AFC West: Kiffin fired

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- Monte Kiffin is known for putting together aggressive defenses on the field.

When it came time to defend his son, Kiffin took a passive-aggressive approach. Lane Kiffin was fired as coach of the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday and was criticized by owner Al Davis in his news conference announcing the move.

"It was a long day and I really don't want to go there and all due respect to you guys and you guys have been great in this matter,'' Monte Kiffin said.

Kiffin was asked if he was proud of how his son had handled the situation.

"Take the high road,'' the Tampa Bay defensive coordinator said. "That's all you can do.''

Kiffin declined to comment on Davis' contention that Lane Kiffin wanted to bring his father to Oakland as the defensive coordinator.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- Some hilarious stuff from Denver coach Mike Shanahan on his conference call with the Tampa Bay media.

Shanahan, who had a well-publicized parting with Oakland and Al Davis, provided a unique perspective on the Raiders' firing of Lane Kiffin.

"I was a little upset because Lane actually lasted 34 days more than me,'' Shanahan said with a laugh. "That means Al likes Lane better than me. I was a little upset with that. Our records were fairly close, but I just thought I'd lighten the mood a little bit."

Shanahan then kept the mood light.

"You think about it, it doesn't seem fair,'' Shanahan said. "I was 8-12. He was 5-15, but he got 34 days more paid than I did. It doesn't seem right."

Shanahan sure sounded like a man who believes he's had the last laugh on Davis.

"Anyway, I told people the press conference speaks for itself,'' Shanahan said. "I don't have to say anything.''

Davis focuses on QB Russell

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
8:17
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Russell

It is very clear who Al Davis thinks will be central to an Oakland Raiders renaissance -- second-year quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

Davis mentioned Russell often Tuesday during his news conference while explaining his firing of Lane Kiffin and in his news conference to announce the hiring of interim head coach Tom Cable.

Davis often referred to Russell as a good player who he believes will become a great player. He also made it clear he didn't think that Kiffin thought Russell was a good player. Davis said that Kiffin wanted to draft someone else (Brady Quinn, perhaps?) other than Russell last year when Oakland made him the No. 1 overall pick. Davis said that Kiffin referred to Russell as overweight and uninterested.

It will be interesting to see how Russell reacts to being a focal point of the news conference. Bay Area media will surely ask him about his thoughts. For a young quarterback trying to find his way, this will be another challenge for him. But Davis clearly thinks Russell is up to the challenge.

Davis-Kiffin feud now is about money

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
8:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Al Davis' decision to detail Lane Kiffin's insubordination Tuesday in a stunning news conference is just the beginning.

There is sure to be a dispute between Davis and Kiffin over the remaining portion of his contract, which has about $3.5 million left on it. Davis went out of his way to detail all of Kiffin's missteps in his news conference, and it appears he is ready to go to battle with Kiffin.

In an exclusive television interview with ESPN, Kiffin called Davis what Davis earlier called him: a liar. Asked about his contract, Kiffin said he has attorneys to handle the situation. In the end, Kiffin said he is "kind of embarrassed" for Davis after watching his news conference.

I have a feeling that the Davis-Kiffin episode is not over.

Cable has his chance in Oakland

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
7:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Al Davis made it very clear this afternoon: Tom Cable has to win. If Cable wins, he could stay on as the Raiders head coach in 2009. Until then, Cable is the Raiders' interim head coach.

But he has a chance. Davis's decision to hire Cable is interesting. Initially, the speculation on the eventual replacement for Lane Kiffin, who was fired this morning, surrounded around receivers coach James Lofton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. But it was Cable, the team's offensive line coach, who emerged. Davis said Cable dominates his unit and he thinks Cable can dominate the entire Oakland locker room.

Tom Cable's Coaching Career
2007-08Raiders offensive line coach
2007-08Raiders offensive line coach
2006 Falcons offensive line coach
2004-05UCLA offensive coordinator
2000-03Idaho head coach
1999Colorado offensive coordinator
1998Colorado offensive line coach
1992-97California offensive line coach
1991UNLV offensive line coach
1990 Cal State-Fullerton defensive line coach
2007-08Raiders offensive line coach
1989San Diego State graduate assistant
1987-88Idaho graduate assistant
--Compiled by ESPN Research

Cable is known as one the better offensive line coaches in the league. He turned around the fortunes of Oakland's offensive line using the zone-blocking scheme that he was taught by Alex Gibbs who perfected the scheme in Denver.

Cable, 43, is known as a very businesslike coach, who can be tough on his players. He does have head coaching experience, but it wasn't successful. Cable, who played with former St. Louis coach Scott Linehan for current Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson at Idaho, had an 11-35 record at his alma mater.

Cable said offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will call the plays and Cable will still coach the offensive line. The key for Cable is to make sure young offensive talents JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden continue to develop.

