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Where Lane and Al went wrong

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, January 26th, 2008 at 2:43 pm in Oakland Raiders.

Update: Talking to reporters on the field following the Senior Bowl, Lane Kiffin sidestepped questions regarding his status with the Raiders.

“I’m not going to comment on that. That’s got nothing to do with this game, these guys’ last game here, and I’m real proud of the way they played and competed,” Kiffin said. “It was a fun week.”

Asked if he will be coaching the Raiders in the fall, Kiffin said, “I hope so.”

There are a lot of different ways Lane Kiffin could have shot down reports regarding his demise in the eyes of Al Davis, and reasonable people can agree that saying “I’m not going to comment on anything that transpired in the last three weeks” is not one of them.

Nor is coaching the Senior Bowl in a black Under Armour windbreaker, with the name “Raiders” nowhere in sight. The rest of the staff is adorned in Raiders gear.

It reminds me of the time Jon Gruden showed up to his season-ending press conference the day after a playoff loss to New England in a maroon polo shirt instead of his usual Raiders garb.

Not long afterward, he was on his way to Tampa Bay.

During Saturday’s Senior Bowl broadcast, field reporter Charles Davis said Kiffin told him he didn’t want to comment on rumors that Davis asked for his resignation, essentially the same thing he said the day before.

“He said he didn’t want to comment on anything that happened in the last three weeks to a month, but what I do want to focus on is this game today,” Davis reported Kiffin as saying. “We focused on these kids all week long and coaching them, we’re going to focus on them today in this game. We don’t want to cheat them at all.”

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said he believed the Raiders and Kiffin were negotiating a settlement of his contract, the end result being Oakland would be the first team since the Minnesota Vikings in 1984 (Les Steckel) and 1985 (Bud Grant) to have consecutive coaches who lasted a single season.

A year ago, Kiffin was hailed by Davis as superior to Jon Gruden, glossing over the fact that his first choice was actually Steve Sarkisian, the co-offensive coordinator along with Kiffin at USC. Davis raved about Kiffin’s grasp of the total game and his value as a personnel man because of his background as recruiting coordinator.

It wasn’t just Davis’ refusal to part with Rob Ryan that fractured the relationship, although that was part of it.

The fact is, it became apparent as the season went on that Kiffin and Davis differ philsophically, and many of the things Kiffin did and said no doubt rubbed the boss the wrong way.

Davis believes he has stocked the Raiders with enough talent to be consistent winners.

“We’ve got good players. What I worry about is injuries,” Davis said during a training camp press conference.

Kiffin, looking at the 15-49 record upon his arrival, never bought it. He admitted making final cuts wasn’t all that difficult because the Raiders didn’t have enough good players to make it difficult.

When the Raiders finished the season by facing Green Bay, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Denver, Kiffin, when assessing how his team had held together, said, it was difficult “when you’re not playing anybody like yourself.”

While perhaps not meant as a jab at Davis’ acquisition of talent, go ahead and assume Davis felt that way.

The week the Raiders played the Colts, Kiffin talked with admiration about a roster stocked with the type of players Davis wouldn’t want.

“Their linebackers are 5-11. They’ve got a 5-9 safety, a 6-foot defensive end,” Kiffin said. “They get a lot of people later in rounds that other people don’t take because of size or because of what they evaluate. They see what other people don’t. In that system, tackling is one of the first things you evaluate, and you can see it. They take people, because they’re really good players, and they tackle real well.”

Davis made it clear during training camp that dealing Randy Moss was Kiffin’s idea.

“If Lane felt that was best for the team I was going to do it,” Davis said. “And we did it. We didn’t get near what we should have. Randy Moss, if he’s well, can still play, in my opinion. Our coaches didn’t think so.”

It couldn’t have set well with Davis when Kiffin blamed him for breeding the culture which Moss wanted no part of.

“Randy had made it very clear to me, his statement was, ‘Coach, this has nothing to do with you. I have already heard great things about what you are doing there already, but I am not going to play for that organization, and I don’t want any part of it. I don’t like the way I have been treated there,’ ” Kiffin told Minnesota writers on a conference call.

“It was out of my control. Randy wasn’t going to play here and he made it very clear, so it was a direction that this organization needed to go because he wasn’t happy and he wasn’t going to play here for whatever reason, the things that happened before I got here.”

Getting rid of Moss was a big part in another Kiffin belief not held by Davis _ team chemistry.

Kiffin made repeated references over the course of the season to “cleaning out the locker room” and ridding it of bad influences.

