Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Kiffin Episode Ends

Kiffin / Davis
Kiffin's Biggest Fan
The most predictable soap opera in professional sports closed another chapter on its dysfunctional history on Tuesday afternoon, when the Raiders fired head coach Lane Kiffin. KGO radio, ESPN and NFL.com all reported Kiffin’s dismissal, which was as big a surprise as a Raiders loss. The beleaguered coach has been waiting for the announcement to come since last January, but there’s nothing efficient about the Raiders these days.

For as hard as Al Davis tries not to be predictable, his once storied franchise is as easy to read as a Rob Ryan blitz scheme.

What I don’t understand is, what Davis thinks all of this is actually going to accomplish? I was actually holding out hope that Davis would throw everyone a curveball, including Kiffin, and keep him at the helm for the remainder of the season.

When Mike Shanahan was fired in 1989, the Raiders righted a 1-4 start to finish the season 8-8, but that was a much different team. That roster included the like of Bo Jackson, Marcus Allen and Howie Long.

The list of possible replacements does little to incite any belief that this will turn thins around. James Lofton seems like the most obvious choice, because his name has been dangled around since the day Kiffin was hired. He also seems to be the kind of yes man Davis can manage without distraction.

What’s most baffling (oh there are many things to be baffled by) is the fact that names like Tom Cable or Tom Rathman are even being talked about. Tom Cable, head coach. Really?

The one thing about Kiffin’s hiring was that it was a fresh perspective, bringing in a young offensive mind that actually seemed to be changing the losing culture that has plagued the Raiders. Ranted, he didn’t win, but what can you expect given the tools that he was handed (and the command that he wasn’t)?

Rather than arm Kiffin with the tools he needed to be successful, the Raiders blew most of their cap space on defensive retreads. You can argue that Darren McFadden cost the Raiders a pretty penny, but he was a draft pick. Where was the receiver the Raiders so dearly needed? Javon Walker? Ashley Lelie? Seriously?

I’m surprised Davis didn’t throw a couple million at Vince Evans to come out of retirement.

What’s worse is the fact that Kiffin appeared to be righting the ship. Blowing two 4th quarter leads isn’t the model of success, but put those loses into perspective. They came against a surprising 4-0 Buffalo Bills team and a San Diego Chargers team that’s supposed to compete for a Super Bowl this year.

What we’ll find out is if those two games were motivated by a roster that was playing to save their coach’s job. If it was, what does that mean for the remainder of the season?

Now Davis gets to select a fill-in for the remainder of the season, and we get wait for the next episode of this soap opera to play out. Who will be Davis’ next protégé turned nemesis? What head scratching moves come next?

Like Terdell Sands through the hourglass, these are the days of your Raiders lives.

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