It makes sense that Davis went to the offensive side of the ball. Russell and McFadden represent Oakland's greatest chance for a turnaround.

If Oakland's offense comes alive with the youngsters and the defense learns to put away games in the fourth quarter, perhaps Cable will stick around. If not there will be another coaching search in Oakland next January, where names such as San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike Martz could emerge. Until then, Cable has his chance.

Raiders to announce coach soon

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
6:21
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Al Davis has just taken a break after an explosive press conference in which he said Lane Kiffin, whom Davis fired today as head coach, was a "flat-out liar."

Davis is expected to take the podium again shortly to announce Kiffin's replacement. Davis said the coach is on the staff already and that it will be on an interim basis. Offensive line coach Tom Cable is expected to be named the coach. He has previous head-coaching experience at Idaho, where he had a 11-35 record.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

While the Raiders are about discuss Lane Kiffin's firing in a few moments, Kiffin told television reporters on his way out of the Raiders' facility that he will speak in a press conference Wednesday. He said details will be made available later. This includes the details of his firing, Kiffin said.

The fact that Raiders' owner Al Davis doesn't plan to pay Kiffin the remaining $3.5 million of his contract is sure to be a major part of the line of questioning during his press conference.

Raiders linebacker Kirk Morrison reacts to the firing of head coach Lane Kiffin and talks about players' attitudes moving forward.

Update from Oakland

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
3:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Here's the latest from the Raiders' facility:

Lane Kiffin, fired this morning over the phone by owner Al Davis, has been escorted from the facility. His time in Oakland is officially over. Kiffin was able to say goodbye to whoever was in the building but since the players are off today, there was no official team gathering.

Al Davis has been talking this afternoon to offensive line coach Tom Cable, who appears to be the leading candidate to take over the team. No announcement has been made. Cable has previous head coaching experience at his alma mater, Idaho. Cable played with Scott Linehan, fired Monday by St. Louis, at Idaho under current Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson.

Davis is set to meet the press at 5 p.m. ET today. Expect Kiffin's insubordination to be detailed. An announcement of his replacement is expected later today.

It has already been a wild day in Oakland, expect more fireworks as the day progresses.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Oakland's firing of Lane Kiffin may be an AFC West story, but it brings to mind two current NFC South head coaches.

Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden and Carolina's John Fox have done just fine since getting away from Al Davis' dysfunctional empire. Gruden won a Super Bowl and Fox has been to one.

The fact that neither of them could stand to be with Davis any longer and they both have moved on to better things should provide some encouragement for Kiffin. He'll get another coaching job, whether it's in the NFL or at the college level.

There is no shame in clashing with Davis. In fact, it's a badge of honor. I remember when Fox was on the verge of being hired by the Panthers in 2002. I asked an NFL executive if Fox's mysterious departure from his spot as Oakland's defensive coordinator raised a red flag. The executive said the fact Fox didn't see eye-to-eye with Davis would be viewed as a plus by many around the league.

Fox had to pay his dues, first as a consultant for the Rams and, later, as defensive coordinator for the Giants, but he's done just fine. So has Gruden. He got himself "traded" out of Oakland and beat the Raiders in the Super Bowl the next season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Early in this saga, Raider Nation, I asked for your opinion. Did you want Lane Kiffin to stay the Raiders coach or did you side with Al Davis and you wanted him gone?

The reaction was overwhelmingly on Kiffin's side. There even was Web site created, imploring Davis to keep Kiffin.

Now that the inevitable has happened, what are your thoughts? Was this a good move or did the Raiders take a step backward in firing Kiffin?

Share your thoughts during this turbulent time, Raider Nation.

Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd

Things are obviously a mess off the field in Oakland, but whether the new Raiders coach is Tom Cable or someone else, a coaching change won't alter things much between the lines. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp -- who has also been mentioned as a possible replacement for Lane Kiffin -- probably will continue to design and implement the game plan. The one tweak might be opening up the vertical passing game a bit more because Kiffin's approach revolved around running to set up the pass and placed a greater emphasis on ball control, ball security and field position.

The emergence of rookie RB Darren McFadden alongside the speedy Justin Fargas -- who is dealing with a groin injury -- and the power running of Michael Bush, means more eight-man fronts from opposing defenses and more pressure on second-year QB JaMarcus Russell, but the Raiders have found some packages that work in those situations.

Few teams in the NFL are as deep at running back as the Raiders, and they have done a nice job of packaging McFadden and Fargas in a three-wide grouping (2 RB, 3 WR) that spreads the field to create inside spacing in the run game. That grouping also creates intriguing mismatches on the outside by getting a linebacker or safety out in coverage and spreading the defense out. McFadden is a dynamic player with excellent versatility who can explode through creases in Oakland's zone-blocking scheme, and Fargas is a bigger back with speed and quickness. Both players are a threat to score every time they touch the ball and that places a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. Throw in Bush's size and power in short-yardage and goal-line situations and you have a nice trio to work with.

