Crotchety Old Fuck Tells Whippersnapper To Get Off His Lawn

This is probably not the image you want to see first thing, but if you want a state of where one of the NFL’s most notable franchises is, look no further than the void in this aged, craggy mug.

Most firings of coaches involve very somber, quick, and relatively fireworks-free press condferences. But, this is Al Davis and these are the Oakland Raiders, so all the rules go out the window. The Cryptkeeper spent the majority of his press conference berating Lane Kiffin, accusing him of lying and basically setting out hte case he plans to use in front of Roger Goodell in order to keep from paying the now-fired coach the rest of the money owed on his contract.

While watching this first half (I had to go to work before the second part unfolded, the one where, oh yeah, offensive line coach Tom Cable got to take over the sinking ship), all I could think of was how utterly pathetic, how petty and vendictive the whole matter was — and then had to ask why anyone with any form of sanity would consent to coaching the Raiders, even on an interim basis.  When Kiffin spoke with ESPN afterwards, saying he was embarrassed to even be associated with it and felt embarrassment for Davis, the whole day’s events reached another, unforeseen, and completely sad level of self-parody for a man who did so much actual good for professional football.

Davis was the AFL Commissioner in 1966, when the league was on the way up and rivaling the NFL (he had been against the merger.)  He hired the first Latino head coach in Tom Flores and first black head coach in Art Shell. He was a thorn in the side of then-commissioner Pete Rozelle, when NFL ownership needed a thorn in its side coming from its own.

That’s why it’s particularly difficult to observe this act straight out of King Lear, a patriarch gone mad, concerned about holding on to power to preserve his legacy while diminishing it at the same time.  Davis has repeatedly stated that he wants to remain in charge of the Raiders’ day-to-day operations and has stated his goal is to win two more Super Bowls before retiring.

He will die first.

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The Lane Kiffin Death Watch Gets Even More Absurd

I’m taking a bet on this since I don’t read him all that regularly, but San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami is probably a bit of a dick. Most newspaper columnists have opinionated takes that tend to verge on the obnoxious a lot of the time. They get readers this way that either love them or hate them, and that’s usually how it goes.

Sadly, WordPress is not good with video not from Google or YouTube, thus, I can’t embed the little confrontation Kawakami had with Raiders senior exec John Herrera right here, but thankfully, the Merc’s online staff has seen fit to put it at the end of his latest column.

The basic background is that someone in the Raiders’ org circulated a column critical of coach Lane Kiffin on ESPN.com, and in a press conference yesterday where everyone thought Coach Lunch Money was going to get the ax, Kawakami asked a question about feeling isolated in the organization — which prodded Herrera to interrupt Kiffin’s response, and then the little side skirmish on the video.

Kiffin isn’t absolved of all responsibility in this soap opera — he has been insolent towards owner Al Davis and cavalier about his attitude, but if you’re working in what appears to be a completely dysfunctional structure, who can blame him?  He’s going to have to answer these questions every Monday until the Cryptkeeper fires him — which will be a mistake, because Kiffin is probably the best coach the organization has hired since Jon Gruden rightfully bailed.

Bill Callahan may have taken Gruden’s leftovers to a Super Bowl, but they tanked after the infamous Tuck Rule call. (Horrendously wrong, see “JusttheFacts” in comments.) Norv Turner was, well, NORV!  Art Shell 2.0 was disastrous. Kiffin is actually coaching the offensive side of the team up and trying to build with a quarterback in JaMarcus Russell who is clearly taking the reins before being even close to ready. To be that close against the Bills on Sunday was much, much closer than any of us would have given the Raiders credit for.

What Davis is doing, by letting this drag out, is ensuring a coach who will be happy to wreak vengeance every time he faces him again. Mike Shanahan does it, Gruden does it, and Kiffin, who will likely get another NFL job somewhere down the road, will do it.

But for now, we get to watch the dysfunction as it spills out, and for now, it’s entertaining, if in a very sad way.

Sympathy For A Raider?

God help me, but I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Lane Kiffin. I shouldn’t, and neither should anyone else, because he accepted Al Davis’ offer to coach the team, probably knew he was a third or fourth choice, and decided to go with it anyway. Now, it’s a week by week speculation-fest about when (not if) the Cryptkeeper will suck up his pride about paying him the rest of his contract and fire him.

These are absolutlely the worst type of job situations: you are working for a boss or bosses who wants you off the staff (whether for personal reasons or looking to save cash), and he’d rather you quit than fire you. So, we’re stuck with a very public spat and stalemate — and even outside incidents like the arrest of defensive end Tommy Kelly for DUI tend to color the whole feeling of chaos surrounding the organization.

Everyone knows Davis has to have control; holds it over the offensive philosophy to a point where there is no truly independent coach in the East Bay — this is why the Raiders’ head job has essentially become kryptonite ever since Jon Gruden had his spat with the Cryptkeeper and made his way to Tampa Bay. Sure, Bill Callahan got them to a Super Bowl — and then got whipped by Gruden, because he’s Bill Callahan. After that, it was NORV! and the gargoyle ways of Art Shell, Version 2.0. Now, Kiffin is in limbo, seemingly content to game plan week to week with the ax over his heead and everyone asking him about his job security.

There are the rumors that he would head to Syracuse to take over when the AD gets enough of a pair to fire the underachieving Greg Robinson. I remember Kiffin flirting with the Arkansas job last year before Bobby Petrino bailed on the Falcons.  All I can think of these rumors is that Kiffin has to be a masochist if he wants to take the biggest resurrection project on after he gets canned.

Al Davis Lives Off The Souls Of Head Coaches.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting online (and just saw it on NFL Live) that the Cryptkeeper sent Lane Kiffin (Coach Lunch Money) a resignation letter that Kiffin refuses to sign today. This has its roots in rumors of Kiffin’s desire to fire defensive coordinator/Joe Esterhas look-alike Rob Ryan (yes, son of Buddy, brother of Rex), although they have publicly made up. Ryan is a Davis favorite, who kept him from going to the Jets to serve as D-coordinator over there.

Usually, I don’t make a point of taking pity on the Raiders or their fans — your tears taste like candy, Oakland! — but I’m starting to develop a bit of empathy here. Clearly, the man in charge of operations over there has gone bat-shit insane, and wants to go for four coaches in four years. Either he needs to consume another coaching soul in order to get another year of life in his body, or has gone fully senile, expecting more than 4-12 from a rookie coach’s first year — a rookie coach that he promised more control over coaches, but he won’t give.

Essentially, Davis has screwed his own franchise right now, and continues to do so with abandon. He insists on offensive guys being the head coach, when he probably should have hired Rob Ryan as head guy after firing Norv Turner. Now, he’s in the latest battle of wills with Kiffin — who certainly will be able to head right back to the college ranks as an O-coordinator, or can even land a pro O-coordinator job somewhere.

A commitment to excrement. It’s a beautiful thing.