Davis is on record as saying he doesn’t believe in team chemistry.

Where Kiffin stood on the drafting of JaMarcus Russell is not clear. Leading up to the draft, I was told Kiffin preferred Brady Quinn, but I never heard it from Kiffin himself and misinformation is rampant where the draft is concerned.

When the season was over, Kiffin was no longer a Davis prodigy. He was a 4-12 coach, the same as Bill Callahan and Norv Turner in their final seasons. Kiffin was just two games better than Art Shell who had no right to ask for his own choice as defensive coordinator.

To make matters worse in Davis’ eyes, Kiffin did little to refute rumors which connected him to college jobs at Arkansas, Michigan and UCLA.

A Contra Costa Times poll asked readers “As a Raiders fan who would you rather get rid of, Al Davis or Lane Kiffin?

At last check, Davis had 1,112 votes to be shown the door and Kiffin 31.

When Kiffin accepted the job, he made it clear on several occasions it was on the condition that certain things were in place. He never specified what those things were, but implied it had to do with the makeup of the roster and coaching staff.

Hope he got that in writing.

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  • Florida Pete

    one of the things that i find curious is the notion that Kiffin should be given carte blanche with respect to hiring and firing coaching staff, signing free agents, and handling the draft…

    um, maybe if your name is Marty Schottenheimer, Bill Parcells, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, or maybe a half dozen other “proven” head coaches…

    otherwise you are not going to get that kind of carte blanche from any organization…

    young Mr Kiffen needed to do the best he could with what he could get and work with that… earn the right to call the shots in additional areas…

    Kiffen’s rookie year was not so impressive that he could start dictating terms to Mr Davis…

    it seemed to me that Mr Davis gave young Kiffen quite a bit of latitude… quite a turnover on coaches last year…

    and how many of you groaned every time an injured McCown was trotted out to start the game… same thing for an injured Lamont Jordan… Kiffen seems to have the same disease a lot of coaches have… a belief that his number one guy is so good that even at 75% he is better than his backup…

    and, again, i saw a firm lack of commitment to the silver and black… but i did see a firm commitment to putting “Lame” Kiffen in the best possible light in search of a “better” gig…

    this kid was not going to stick… he was looking for his next job when he took this one…

    see ya kiff… move on…

  • ATLRaider

    Al Saunders…James Lofton…Denny Green

    This is bad….reaaal bad. I wonder if Al Davis is so far into dementia that he doesn’t realize what a fool that he’s become.

  • nyraiderfan

    Other than the fans, the people I feel bad for are good young players like kirk morrison, zack miller, and especially jamarcus russell. how is a franchise QB supposed to develop if he has a different coach every year. how is kirk morrison supposed to make the next step to that elite level if he doesnt know what kind of defense he’ll be in year to year. its really just becoming pathetic. As you can see from my name im from NY and am also a knick fan I never thought an organization could be in worse shape than the knicks but AD has certainly proved me wrong

  • strangler

    #747 ken bagan, just so you know the broncos didn’t kick our butts twice this season. The first one we shoulda won the second one we one marginally. Thanks.

  • strangler

    one = won*

  • http://samscape.net Raider Sam

    I have to agree with NYRaider fan. The young players suffer, and Russell will have to readjust to Al Saunders, Dennis Green or whomever else is coming on.

    I think they were on the brink of at least competing and were on their way to making the next step which is an influx of players that suited what the coaching staff was attempting to do. There were obvious improvements, but I know that offense gave the Raiders the lead going into the fourth in a few of those losses.

  • http://samscape.net Raider Sam

    “So who should we get for the next coach>?”

    Tim Kawakami said Jim Harbaugh is a longshot for the coaching job.

    Al Saunders could at least be the offensive coordinator.

    The bottom line on this is Al laments the fact Randy tore it up for New England and wouldnt do the same in Oakland.

    Kiffin tried to stress team chemistry, which Al didnt quite believe in.

    I have to admire his stubborness and dont think that other teams arent watching to see how he reacts to this.

    Some league insiders thought that Dennis Green is better equipped to deal with Al Davis, and that hire in 06, wouldve kept Moss, but it didnt go through, and Shell was hired.

  • http://samscape.net Raider Sam

    “The title should be “Where Al went wrong”.

    No, both are to blame. Kiffin should have consulted with Al first, and was very heated following the San Diego game – he shouldve been far more circumspect and exercised the discretion to go to Davis with his suggestions about coaching changes. When he went to Ryan first, that was a mistake.

