Kiffin’s first test


The story making the rounds at the Senior Bowl is that Lane Kiffin’s first attempt at establishing a rapport with Randy Moss didn’t go too well.

Think Shell vs. Porter.

That confrontation, in the office of the head coach some 10 or 11 months ago, was the first crack in the foundation of the Shell regime.

Kiffin, by contrast, supposedly had trouble reaching Moss by phone. When he finally did, as the story goes, Moss told him in a pointed, profane terms he wasn’t interested in talking.

It’s been reported on a pair of ESPN radio interviews, and a source at the Senior Bowl confirms Kiffin vs. Moss was indeed a topic of discussion among coaches, scouts and personnel men in Mobile, Ala.

It’s worth noting that no one has gone on the record with this story as of yet. Like the party game in which a story is whispered in the ear of one and passed down the line until it ends up being something completely different or exaggerated, maybe it’s not as serious as it sounds.

But considering the way Moss acted last season, it certainly sounds possible.

The history of the Raiders new coach is that he addresses situations decisively, choosing a course of action then moving ahead, confident in his convictions. That he can sell an idea and is confident enough (some call it arrogant) to make it work.

I’ve spent the last few days researching and writing a profile on Kiffin, attempting to chart his path from a football savvy youth to, well, an NFL coaching youth. It will run in Monday’s ANG Newspapers.

(That’s at least part of my excuse for not filing blogs the past few days _ although it should be noted that with Kiffin hired, I won’t be filing every day in this forum. Your own thoughts, however, are always welcome).

Family members, as well as friends and colleagues, have the utmost confidence Kiffin is up to handling even the most difficult veteran players.

David Watson, a USC assistant coach who went to high school with Kiffin, said his friend has dealt with all manner of personalities with the Trojans.

John Reaves, a former Florida quarterback who played nine years in the NFL and happens to be Kiffin’s father-in-law, said Kiffin will have no problem taking a problem player “to the woodshed.”

Kiffin has two choices with Moss. He can either keep working to make nice, or tell Al Davis that the highest-salaried player on the team threatens to undermine his program before it starts.

If Moss indeed cursed Kiffin right off the bat, he may be doing the Raiders a favor. It’s better for Moss to create an impossible situation and attempt to force at trade early than for him to show up, pretend to care, then turn off the spigot at his leisure.

It’s possible that to have Moss insubordinate and uncooperative from Day 1 could be the first big break of the Kiffin regime becuase it could spur Davis to get rid of him.

The problem is Davis wants top dollar for top talent, and Moss has been so indifferent his value is at an all-time low.

If Kiffin didn’t yet understand what it meant to be head coach of the Raiders at his press conference, he surely does now.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer