Kiffin Finally Gets Davis’ Boot in Oakland

Anyone who thought Raiders owner/architect Al Davis had mellowed over the years was greatly mistaken.  The volatile Raiders head man finally decided that he had seen enough of the Lane Kiffin era as he fired the 33-year old coach on Tuesday just four games into his second season and one day after the St. Louis Rams let go of Scott Linehan.  The firing marked the second time Davis got rid of coach after 4 weeks (Mike Shanahan after four games in 1989).  Kiffin finishes his very short 20-game tenure with a record of 5-15.

Tuesday’s firing finally ended a situation that had been simmering since January 2008 at the Senior Bowl, when there were rampant rumors that Davis had written a resignation letter that Kiffin refused to sign.  After that moment Davis seemed to relish in the fact that he had the upper hand over Kiffin and did everything within his power to make the young coach quit.  To his credit, Kiffin continued preparing his team despite Davis’ placing confidants on his staff in form of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and receivers coach James Lofton.  However Kiffin did voice his opinion through the critical session with the media where he sniped at Davis and Ryan often, causing a “When is the firing going to happen atmosphere?”

After looking embarrassing unprepared for their 2008 debut on Monday Night Football where the Raiders were shellacked 41-14 at home by the Broncos, the team responded in an uncertain environment.  Kiffin led the Raiders to a 23-8 dismantling of the Chiefs in week 2 followed by a game effort against the undefeated Bills in week 3 losing by a whisker 24-23.  Those efforts and Sunday’s 28-18 loss to Chargers, where the Raiders led 15-0 at the half, were not enough to quell Davis from chopping Kiffin. The writing was on the wall as the Davis held clandestine meetings with team officials on Monday as Kiffin went about his business of his usual press conference and film preparation. The end came during the Raiders’ bye week as Kiffin probably said to Davis, “Fire me, because I will not quit”.

Now, “Where do the Raiders go from here?” unfortunately there is nowhere to go but up as one of the NFL’s greatest franchises has come apart in recent years – 7 coaches since 1995 and a record of 20-64 since losing in Super Bowl XXXV -mostly due to ineptness at the top many sources have said.  The Raiders still owe Kiffin $2 million dollars this season and there was a team option for 2009 from his two-year deal from last year. It will be interesting to see if the young coach stays on the sidelines collecting guaranteed money or if he will latch on somewhere else – maybe Kiffin can follow in the footsteps of two coaches that went on to greatness after leaving the Raiders madhouse — Shanahan (won two Super Bowls) and Norv Turner (Led Chargers to AFC Title Game)

The Raiders did not immediately announce a replacement for Kiffin, but Davis has a short list compiled including in-house candidates Ryan, Lofton, Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, running backs coach Tom Rathman, offensive line coach Tom Cable and scout/retread coach Paul Hackett.   My guess is that Lofton, who Davis interviewed several times in ’07 before hiring Kiffin, will get the job.  Lofton is well respected around the NFL as a receivers coach and is a former Hall of Fame player, but the key issue is he ready to be in Davis’ crosshairs daily.

Stay tuned, as we know “As the Raiders Turns” will have more drama to come.


Rams fire coach Scott Linehan

Unfortunately an “I told you so” moment occurred on Monday morning as it was learned around the NFL that the winless St. Louis Rams’ owner Chip Rosenbloom had fired coach Scott Linehan – lost badly at home to the Bills 31-14 falling to an ugly (0-4) record. The beleaguered coach, who was my pick as the first coach to be relieved of his duties going back to my season-opening preview was finally let go after the Rams had a fourth straight lopsided loss to start the ’08 season.  Linehan had tried to pull out all the stops on Sunday as desperate move after desperate didn’t work including benching former Pro Bowl quarterback Marc Bulger for brittle veteran Trent Green – BTW:  The surprising move to bench Bulger for little reason was the last straw with the veteran team.

Linehan will now go down in NFL history with other failed coaches David Shula, Rich Brooks, and Al Groh as someone, who never was able to get a winning tradition going from the start of his tenure.  At age 45 and having some success working in the Vikings regime in the past may get Linehan another chance as a coordinator down the line.  But he clearly was overmatched had lost the Rams lockerroom amongst whispers that the team had quit on him after only four games into his third season.  Driving home the point of “how” bad this team was, they have been outscored 147-43 this season, and have allowed at least 30 points in seven straight games dating back to last year.