  • clubb66

    When can this place start to have consistency. Move from installing new systems to tweaking based on future schedules. The ability to add new wrinkles not having to install systems.
    How we expect to maximize and become effecient.
    Tired of the land of Distractions. if we can learn anything this year, look at the focus of Patriot players. and organization.

  • JR

    Shanahan…Gruden…Kiffin – where will it end? This is beyond ridiculous, even in a day when fan opinion seems to count for very little. How much more of this BS should the Nation put up with? Pick a coach and give him a chance, Al – your version of winning football has been out of date for a couple of decades – let go a bit so the Commitment to Excellence can try and make a comeback, or else the Raiders can have my season tickets back…I’ll join Darth Raider in retirement.

  • Big AL’s GOON

    Big Al’s GOON – You can blame all the coaches you want but what excuse do you have for Al Davis? He’s an owner who hasn’t won a Superbowl since 1983. How can you explain that? How can you defend that? You can bring up 2002 but you can’t even defend Al Davis for that as well.
    ———————————————————
    AL is an owner that has built one of the winningest franchises in pro sports up until the last few years. There are plenty of owners around the NFL who haven’t won a freak’in thing. The Chargettes, the Detroit Lion cubs, the Seahumps, Ariz., ATL., etc. Many things have occurred since that 1983 Championship. We have endured; players have been killed, Stacey Toran. Players have sustained freakish career ending injuries, Bo and Nap McCallum. Pro-bowl players have gotten addicted to drugs and eventually died in car crash. Players have lost their minds before the night before the Superbowl, B.Robbins. We have been cheated by the officials, Tuck Rule. We have been cheated by players from other teams, fat Goose of the Ravens. These are just some of the hardships the Raiders have had to endure since 1983. And you blame AL? I know we got blown out in the 2002 Superbowl, but the fact still remains we were there and along the way we picked a few AFC West titles and an AFC Conference Championship. How many teams can say that within the last 5 years?

  • Guero

    Kiffin took the job with “conditions”, we all knew that (or you should have if you followed the story when he was hired). Al knew it too. To now say that Kiffin should just go along with Al, didn’t show him respect, etc is ridiculous. Does anyone want another bobble-head for a coach (see: bugel, white, etc), or another independent thinker (see: gruden)? I will take a coach who will get this team out of the funk it is in. Hmmm, wonder who got this team in this position? If that person thinks this roster is “stocked” with enough talent, that guy should get his walker on the sidelines and just be the damn coach then.

  • Charles

    I’ve followed the Raiders since the Frank Youell Field days of Clem Daniels.

    Al has been an icon. But frankly, now he is just…. a “has been”.

    We long for the “greatness of the Raiders”… but look at what has led up to the present mailaise…. back to Al shunning Kenny Stabler; treating Marcus Allen the way he did… and up to the present with Jerry Porter and all the mess in the locker room.

    Even more telling is the drafting protocols. We’ve had top choices for years and absolutely nothing to show for it. Mike Huff? We could have Lienart last year and a great receiver this year….

    I’m shocked at Al dumping on Lane Kiffen.

    We’ll all vote with the dollars….and quite frankly, I still enjoy the tailgate parties, but we’ve trimmed down to 2 games per year and will most likely not go to any games next year.

  • ajokeofateam

    Some good points. Davis needs to take like 1,000 steps back and let the coach coach for once. If he keeps this up NO FA are going to want to go there when there is a new coach every other year. Davis needs to let the coaches draft and let the coaches coach!

    The game has passed him by!………….I hope he stays for about 10 more years…..

  • http://vsala32555@roadrunner.com vincent

    this sucks. the raiders and being a fan has been horrible since that blow out in the super bowl. what the hell?? this team will go nowhere until al davis is put in a nursing home.

  • raiderholicz

    Will someone please make Al take a psychiatric evaluation!He has tormented the raider nation for a long,long time.Letting Kiffin go would be equal to losing Jon Gruden all over again.And none of us die hards want to experience those emotions of anger we all felt when the nation lost “Chucky”.I think Al Davis enjoys watching the fans suffer in some sadistic way.If he really loved the “raidas” as much as he claims then he should do the right thing and step down.At the very least he can regain some of his respect back before his time runs out.And everyone but Al realizes TIME IS RUNNING OUT.He said he wants to see the raiders win two more super bowls,thats never going to happen with him at the helm!!!

  • http://none Goldie

    No one knows what Lane implied in conversation with Al Davis behind closed doors.

    Please stick to the delusional politcs of politics.

    Raider fan longer than you’ve been alive.

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