When owner Al Davis hired USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, most questioned Kiffin’s history as well as his age. Kiffin might have been part of college football’s powerhouse, but he also looked as if he had just graduated from USC.
Now due to the fact that the Raiders are a work in progress and are still not contending after starting over from scratch two years ago, Kiffin will go down as the second Raiders coach to be fired after only a year.
At age 31, Kiffin was the NFL’s youngest coach, but surely did not act like it. Since 2002, the Oakland Raiders have gone through four different coaches, and saying that Kiffin was in for a challenge was an understatement. However, knowing this, Kiffin accepted the job with eagerness to get started and to put the team back on top where they were during the late 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Given a solid defense, the first pick in the draft, and a solid fan base, a turnaround was certainly possible. Unfortunately, owner and long-time football executive Al Davis felt that it was only fair to fire Kiffin after one year if a drastic improvement was not made. Even though Davis has been around the league longer than any current associates, it’s fair to say that he might have gotten this one wrong.
Bay Area native and faithful Raider fan, Andrew Lofholm did not like the move from the start. “When I first saw his press conference, not only did I not know who he was, or his history, but questioned the age on his birth certificate. That being said, after his first season finishing with four wins, two better than the previous year, he technically did improve.”
Some people might say that athletes and coaches are paid way too much, and for that money they should be able to do their job. With the circumstances revolving around the Raiders, to bring a team from 2-15 to 4-13 is not great, but it is progress.
During that offseason, Kiffin made several signings and transactions that could lead to a big season. Adding cornerback DeAngelo Hall, wide receiver Javon Walker, as well as college football phenom running back Darren McFadden certainly made the roster a lot more potent.
This made many football fans buy into his scheme. “What really sold me on his potential was the off-season moves made, picking up Javon Walker, DeAngelo Hall, and drafting Darren McFadden. At this point, I thought they could easily get to 500 (8-8) this year. So far the chances of it happening don’t look too good, and unfortunately we’ll never find out,” said Sean McQuiggan, a football fanatic.
The 2008 season began, and like they have been known to do, the Raiders lost their first game. Oakland rebounded with a win, and then traveled to Buffalo where they faced an undefeated and confident Bills team. Leading for most of the game, it looked like Oakland would go to 2-1, but due to a mental collapse in the defense, the Bills ended up winning on a field goal with seconds left.
After this game, it was rumored that Kiffin would be fired. Like most rumors, this was untrue and the coach was in for at least one more week. However, after facing San Diego’s high powered offense and Oakland still rebuilding, the Raiders suffered their third loss, which resulted in Kiffin being fired.
Henry Neff, a longtime resident of the Bay Area, understands the career of Al Davis but thinks he’s only doing the team worse by making the majority of the decisions. “We recognize the achievements that Al (Davis) has accomplished and support him, but at the same time want the Raiders to redeem their status once held, as an elite football franchise.”
Later in the interview, Neff praised Kiffin and his efforts stating that he “was possibly the best Raiders coach since Bill Callahan, who brought them to the Super Bowl in 2002 season. The team had passed its prime and needed a fresh start. Kiffin had the team heading in the right direction and was probably on pace for 10 wins within the next five years. Unfortunately Kiffin will not get to experience that fulfillment, and because of this Davis needs to consider handing the reigns over to someone else.”
Kiffin never really had any coaching experience and was going to be a rookie in this whole journey. However, the job that he did – with the authority given by Davis – was remarkable. Kiffin might not yet be ready, but it’s clear that with time this chance will certainly come up again.