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Archive for Thursday, September 25, 2008

Commentary: Kiffin’s role with Raiders ridiculous

September 25, 2008

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You can't make this up. You can't make this up, because this is all so implausible, it comes from the world of make believe. Then you revisit the topic and the toxicity of the environment - the Oakland Raiders at their headquarters - and the craziness of the Monday afternoon media session makes complete sense.

First, this is what did not happen. Al Davis did not fire Lane Kiffin, contrary to earlier reports by ESPN and Fox Sports. Kiffin did not call his boss and quit. Davis and Kiffin did not break their verbal impasse of several weeks, either.

But the conversation at Raiders camp Monday was loud and clear. Think chaos. Or walls crumbling.

In a scene more common at a weigh-in for two lusty heavyweights, a Raiders executive seated in the back of the press room interrupted a San Jose Mercury News columnist questioning Kiffin about reports that team officials recently distributed an ESPN article critical of the head coach.

"That's not true, (Tim) Kawakami, that's not true!" Raiders senior executive John Herrera bellowed.

Kawakami stared at Kiffin and persisted: "... How isolated do you feel in this organization?"

Now, if there was ever a chance for Kiffin to offer Davis a bailout, to leave even the remote impression that he had his owner's back on internal matters, this was it. And it didn't happen. And it probably wasn't ever going to happen, which surely has to be causing Davis more angst than is medically advisable for someone of his advanced age.

The kid is really, really good at this. Kiffin slithers along where few men dare and even fewer survive - under Al's skin. When he receives that final paycheck, he should immediately take his act to Vegas and hit the poker tables at the Palms. He incited the situation Monday without singing a nasty note, let Al have it simply by leaning into the microphone and lending credibility to the reports. (He knows the reporters. He believes who he believes).

"I don't have that feeling of isolation because I go in and my day's not really different, whether this stuff you're reporting on is going around, or articles being passed around or anything, that has nothing to do with it," an impassive Kiffin responded. "Does it help? No. I'm not going to sit up here and lie to you, tell you that it helps, that it brings our team together, that we're going to bond together like the movie 'Major League' like somebody told me. It doesn't help. But I can't control it. All I can do is keep our team together."

In other words, he let Al have it, in essence, exacerbated a situation that has been seething since the offseason. He is daring Davis to fire him for his 5-14 record over these two seasons, defying the owner by reporting to work every day as if the Raiders comings and goings were nothing out of the ordinary.

But the Raiders haven't been ordinary for years. Ordinary implies mediocrity. They haven't been that good since Rich Gannon. Jon Gruden, Bill Callahan and Norv Turner came and went and endured the daily drama of Davis. Their exploits were worthy of front page news though, not the stuff of comic books. This stuff leaves the silver and black, black and blue. It's embarrassing, ridiculous, unnecessary.

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