Defending turf, Titans sue Kiffin, USC

July, 26, 2010
7/26/10
6:08
PM ET
Jeff Fisher’s stinging comments about Lane Kiffin’s lack of professionalism in luring Kennedy Pola away from the Tennessee Titans' staff were only a first indication of the team’s discontent.

[+] EnlargePola
AP Photo/Phil CoaleThe Titans hired Kennedy Pola to be their running backs coach in January.
Jim Wyatt reports the team has sued both Kiffin and USC. The school hired Pola, Fisher’s running backs coach, away from the Titans on Saturday, to be its offensive coordinator just a week before the Titans' first training camp practice.
"According to the lawsuit, 'USC and Kiffin maliciously intended to -- and did -- induce Pola to breach his contract with the Titans.' The lawsuit alleges 'USC and Kiffin engaged in improper means in their procedure of the breach and were not legally justified in their actions.'

"According to the lawsuit, Pola agreed he would 'not under any circumstance solicit discussions or entertain employment with any other person or entity during the term without given written permission to do so,' under the terms of his contract with the Titans. Pola was not given written consent by the Titans.

"'Kiffin and USC’s actions through him were part of a course and pattern of conduct fostered by Kiffin and USC to use improper methods and means to the direct harm and damage of parties to contract, to interfere with an existing contract includes the breach thereof,' the lawsuit reads."

The Titans would love to stop Kiffin and USC from having Pola, but they certainly wouldn't want him back after this. If the suits are successful, they could see USC or Kiffin penalized financially and make a statement about protecting their turf, which might also set a precedent that would help ensure other franchises don't wind up dealing with similar issues in the future.

Pola joined the Titans in January, leaving Jacksonville. Fisher long coveted Pola and fired Earnest Byner to make room for the new assistant. Byner wound up replacing Pola on Jack Del Rio’s staff.

Since Pola jumped to USC, Fisher has faced a second round of bashing from fans over the Byner move. How, they ask, could he have fired a coach who oversaw Chris Johnson during a 2,000-yard season?

I’ve been critical of Fisher for being overly loyal to assistants in the past. In recent years, however, largely because of his stability, he’s put together and held together one of the NFL’s better coaching staffs.

If he didn’t love Byner and did love Pola, then making the switch was fine by me. And it’s not as if Fisher could have foreseen that (a) the new coach at his alma mater would steal Pola away, or that (b) Pola would actually leave him in such a bad spot so late in the year.

Fisher told Wyatt he intends to replace Pola from within.

Fisher could shift quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson over, or elevate one of three assistants who don’t have their own position groups -- assistant special-teams coach Marty Galbraith, offensive quality control coach Dowell Loggains or offensive assistant Richie Wessman.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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