Raiders Woes: Lane Kiffin, Al Davis, and the Media

RealFootball365.comSenior Writer IJanuary 28, 2008

It was a rhetorical question, of course, but the last sentence of the article ended with: "It is a harsh reality, but until [Al] Davis steps down from his dominant role, every off season in Oakland will take the form of this one: confusing, controversial and utterly unnecessary."

It took only two weeks for Davis to spark the team's first avoidable—but predictable—controversy.

Friday, ESPN reported that Davis sent 32-year-old head coach Lane Kiffin a letter of resignation to sign. With just a bit of ink, the young coach would give the 78-year-old team owner the power to hire the Raiders' fourth coach in four years.

Since then, there have been hundreds of reports released detailing the sticky situation: What went wrong, what is forthcoming and what the parties involved have said.

"Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has been pushing for coach Lane Kiffin to resign and is considering Dennis Green as a potential replacement, sources close to Kiffin and the team said," the original ESPN.com report read.

This came close to a month after the Rob Ryan coaching controversy first beaconed. In a similar-style report on Jan. 2, the Oakland Tribune declared that Ryan, the team's defensive coordinator, had been told he would be fired within a week, and would likely take a job with the New York Jets thereafter.

Last Wednesday, Kiffin put that rumor to rest, telling the Chicago Tribune, "Rob has a contract with the Raiders and he will be back." Essentially, that means Davis wants Ryan back.

Whether Davis wants Kiffin back in '08 is a different question. As it appears now, likely not.

Speaking on behalf of the Raiders' organization, senior executive John Herrera clearly stated otherwise, however. "There is no issue here. There was never an issue here. There is nothing to it."

Sounds stubborn to me. It is hard to believe there is 'nothing' to a situation that has been escalating in news coverage and legitimacy for several weeks now. ESPN is the first big-name news source to officially report the dispute, but outlets all over the Bay Area have indicated the rift between the two parties throughout the season.

"Although the bomb that set the most recent developments in motion was Kiffin's attempt to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Kiffin and Davis began clashing on staff makeup a year ago over a contract for Mark Jackson, Kiffin's top administrative aide," a Sports XChange report on MSNBC.com read.

"Jackson got neither the money nor the length of agreement that Kiffin thought Davis had agreed to. By mid-season, Davis essentially had Jackson moved out of his office in the personnel department and rendered him a non-person."

It seems Davis wants to make Kiffin a "non-person" by getting him to opt out of his current contract, which has two years remaining.

However, while coaching the North team at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama Saturday, Kiffin responded "I hope so," to whether he would like to be back in silver and black next season.

Suspiciously, though, Kiffin was not dressed in Raider attire for the Senior Bowl events this past weekend. The Oakland Tribune was the first to point out that Jon Gruden also did not sport the Raider logo during his season-ending press conference in 2001.

They also reported that the team recently requested permission to talk with ex-Redskins offensive assistant Al Saunders, who was fired by the team Saturday. Saunders interviewed for the Raiders' head coaching job in the '06 offseason before Davis eventually opted for Art Shell.

Since 2003, Oakland has hired four different head coaches, while accruing a 19-61 record. The list of coaches during that span includes Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Shell and Kiffin.

To say the Raiders' dilemma stems from a coaching problem is not only off-base, but pure blind loyalty to an owner whose best days are behind him.

Through five losing seasons, four different head coaches and an array of unnecessary controversies, there has always been one common denominator: Al Davis.

Anthony Carroll can be contacted at acarroll@realfootball365.com

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