In the wake of his clumsy, ham-handed firing by Al Davis, ex-Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin was asked by ESPN’s Trey Wingo the following question.
“How much effect do you think this firing will have on your ability to find another head coaching job in the NFL?”
Kiffin, looking genuinely shocked and hurt throughout the interview with Wingo — not because of Wingo, but because of the disgraceful way he was treated by Davis — seemed surprised by the query.
“I haven’t really given that much of a thought,” Kiffin admitted.
I almost laughed. Not at Kiffin — but at the absurdity of the question. And I’m still not sure if Wingo had his tongue planted firmly in cheek when he asked it, though he should have.
That’s like asking a food poisoning victim if what happened to him will affect his being allowed into another restaurant.
I don’t know much about Lane Kiffin, other than he’s the son of Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte, and that he inherited a bad situation in Oakland and only had 20 games to try to make it better, in his first head coaching job. But I know plenty about Al Davis.
Watching Kiffin during that interview, in which he seemed on the verge of tears because of what Davis said about him during the presser announcing his firing, I thought that this is a young coach who will absolutely get a second chance somewhere in the NFL — and maybe even BECAUSE of what happened in Oakland.
Consider the source, someone once said. It’s such a universally accepted adage, it’s uttered on playgrounds.
Davis: Does this look like a man with all his faculties?
Davis has been grasping at straws ever since he wrongly let Bill Callahan go, just one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance. The madman Davis cited, at that time, some sort of player revolt. Then he gave Norv Turner two years, resurrected Art Shell for one, and now has pulled the plug on Kiffin just one year and four games into his tenure. With Kiffin, Davis is citing a pattern of lies and other things that Davis has filed under the category of insubordination. He let his coach twist in the wind ever since Week 1.
Davis reportedly overruled Kiffin when the coach wanted to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after last season. Kiffin in turn said that Davis had reneged on a promise to give Kiffin total autonomy over which assistants stay and which go.
Now, some of the nonsense that went on behind the scenes probably should have stayed there, and if Kiffin had any hand in not ensuring that, then he should be held accountable. But again, privately.
But Al Davis doesn’t know the meaning of the words class and dignity. He certainly hasn’t grasped the concept of professional conduct. To hear him accuse Kiffin of that is laughable.
Davis went in front of the TV cameras and not only announced Kiffin’s dismissal, but he seemed to delight in twisting the knife deeper and deeper into the corpse, removing it, and then plunging it back in again. His verbal assault and slandering of his former coach was like watching one of those horror movie killers who gets that faraway, deranged look in his eye. Davis couldn’t stop himself. He also recounted how Kiffin asked him if being fired “with cause” — Davis’s words — meant that he wouldn’t get paid.
“That’s what I’m tellin’ ya,” Davis told the media of how he replied to Kiffin’s question.
So not only does Davis not want Kiffin as his coach, he doesn’t want to pay him the remainder of his contract, either. You think we’ve heard the last of that?
I’ve seen coaches dangling by a thread before, and you have too. Yet the owner is able to partially redeem that by announcing the axing in a professional, emotionless, unbiased manner. In fact, the outgoing guy is usually shown undo respect as he’s being kicked to the curb. It may come off as slightly insincere, but at least it’s dignifying.
Of course, Davis couldn’t do that. He couldn’t just read the statement and take a few questions, which he could have firmly refused to answer if they went in the direction of whatever dirty laundry the team had. It might have been unfulfilling to the scribes, but it would have been the right thing to do. Instead, Davis chose to hitch Lane Kiffin to the back of a tractor and pull him through the mud — THEN kick him to the curb.
Kiffin, for his part, answered Wingo’s questions quietly and calmly, and resisted the urge to blast Davis on the air. The closest he came was when he said he felt “kind of embarrassed” for Davis as he watched himself being trashed.
And Kiffin showed class when he said that he had no regrets about taking the Raiders job, and that the experience would help him in the future.
So in response to Trey Wingo’s inquiry: I don’t know for sure if Kiffin will get another head coaching job in the NFL, but I do know that the list of well-qualified folks who would consider working for Al Davis has been dwindling annually for years now.
Hey, Lions fans: sound familiar?