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Friday, November 28, 2008
Kiffin survived Davis experience

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

We have a winner in the Lane Kiffin-Al Davis battle.

It's Kiffin by a landslide.

Kiffin was fired by Oakland on Sept. 30 in what will be long remembered as one more bizarre firings in NFL history. Raiders owner Al Davis sautéed Kiffin in an hourlong press conference with comments that seemed aimd to ruin Kiffin's career.

Apparently, either the folks at the University of Tennessee missed the television highlights of Davis' diatribe or they just didn't pay any attention to it.

ESPN.com is reporting that Tennessee has a tentative agreement in place with the former Oakland coach to become the new head coach there. The report says Kiffin will take over the storied Volunteers program as soon as Monday. Did Kiffin's 20 games and his ugly departure from Oakland, hurt him?

Depending on how you view the NFL compared to the NCAA, the Tennessee job is arguably a much better job than the Oakland gig. Many coaches in the country would rather lead Tennessee every Saturday, than be in Al Davis' sights every Sunday. Even if Kiffin didn't get fired and had a better record than a 5-15 mark in Oakland, it would be impressive if he made this switch.

This is a big-time job. Tennessee can easily be atop the college football landscape again. It is considered a destination job where a coach can spend the remainder of his career. That cannot be said about the Oakland job. It is a steppingstone job at the very best.
But Kiffin has emerged wonderfully.

He won this battle with Davis. Sure, Kiffin had to file a grievance to get the remaining money from his contract and he may never get it even if wins the grievance. But his career is in fine standing.

Before Oakland, Kiffin was the co-offensive coordinator at USC. It was a fine job. But there was no guarantee he would be considered for the Tennessee job out of that position.

Frankly, I'm not sure if Kiffin is equipped for this job. It may be a tad early in his career.

Still, Kiffin made the most of his time in Oakland, even though it was rocky to say the least and he wasn't successful on the field. He showed enough coaching skill at the age of 33, and his ability to weather controversy seemed to impress Tennessee officials. Kiffin has moved on well from Oakland and he is probably in much better shape than he would be if he was never fired and he was still coaching in that situation.