By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, December 31st, 2007 at 4:33 pm in Oakland Raiders.
News, notes and observations from Lane Kiffin’s season-ending press conference Monday:
– One of the most telling comments from Kiffin Monday was that he may have underestimated the effect that four years of double-figure losing had on the organization.
“It’s a difficult mentality to have when people are so used to losing that it’s just what they know,” Kiffin said. “It’s what happens. You lose gmes. You find a way to lose them. It is difficult. It’s more difficult than if you had a team that just had one year of it. With a team that’s pretty oyoung, that’s kind of all that some of them know.”
You’d never hear anything like that from Bill Callahan, Norv Turner or Art Shell. You’d either get blinders (Callahan), confused rambling (Turner) or press-release nonsense about all the talent on the roster and the tradition of the Raiders (Shell).
Kiffin, while respecting the past, has never bought into any of it with how it impacts the present. He understands where the Raiders reside in the NFL food chain. He understands that besides the woe-is-us mindset, there is a dearth of talent that must be addressed.
– Same goes for the poor, abused Raiders when it comes to the officials.
“You mean am I finally gooing to buy in that everyone’s against the Raiders in this league?,” Kiffin said, flashing a smile. “No, I’m not. There’s calls that go both ways and I’m never going to buy into that theory. You always see the ones that go the other way. Trust me, we had a facemask (by Tony Stewart) yesterday that wasn’t called and they go the other way too and their fans think they got the bad end of the deal.”
Kiffin vowed to get his team to play smarter, make better decisions and not put themselves in position for penalties.
I’ve always thought the fixation on officials, while merited when the team was strong and losing a playoff game in the snow, is impossible to justify when your team is poor and constantly committing pre-snap fouls which have nothing to do with judgement.
– Sorry, Robert Gallery bashers. He stays. And he stays at guard. He may never live up to the hype of a No. 2 overall pick and he’ll be forever trashed by a segment of the population that considers themselves budding O-line coaches, but it appears he has won over Kiffin.
Gallery’s penalties concern him, however.
– Kiffin negotiated a quarterback minefield pretty well considering everything that went into it. His caretaker quarterback (Josh McCown) struggled and got injured, Daunte Culpepper arrived late, and Russell really late.
Andrew Walter remained on the roster and didin’t complain. When it was all over Russell ended the season feeling good about his performance, Culpepper put some good work on film for free agency and McCown was hoping to land a job in Oakland as the backup quarterback.
– Typical scene in the back parking lot of the Raider facility as a handful of fans attempted to get autographs. With player after player pulling out of the gated area and past the fans with little more than a wave, McCown pulled over, rolled down his window and signed _ for a fan wearing a Culpepper jersey.
– As much as I’ve admired everything Ronald Curry went through to become an NFL starter, he had the worst of his three mostly-healthy seasons. He was prone to drops and penalties and looked as if he lost some speed as the year went on.
Curry caught 11 passes in his last give games. Kiffin said he met with Curry Monday “and we have a good plan on how he is going to improve and what he needs to do to get beter because we expect him to have a big year next year.”
– No official word regarding the fate of Rob Ryan, but when Kiffin talked about his expectations going into the season, he noted 11 returning starters on defense, nine players who were either new or in new positions on offense, and that the plan was “to run the ball and stop the run. And to build off the defense with 11 returning starters.”
– “I have talked to Warren. I am not going to comment on that until Warren talks to you guys. Warren has already made it known what he’s doing but I’m not going to take that from him. He’ll tell you guys whenever he’s ready _ ” Kiffin on the status of Warren Sapp.
Sure doesn’t sound like the way he would answer the question if Sapp were returning, does it?
– It’s hard not to like Ryan, and it’s fair to criticize the players for Oakland’s defense. Kirk Morrison said as much Sunday, that it was their fault there was speculation over Ryan.
Using that logic, you hold on to Jackie Slater and Irv Eatman and blame the offensive line, rather than bring in Tom Cable.
– Kiffin said Tommy Kelly’s rehab from knee surgery is going likely and that he is very interested in bringing back special teams player Jarrod Cooper.
– There was no promise to franchise cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, mostly because the hope is the two sides can work out a long-term deal. If that doesn’t happen, expect Asomugha to be franchised.
– The Raiders will probably be more than willing to let Jerry Porter test the free agent market, figuring 44 catches and 705 yards isn’t going to bring him anything out of the ballpark and they’ll be able compete for a reasonable price.
– After detailing to the team Monday morning what he expected this offseason, Kiffin said “a couple” of players tell him afteward, “I guess that means you’re staying.”
Wonder if they were the same guys who asked me over past few weeks if Kiffin was staying.
I always told them there was no reason to think Kiffin was leaving. If Kiffin would have been as emphatic a few weeks ago as he was Monday, there never would have been any questions.
– Have the Raiders finally come to the realization that the slender Michael Huff may not be suited to be the heavy-hitter at strong safety?
“We’re going to look at some different things with Michael,” Kiffin said.
– Rich Gannon’s NFL record of 418 completions, set in 2002, was broken by New Orleans Drew Brees, who finished with 440.
– The Raiders will flip a coin with the Falcons to see which team will get the No. 3 pick in the NFL draft. The coin flip will take place at the NFL scouting combine.
– The Raiders 2008 home opponents will be Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, New England, the New York Jets, Houston, Atlanta and Carolina.
The road opponents will be Denver, Kansas City, San Diego, Buffalo, Miami, Baltimore, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.