Life in Raider Nation isn't so bad

Oh, come on. Why do you always have to be so negative about the Raiders? Why do you have to say that Al Davis is senile and that new Raiders coach Tom Cable is in over his head and that once again Oakland is the league's punch line?

Don't be such a downer. Don't be so pessimistic. There are lots of positive happenings in Raiderland, in the same sort of way that the vending machines at the New York Stock Exchange are still functioning. Don't believe us? Here are six reasons why life in the Black Hole might not be so dark after all.

1. Lane Kiffin is gone.

Kiffin was a huge distraction for the team. Everyone knew that Kiffin's dismissal was only a matter of when, not if. Everyone knew he was Davis' 239th choice for a head coach in 2007. Everyone knew Kiffin didn't want to draft quarterback JaMarcus Russell, didn't get on well with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, didn't even love coaching in the NFL. (If University of Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer is fired at season's end, sit back and watch Kiffin push hard for the job.)

Kiffin and the Raiders should have parted ways earlier. But better late than never. Oakland had no chance to win with all the Kiffin drama; without him, the Raiders can focus on football. Which they will have no choice over because...

2. Cable will make them focus on football.

Cable, the Raiders' new head coach (doesn't it seem like every few weeks we say, "The Raiders' new head coach..."?) might not be the long-term answer -- hello, Jim Fassel! But he's tough and smart, and under him the Raiders are going to be tougher and smarter. Why? Nobody will challenge the guy. Cable looks like a Hell's Angel, and he grew up working on a 10-acre farm in Washington. The guy's got old-man strength. And he'll look good as a coach for two reasons: Ryan is still calling the defense, and...

3. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is now calling offense.

Knapp is no Mike Shanahan when it comes to drawing up an offense, but he has made the playoffs calling shots with Jeff Garcia (in San Francisco) and Michael Vick (in Atlanta). Russell has a better arm than both of those guys. At this point in his career, Russell needs a reputed play-caller to put him in situations he can thrive in. He can't turn into the next Alex Smith, ruined by constant turnover at offensive coordinator. The Raiders should be encouraged by the former No. 1 pick from LSU because...

4. Russell is quietly having a good year.

Lost in all the madness is that Russell has thrown four touchdowns so far and only one interception. Not bad, considering the Raiders have trailed in every game and his only weapon is rookie tailback Darren McFadden, who is averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

With those two, the Raiders have not only a foundation on offense from which to build, but also guys that the team respects. Did you see how Russell handled the news that Kiffin didn't want to draft him? He could have popped off; instead he was classy. "I appreciate the opportunity [Kiffin] gave me," he said. "I wish for him to go out and get a job because he's a good guy, a good coach." Teammates take their cues from leaders. Russell, after a bad rookie year, is emerging as the Raiders' calm, cool leader, while at the same time...

5. Al Davis is as feisty as ever.

Davis' press conference last week was classic: He was defiant, accusatory, smart, crazy, ripping the Broncos, the Patriots -- he was Al Davis. It was good for the league -- and the Raiders. Everyone suffers when Davis is behind closed doors and never seen. Davis needs to be out there, spewing whatever is on his mind, causing trouble, filing lawsuits and keeping Roger Goodell on his toes. The Raiders have always been at their best when at odds with the league. It feeds the us-against-the-world mentality on which the Raiders were founded. Davis' press conference has been ridiculed, and this gives the Raiders something to rally around.

Good thing, because they needed something, anything. Life isn't easy when you're on the most mocked team in the NFL -- again. But if the Raiders get panicky, if they start to believe the apocalypse is now -- if playing the Saints, Jets, Ravens and Panthers in the next five weeks gets them nervous -- they can always be happy about one thing:

6. There's always the Chiefs.

Seth Wickersham is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a columnist for ESPN.com