By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 at 8:38 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Quick hits from the Raiders press conference with Al Davis outlining the reasons for firing Lane Kiffin and hiring Tom Cable, plus a few notes from Lane Kiffin’s counterpoint on ESPN:
– The Raiders case was detailed in a letter Davis said was sent by Federal Express on Sept. 12 and can be found at the above link or in the previous blog post.
– Kiffin won’t be holding a press conference as he told TV reporters earlier today. After Davis’ performance, Gary Uberstine, Kiffin’s agent and attorney, told his client to clam up.
The statement was as follows:
“Earlier today, Lane Kiffin told members of the Bay Area media that he intended to hold a press conference on Wednesday, October 1, to address his departure from the team. In light of today’s events, we have advised Lane to cancel all future interviews for the time being.’’
– But not before Kiffin went on ESPN and refuted much of what Davis had claimed, including the now infamous letter. Kiffin said that just because it was printed on paper and shown on an overhead projector, “doesn’t make it true.’’
– Is it just me, or does it finally seem to be sinking in that the image of Davis’ precious franchise has been seriously damaged over the last five years?
There was less bluster, not nearly as many references to the “Greatness of the Raiders.’’ Most rare was the admission of a mistake in the hiring of Kiffin.
“It hurts because I picked the guy,’’ Davis said. “I picked the wrong guy.’’
– Later, harkening back to the days when Davis was told there were sellouts at the Coliseum only to find out there weren’t, he said of Kiffin, “I think he conned me, like he conned all of you people.”
Kiffin said he watched the press conference with his wife, called it “hurtful” and said, “That’s something I wasn’t proud to be associated with. I was kind of embarrassed for him.”
– Davis was asked if he was responsible for not only the Kiffin hire, but the fact that the Raiders have gone through Bill Callahan, Norv Turner and Art Shell as well since 2003.
“I bear the responsibility. It takes a toll on me. It sure does,’’ Davis said.
– Kiffin, Davis said, would have been fired if he were 3-1 instead of 1-3.
“It was a cumulative thing. The pattern just disturbed me,’’ Kiffin said. “The first question he asked me when I said you would be fired or was relieved for cause was, `Are you going to pay me?’ First question. There are a lot of people who believe in this organization that he wanted to be fired but he wanted to be paid.’’
– Kiffin said his first question was about the status of his assistants, and was pleased to learn they were all keeping their jobs.
– Asked if Kiffin was daring the owner to fire him, Davis said, “That’s a good question. I don’t know what he was doing but he got me to fire him.’’
Responded Kiffin to ESPN: “There is no way I was trying to get fired.”
– There were a few instances of misdirection when asked about a specific problem. A query about the lack of continuity and number of coaching changes brought a reminder that the Raiders have been to the Super Bowl more recently than the Cowboys and are the last AFC West team to make it.
– If you’re keeping score on all the offseason “rumors” regarding the Kiffin vs. Davis, the Raiders owner confirmed that Kiffin wanted to bring in his father to be defensive coordinator, Kiffin didn’t want to draft JaMarcus Russell, Kiffin wanted to fire Rob Ryan, and that a resignation letter drafted on Kiffin’s behalf did indeed exist _ although Davis said it was at Kiffin’s request.
– Another one _ Davis said Kiffin wanted to leave for a job at Arkansas last year and was angry when told he had to wait until the end of the season. A high-profile friend at Arkansas (Jerry Jones?) tipped Davis off on that one, and Davis said Bobby Petrino left the Atlanta Falcons early specifically to beat Kiffin to the job.
– The inescapable conclusion is that stories regarding problems between Davis and Kiffin were not the creation of the media, but by Davis and Kiffin.
– Have there ever been two more stubborn men locked in a futile battle of wills, with both claiming the high ground when it’s clearly a matter of money?
It’s clear Davis despised Kiffin for some time, and the feeling was mutual. Yet they went some eight-plus counterproductive months before coming to Tuesday’s unforgettable theater.
– Cable was the most valuable assistant coach on the Raiders staff last year, and if he inspires the kind of loyalty in the entire team he does in his linemen, it can only help.
– Coaching at UCLA, Idaho and Colorado, Cable was also a hell of an offensive coach, his 11-35 record at Idaho aside.
“Everybody has a past, everybody has a journey in life, whether it’s professionally or personally,” Cable said. “For me, it’s been a great journey. Not always successes, by the record I have at Idaho. At the same time, not too many people move the ball like I did in college football, whether it was at Colorado, Idaho or UCLA. So I’m very confident that way, very confident.”
– Cable on Kiffin: “I respect Lane Kiffin, I love the guy. I think he worked his tail off. However, whatever that’s gone on here is between him and Mr. Davis, and I’ll leave it at that.”
– Davis said Ryan was too valuable as a defensive coordinator with the current team to consider elevating to head coach.
– It probably didn’t hurt Cable that he has a grasp of the tradition which has slowly evaporated over the past five years.
“I grew up a Raider. I grew up loving this team from the time I was a little boy,” Cable said.
I asked Cable about how the Raiders go about finishing games when so many players have known nothing but constant defeat.
“How you finish games? You don’t let up. You don’t let up,” Cable said. “You throw the football to score points in this game. You run the football to win it. And you’ve got to find a balance between those two. You’ve got to get your play-makers the ball in their hands, and you gotta be able to do that to finish. Defensively, you’ve got to be able to choke ‘em out.”
Post-press conference notes
A few notes collected from talking with Davis after the formal press conference broke up:
– The investors which purchased 20 percent of the team have no option to buy. A scenario to the one similar to when Chris Cohan purchased the Warriors could not happen, Davis said.
– The Raiders are working with the city of Oakland regarding a stadium _ “Of course we want a new one,” _ but Davis declined to “negotiate” in the media.
– Davis was sold on Russell as the No. 1 overall draft pick, in part because of a recommendation from ex-Raider Tee Martin, who went to the same Birmingham high school as Russell. Kiffin, Davis said, fluctuated between wanting Brady Quinn and Calvin Johnson, and also wanted to trade it for a time.
– It was Mike Lombardi who sold Bill Belichick on the idea of acquiring Randy Moss. It’s clear Davis still rues the day he made that deal, even if most people believe Moss had already mentally checked out of Oakland.
– Regarding Lombardi, who has been taking both subtle jabs and right crosses at the Raiders in his new gig as a columnist for the National Football Post, Davis said, “Mike Lombardi has been fired from every job he’s had. Every job. He can’t get a job. Last year he was fired from a job he was working for for nothing. He was fired from Denver. But he does have ability.”
– Davis said he is looking at a football executive he declined to name who will be needed to help guide the Raiders through issues such as labor, a new stadium
– Mark Davis has been around the facility more this season but Davis said his son has no plans to get in on the football end of things, although he will some day inherit the team.
“Business and stadium. He doesn’t want to get involved in football,” Davis said. “He just doesn’t want to get into that part of it. But he will own it some day. That is… if they let me go to my maker.”
– Davis said his health is fine “other than the quadriceps and a little trouble with the walking, based on total balance, I’m fine. I’m healthy. You’re going to have to have me around for a while.”
– Al still just loves Mike Shanahan.
“When Shanahan left me, he went to Denver. He was there for about four or five years as an assistant and they fired him for insubordination,” Davis said. “Dan Reeves and he had a big battle. He went to the 49ers and he learned their style of football and when Dan Reeves failed in Denver, the first guy they had was Wade Phillips, I think, then he brought Shanahan back. And Shanahan had success. But Shanahan has an asterisk next to those two Super Bowls, because they were caught cheating.”