seasons. Like Jackson himself, the Oakland offense was loud and brassy. Still, the quarterbacks and receivers were inconsistent and the Raiders committed too many penalties. Jackson will have to work on those areas if he is the next head coach.

If Oakland had to make a change, it must ensure it will maintain the same momentum Cable started and keep Jackson. Perhaps in two years, we’ll look back and say that Jackson is one of the best head coaches in the NFL and it was a master stroke by Davis.

But if Jackson were to become a successful NFL coach elsewhere and the Raiders have to start over with another system, we’ll look at the decision to not keep Cable much differently.