As the uncertainty of another failed season circulated throughout the Raiders locker room, there were sincere requests for continuity, for staying the course with Tom Cable, and the belief that better days lie ahead.

Desperately seeking a final validation for the seventh consecutive season of double-digit losses, Cable even talked up the importance of win No. 6 _ a total that would have been sneered at when the topic was division titles and championships when Al Davis removed ``interim'' from his title last off-season.

Instead, there was a 21-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Two second-half turnovers from quarterback JaMarcus Russell after Charlie Frye left at halftime with a back strain. A defense which gave up 240 yards rushing overall and three touchdowns to Willis McGahee.

All before an announced crowd of 38,400 that looked more like 28,400.

So now begins the dissection of the coaching staff and the roster, the analysis of who stays and who goes, with the final decisions resting with the man ultimately responsible for all the problems.

Think about that for a minute.

The inescapable conclusion is that Al Davis is the man most responsible for the franchise being in such disrepair.

He's the only common denominator not only for the last seven years, but since a return to Oakland that has been a failed experiment judging from a history of three winning seasons in 15 years.

The Raiders have lost 33 more games in their second go-round in Oakland than they did the first time, yet still adorn their press releases with ``Team of the Decades'' and ``Commitment to Excellence.''

By order of Al Davis.

The Raiders have fired six coaches (Mike White, Joe Bugel, Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell and Lane Kiffin), traded another (Jon Gruden) and could send Cable packing this week.

All since 1995.

By order of Al Davis.

The Raiders have too frequently failed to draft and develop their own top prospects into elite players. Russell, Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey are all young enough to turn it around, but their early returns have been discouraging.

In the case of Russell, who Davis promised would be great, it's well beyond discouraging.

The Raiders don't have a director of college scouting in their media guide, but it's a role that belongs to Davis.

Too many times, the Raiders have made disastrous forays into free agency and the trade market, with acquisitions such as Randy Moss, DeAngelo Hall, Gibril Wilson and Javon Walker doing more harm than good, either because of the toxic environment or simply misjudging talent.

The Raiders don't have a director of pro personnel in their media guide, but it's a role that belongs to Davis.

As one of his former coaches lamented, ``He's the director of pro personnel, he's the director of college personnel, he's the general manager and he's the de-facto defensive coordinator.''

He's also not in good health and even Davis' ever-shrinking inner circle understands the man they have long worshipped either needs to accept some help or designate some to assume his myriad roles.

Some of the men closest to Davis made their way to a party thrown by Gruden last Dec. 14, and the Raiders response was to request that Ricky's Sports Lounge and Grill remove all photos from its Web site which had included people currently employed by the Raiders.

Thus, the message is that it's fine to reminisce and get caught up in the 1970s, but not the three-year run which Gruden helped ignite from 2000 through 2002.

For someone who has an aura so big, Davis can come off as very small.

John Madden didn't make it to the party that night, but he seemed to be of a like mind with most of the attendees based on a question and answer feature on Dec. 27 with the New York Post.

Question: Do you think Al Davis should hire a football czar?

Madden: ``I think he knows he should. When he had Bruce Allen and Jon Gruden, that was a pretty good team.''

It keeps coming back to Gruden and Allen because they're the only two people who, in conjunction with Davis, had the Raiders even remotely close to their storied past.

Allen is general manager of the Washington Redskins, Gruden is sticking with television for another year. And the biggest crime of all is Davis wouldn't ask, anyway.

The Raiders have the 31st-best record in the NFL over the past seven years at 29-83, one game better than the Detroit Lions. They're the first team in NFL history to have lost 11 or more games for seven consecutive seasons.

You'd think an owner with a passion for winning and an abiding love for all things silver and black would look to the person most responsible and take action. He's never tolerated that kind of performance from anyone else.

But that would take looking in the mirror.

Short of that, the annual blame game begins with Tom Cable.

Contact Jerry McDonald at jmcdonald@bayareanewsgroup.com.