What you are witnessing is real. The participants are not actors. They are actual litigants with a case pending in an Oakland metropolitan area court. Both parties have agreed to drop their claims and have their disputes settled here, in our forum: The People's Court."
The plaintiff is one Mr. Lane Kiffin. Lane is the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders. He claims that he was fired from his position by owner Al Davis without cause and is due the $2 million dollars left on his contract. He is suing for the remaining $2 million dollars and another $1.5 million in damages.
The defendant is one Mr. Al Davis. Al is the longtime owner of one of the most storied franchises in professional football. He hired Mr. Kiffin as the youngest coach in Oakland Raiders history, but proceeded to fire him 4 games in to his second season. Davis claims the firing is for "due cause" and owes no money to Mr. Kiffin.
Judge Marilyn Milian will decide the verdict in "The Case of the Raiders of the Lost Job."
Al Davis and Lane Kiffin appearing in The People's Court? That sounds ridiculous, right? Almost as ridiculous as an NFL owner not speaking to his head coach for over three weeks. Almost as ridiculous as that same head coach not speaking to the defensive coordinator for over two weeks. Almost as ridiculous as firing a head coach who has taken your team from a 2-14 record back to some semblance of respectability with a good defense and an excellent running game. Almost as ridiculous as replacing the fired coach by promoting the offensive line coach over the offensive and defensive coordinators. I think you get the point.
The Raiders have gone from one of the pillars of NFL excellence to a running joke in late night monologues. Al Davis has now become the stereotype of a senile old man who is half mad scientist and half honorary mayor of Boca Raton. Al Davis's team is no longer about winning and losing - he has turned it in to a "good ol' boys" club where any former Raider (regardless of competence) is given a position of power in the club and essentially a lifetime appointment. His system of installing a big arm quarterback and two or three speedy wide receivers to stretch the field is antiquated and hindering the team. Having burned through head coaches like pairs of underwear Al Davis has set his franchise back another two or three seasons.
The Lane Kiffin reign in Oakland was doomed from day one when Al Davis introduced him in a press conference by the wrong name. Davis promised Kiffin complete control of his staff of assistance, then told him that he was not allowed in the defensive meetings during the week. The offense is nearly nine points a game better this season than last season and the defense has gotten worse by nearly the same amount. It almost seems like Davis hired Kiffin in the hopes that he could control Kiffin and coach the team from his owners suite. But Davis wouldn't do that - would he?
Things had gotten so bad in Oakland that reports had surfaced that Al Davis drafted a letter of resignation for Kiffin to sign over the summer. Al Davis stopped communicating with Kiffin and by week three had told him that the Raiders were searching for his replacement. When he was finally fired in week four (by a FedEx'd letter - not even the courtesy of a face to face) nobody was the least bit surprised. The only surprising part is that Al Davis is trying to not pay Kiffin the money he is due on his contract.
The Raiders have fallen so far in a such a short amount of tim e. It was only about five years ago that they were one of the best offensive teams in football under John Gruden. Then Al Davis essentially traded Gruden to Tampa, hired Bill Callahan who dismantled the team and rebuilt them as a 4-12 team, fired Callahan and hired Art Shell who brought the team down to 2-14, hired Kiffin who brought them back up to 4-12, then fired Kiffin 4 years in to his second season. If this team is not a raging dumpster fire - I don't know what is.
I understand that Al Davis was pivotal in the history of professional football. I know that without Davis we might not have the NFL as we know it today. But I also know that when a person stops being helpful and becomes a poison to their team and the league in general, something needs to be done. I don't know if Roger Goodell needs to step in and demand something be done to this team - but there is no way that Al Davis (while acting like a 4 year old with a plastic toy and looking like a Muppet made of leather) can bring this team back from the brink.
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