The Oakland Raiders ended a run of seven consecutive losing seasons, dominated their division and rediscovered the big-play offense that had been lacking in recent years.
Whether or not all of that is enough to help coach Tom Cable keep his job for another season is the first major question that Raiders owner Al Davis must answer entering an eighth consecutive offseason that begins before the playoffs start.
Oakland (8-8) ended the season with a couple of notable accomplishments. By winning the season finale 31-10 at playoff-bound Kansas City, the Raiders avoided an eighth consecutive losing season and completed a perfect run through the AFC West, sweeping the division rival Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos.
It's the first time the Raiders posted a perfect record in their division since their Super Bowl season of 1976 and the first time since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger that a team won all its division games and didn't make the playoffs.
"We certainly got this thing back on its feet, and we're very proud of that," Cable said Monday. "You can't call us losers anymore, at least from this point forward. That's a huge accomplishment for this team, particularly for the guys who have been around here for a number of years, and the organization itself. It gives everybody, the city of Oakland, everybody in football, something to look forward to as we move forward."
Whether or not Cable will be part of that moving forward will be determined in the next couple of weeks, although NFL Network insider Michael Lombardi cited a league source in reporting Sunday that it's "unlikely" the coach will return. Cable has a 17-27 record since taking over as interim coach from Lane Kiffin in 2008 and has earned the admiration of his players, who credit him for a culture change around the team.
After his interim season, Cable received a new contract that now expires in two weeks, meaning the Raiders must decide whether to exercise the two-year option on his deal or allow him to leave. The team must notify Cable by Jan. 17 whether or not it plans to exercise the options for 2011 and '12 at $2.5 million per season.
If Davis chooses to pass on the option, he will begin the search for the team's seventh head coach since the 2001 season. With 44 games as coach, Cable has lasted longer than anyone in that position since Jon Gruden spent four years as head coach before leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I seriously believe that it would set us back again," Lechler said. "I can't go through another head coach. I just can't. I've been through too many of them. And they all come in here and say the same thing, 'I'm going to do this, I'm going to turn this.' No, you're not. I'd rather be with the guy that's here right now, and we'll roll with him."
But once again, Oakland enters the offseason with uncertainty at coach. Since keeping Norv Turner following the 2004 season, there have been questions every offseason about whether or not the coach would return. Turner was fired following the 2005 season, and Art Shell was fired one year later. The tension between Kiffin and Davis led to talk about whether or not the coach would resign after his first season in 2007.
The Raiders interviewed candidates after the 2008 season before deciding to stick with Cable, and there were weeks of uncertainty a year ago about whether or not the coach would stay.
"I'd like for it to just go away and have Al and I sit down and discuss it, which we will," Cable said. "I know what we've done. I think everybody else who knows football knows what we've done. Whoever says it or writes it probably doesn't know what the hell they're doing."
One of the leading contenders to replace Cable would figure to be offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, whom Davis brought in a year ago to take over the play-calling duties.
The improvement on offense has been stark, with much of it owed to the decision to release former No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell during the offseason and acquire Jason Campbell from the Washington Redskins to play quarterback.
Led by a breakout season from running back Darren McFadden and big plays from rookie wide receiver Jacoby Ford, the Raiders finished sixth in the NFL in scoring with 410 points. That more than doubled last year's scoring total and was the sixth-most points scored in a season in franchise history.
"You got to start somewhere, we feel like this is a great starting point for us," Campbell said. "We're going in the right direction. We didn't come here to be 8-8, to go undefeated in the division. We came here to go undefeated in the division and go to the playoffs. There are still a lot of goals to shoot for in the upcoming season."
The Associated Press contributed to this report