Davis is the problem, not coaches

Andrew Matheson

The keys are still firmly in the hands of Al Davis.
So firmly, in fact, that it’s back to business as usual for the
Oakland Raiders.
The keys are still firmly in the hands of Al Davis.

So firmly, in fact, that it’s back to business as usual for the Oakland Raiders.

Having not fired a head coach since Art Shell in – gasp! – a year and a half, Davis delivered the axe on Tuesday morning, just like old times.

Keeping true to his Commitment to Excellence, Davis fired Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin after weeks of speculation, even after reports surfaced Monday that Davis was already interviewing candidates who could take over the duties as Oakland skipper.

For those who had Sept. 30 in the office pool, congrats.

First reported by ESPNs Chris Mortensen, Kiffin, 33, leaves his helm in Oakland after compiling a 5-15 record – not even surviving a full second season.

Davis, perhaps pining for the days of when he was in high school, reportedly broke up with Kiffin over the phone, not in a face-to-face meeting. Better yet, a team executive apparently told Kiffin Tuesday morning that Davis would call him at 9:15 a.m. to, in fact, fire him.

Well, the break-up phone call is bush league, especially when you’ve been dating for nearly two years, but at least he gave him a heads up – perhaps like dropping a note in the Raiders organization.

Obviously, Davis hasn’t learned how to text.

But in all seriousness, and there’s really nothing more serious than the Raiders, the firing of Kiffin – whether it was warranted or not – fully magnifies Oakland as a plate of crazy that everyone kind of suspected they were.

We were all invited into their home on Tuesday when Al Davis held a press conference in Alameda, and by now, you’ve seen the videotape. It was exciting, wasn’t it?

But regardless of who you believe in this sordid mess, either Davis or Kiffin, the fact of the matter is that the Raiders simply cannot keep, or don’t want to keep, a coach around for too long.

Since the departure of Tom Flores in 1987, the Raiders have had nine head coaches. Only two of them – Jon Gruden and “Art Shell, Part I: The Early Years” – have survived more than two seasons.

A once proud franchise in the 1970s, today’s Raiders not only can’t keep a head coach for more than two years – the streak is now four coaches strong – but they’re a franchise that is severing all other options around the NFL.

If you’re wondering who will permanently replace Kiffin, and who will later replace interim Tom Cable, take a look within the organization, because all other choices in the league are rolling their eyes right now at the latest news out of the East Bay, especially considering the Raiders have no plans to pay the $3.5 million remaining on Kiffin’s contract.

I always had a feeling that the main reason why Kiffin was hired in the first place was because he was someone Davis could manipulate and mold into his own image – someone who wouldn’t act up despite a lack of power. He was the youngest head coach in the history of the league when hired, so he should have been vulnerable and ripe for the picking.

Basically, a puppet.

But the relationship between Kiffin and Davis quickly turned sour once it was reported that Kiffin was eyeing the head coaching position at the University of Arkansas. The relationship further deteriorated once Davis began buying up high-priced free agents without Kiffin’s approval, and was completely lost when Kiffin tried to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in a bizarre he said-he said scenario.

To quote Bill Parcells, “They want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for the groceries.”

Believe what you want to believe from Tuesday’s press conference, but something stinks when a coach can’t stay longer, doesn’t stay longer, than two years in Oakland.

And Cable, the team’s offensive line coach, has been handed the dreaded “interim” title, meaning his chances of surviving are slimmer than most.

Unfortunately, his two-year clock is already ticking.