But even with that versatile ground attack the Raiders need their passing game to evolve over the course of the season and take advantage of those linebacker and safety matchups as teams load the box to stop the run. Russell is going to see a lot of high-low looks with a safety in the box creating eight-man fronts, man-to-man coverage on the outside and a single safety in the hole. In those situations he has to make the defense pay by hitting tight end Zach Miller down the seam against the safety or getting the ball over the top to wide receivers Javon Walker, Ronald Curry and Ashley Lelie. Russell has the bazooka arm to make those throws so it's just a matter of getting him comfortable within the offense.

The West Coast offense the Raiders run is predicated on short and intermediate routes that are used as an extension of the running game to get skill players into space, and if Russell can get into the flow early with those kinds of throws he will not only gain confidence but will also loosen up the defense, taking that eighth man out of the box and creating even more space inside for the running game. That could be especially important against defenses that like to attack the pocket and play physical coverage with their corners on an island.

As for the Oakland defense, don't expect the change in head coaches to have much of an effect on that side of the ball, either. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has remained focused during the chaos and held his group together after it was dominated by the Broncos in Week 1.

Ryan simplified his schemes by designing more quarters concepts on the back end that had his safeties responsible for a smaller area and allowed them to make quicker reads against the run. The secondary as a whole has done a better job in recent weeks of understanding route concepts, using better body position and getting their eyes back and attacking the ball in the air. Ryan has also mixed zone and pressure schemes that have resulted in more heat on opposing quarterbacks and more efficient performance on third down. Expect more of the same no matter who takes over as the head coach of the Raiders.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

Kiffin fired for 'cause'

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
2:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The Raiders have officially announced they have fired Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin

Interestingly, the statement announcing the firing said Kiffin was released for "cause." This is a carefully-chosen legal term. It is obvious the Raiders are going to say that Kiffin forced him to fire him for insubordination. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Raiders owner Al Davis does not plan to pay the remaining $3.5 million he owes Kiffin.

Expect a long, drawn out battle between Kiffin and the Raiders on this one. However, Mike Shanahan, who was also relieved of his duties as the Raiders coach after 20 games -- 19 years ago -- has yet to be paid fully by Davis what is owed to him. Thus, Kiffin shouldn't plan on receiving his money anytime soon.

In addition to not paying him, the Raiders are not going to allow him to address the team one last time. In the end, Davis has punished Kiffin hard. Davis supporters say Kiffin deserves this treatment for publicly questioning the boss.

Whether you agree, Davis owns the Raiders and it's his decision on how he wants to handle things. Davis is expected to address the media today at 2 p.m. PT. It will be very interesting hear what he has to say.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

At this point, being fired is probably best for Lane Kiffin. Kiffin's phone call from Raiders owner Al Davis today ended his 17 days on the hot seat. He was twisting in the wind for nearly three weeks and the entire Raiders organization was consumed by whether Davis would actually pull the trigger. Now that he has, it's best for Kiffin and the Raiders. Everyone can move on.

 
 Paul Jasienski/Getty Images
 Lane Kiffin posted a 5-15 record with the Raiders.

Kiffin, who had plenty of fan support in Oakland, leaves town knowing that his team played hard for him during this turbulent time and that he worked hard to the end. Remember, this is Oakland. Being fired by Davis is not exactly a novelty. Kiffin's career is not ruined by this. At 33, he is a bright, young coaching prospect with head-coaching experience.

Sure, it didn't work out in Oakland. Kiffin's record there was 5-15. But a losing record in Oakland this decade is nothing new either. Since losing the Super Bowl in the 2002 season, the Raiders are 20-64. The three other coaches -- Bill Callahan, Norv Turner and Art Shell -- were a combined 15-49.

Had the Kiffin-Davis relationship been able to work, there was a chance that Oakland could have had success with Kiffin. He has done a pretty nice job this year with the Raiders' young talent on offense. The players seemed to respond well to Kiffin and the team made progress even though the Raiders blew the last two games in the fourth quarter, at Buffalo and at home against San Diego.

There were signs that Kiffin was making progress in Oakland, but that didn't matter. Davis didn't like the way Kiffin handled himself and it was clear that his firing was only a matter of time. There is a school of thought that Kiffin's brutally honest approach to his job and his ability to stand up to Davis could hurt him in the future with other NFL owners or potential college jobs. No one wants a rabble-rouser.

But I believe prospective employers will realize that Kiffin was in a tough situation and won't worry about his combative tenure in Oakland.

Kiffin will no doubt emerge as a candidate for college jobs -- his name has been linked to a potential opening at Syracuse -- or offensive coordinator jobs in the NFL next year.

Because of Davis's decision to not pay him the remainder of his contract, Kiffin technically could join another staff this season. Whether that happens remains to be seen. But the end result is Kiffin is no longer in Oakland. And that's probably a good thing for him.

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