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Al Davis prepared to fire Lane Kiffin before season's end (1 Viewer)


Sources: Davis is prepared to fire Kiffin before season's end


Steve Corkran

Mercury News

Article Launched: 09/13/2008 09:13:36 PM PDT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a conversation about Coach Lane Kiffin in mid-August, Raiders owner Al Davis said, "He's not the guy I hired."

The endgame is coming soon, according to several front-office people, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They say Davis is prepared to fire Kiffin before season's end, perhaps as soon as Monday, regardless of the outcome of today's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Neither Davis nor Kiffin could be reached for comment. However, on Wednesday, Kiffin said: "You have to look at the history. History is what it is, that (Davis) doesn't keep people very long. We don't have a general manager. Everything goes through (Davis). That sets up a difficult situation at times. Knowing who the owner is, you know from Day One there's no job security."

Davis has fired a coach during the season only once in 46 years with the Raiders. That happened in 1989, when he jettisoned Mike Shanahan after four games.

Davis has numerous head-coach candidates on his staff, though it remains unclear who would be the favorite.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan interviewed for the vacancy in 2007. Receivers coach James Lofton has interviewed for the job at least twice. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp canceled a scheduled interview for the vacancy in 2004 so that he could join Jim Mora's Atlanta Falcons staff. Running backs coach Tom Rathman is a Davis favorite.

Davis reached his current state even before the Raiders




were humiliated by the Denver Broncos 41-14 at home in front of a sold-out crowd and a national TV audience Monday night.

His once-rosy relationship with Kiffin deteriorated soon after the Raiders finished 4-12 in Kiffin's first season as an NFL coach last year.

Kiffin wanted Ryan removed. Davis balked. Kiffin, in essence, asked to be fired if he couldn't have control over player personnel and the makeup of the coaching staff. Davis, in essence, told Kiffin that he should quit if he didn't like it.

A rash of personnel moves by Davis further rankled Kiffin, still seething over being forced to retain Ryan.

Davis hired Lofton without Kiffin's knowledge, according to a person close to Kiffin. The Raiders contend that Kiffin was apprised of the hiring and found out long before the ink dried.

Davis also signed off on moves that included a trade for cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the re-signing of defensive tackle Tommy Kelly to a contract that guaranteed him $18.125 million and the signing of injury-prone wide receiver Javon Walker to a contract that guarantees him $11 million this season.

Kiffin's discontent grew with each development, to the point he voiced his displeasure on a regular basis.

Last week, Kiffin distanced himself from his team's defensive meltdown against the Broncos by saying Ryan and Davis conspire on the game plans. Ryan countered by saying he is in sole control of the defense and that Kiffin has input.

Kiffin also decried the lack of talent at his disposal, as well as Davis' failure to make enough roster moves during training camp so that the coach could foster the kind of competitive atmosphere he desired and field enough healthy bodies to accomplish the things he viewed as crucial during practices.

Now it appears as if there is no turning back. Those people in the front office say Kiffin has alienated himself from everyone who doesn't run, pass or block. His only known ally is director of football operations Mark Jackson.

Jackson came to the Raiders at Kiffin's insistence. They formed a relationship during several years together at USC. He, too, has fallen from favor with Davis in recent months and has been stripped of his power.

Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden faced a similar crucible when he brought the Raiders to Arrowhead Stadium for the 1999 season finale. The Raiders upset the Chiefs that day. In the process, they kept the Chiefs from making the playoffs and saved Gruden's job.

At this point, not even a convincing victory today is apt to help Kiffin. At best, it might buy him a couple of more weeks, sources in the front office said.

No one questions Kiffin's work ethic or his football acumen. In the end, his great undoing might be that he engaged Davis in a battle waged by many of his predecessors, with one stark difference: Kiffin overstepped his bounds.

Of course, no one saw this coming the day Davis hired Kiffin. Then again, when Davis misspoke during Kiffin's introductory news conference by saying, "I'm here to talk about Lance," perhaps, even then, Davis subconsciously realized he hired the wrong guy.


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