Linehan had taken over from successful, but volatile head coach Mike Martz and was expected to bring discipline to a talented, but underachieving aging group that had been left around from Super Bowl teams in 1999 and 2006.  Linehan’s best season was in his first season as the team compiled an 8-8 record.  However that high water record mark was tainted as the team missed the playoffs after a 4-1 start.  Since that great start, Linehan’s Rams compiled a 7-24 record in their last 31 games as the disappointing coach finished with an 11-25 record.

The Rams have scheduled a news conference for later today to announce the firing and to also announce that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was hired as the interim head coach for the rest of the year.  Luckily for the new coach, the Rams have a bye this week before playing at the NY Giants in week six.  Only time will tell if Haslett is the right man for the job – was fired by New Orleans after the 2005 season, finishing with a 45-65 record and a 1-1 record in the playoffs – or if the team needs to find a new guru from the outside.  My vote is for the Rams to find a new tough respected coach that will light a fire under this below par team (ex. SF 49ers Assistant Head Coach / LB Coach Mike Singletary).

2008 NFL Week 4 Preview

(Philadelphia, Pa) – Around the NFL this weekend is “Separation Sunday II” as we will continue to find out who are the contenders and pretenders as first quarter report cards are issued.  Autumn has arrived bringing football type weather and you can feel and smell football in the air each weekend.  Fridays are filled with high school games under the lights, Saturdays give you the excitement and pageantry college football, and Sundays are can’t miss television for NFL fans.  In fact, NFL games topped the local ratings in 29 of 29 NFL markets last week and the Sunday night Dallas-Green Bay game on NBC was the most-watched show of the week with 22.2 million viewers, which was almost double the Emmys’ number of 12.3 million.  Speaking of high school ball, USA Football announced its annual list of high schools with the most NFL players with two schools Dillard HS in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (ex.  Carolina DB Chris Gamble) and Tustin HS in Tustin, California (ex. Falcons OT Sam Baker) leading the way with six players.

To me it is still too early to make long-term observations based on the first three weeks of the NFL season.  But one thing is clear, this season has shown that there are distinct tiers within the NFL.  There are the undefeated teams looking down from the top (Cowboys, Bills, Giants, Broncos, Ravens, and Titans), winning teams fighting to get to the elite level (Eagles, Falcons, Packers, Steelers, Patriots, Cardinals, Redskins, Buccaneers, Niners, and Panthers), teams hanging on to the ledge in hopes of getting back in the race (Chargers, Saints, Bears, Colts, Jaguars, Vikings, Jets, and Seahawks) and some teams that just plain stink (Raiders, Browns, Lions, Bengals, Rams, Texans, and Chiefs). Continue reading

The “U” is the NFL’s version of the minor leagues

The University of Miami may not be the powerhouse that they once were in the ‘90s, but they sure can produce NFL caliber players.  For 14 straight years they have produced a first-round draft choice and the “U” was the top college for producing NFL players on opening day rosters with 44.  The rest of the schools were Florida State 37; rivals Michigan and Ohio State along with Georgia 36; LSU 35; Tennessee 34; USC 32; Florida 30; Notre Dame 28; Auburb and CAL 27

Also USA Football announced its annual list of high schools with the most NFL players with two schools Dillard HS in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (ex.  Carolina DB Chris Gamble) and Tustin HS in Tustin, California (ex. Falcons OT Sam Baker) leading the way with six players.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 4

(Philadelphia, Pa) — This has been one wacky season around the NFL, where any team can beat another at any turn.  The main thing is that almost every team – probably except for the 0-3 teams, only two have made the playoffs since in the free agency era -still has a shot at the playoffs.

Most teams are in the 2-1 to 1-2 range (20 teams) entering Week 4, but seperation and desperation are the two key words at this phase of the NFL schedule.  As we turn the first quarter pole of the race, I thoroughly believe that we will see good teams keep moving forward (ex. Cowboys and Bills) toward the playoffs. But teams that are winless at this point (Texans, Lions, Chiefs, Rams, Browns and Bengals) are trying anything including starting backup quarterbacks and playing younger players in an attempt to save their season and in some cases their coaches jobs. Continue reading

Millen Finally Let Go as Lions Figurehead

Maybe Billy Jr does carry some clout after all… Apparently after some disparaging remarks by the Lions VP earlier in the week about struggling General Manager, team president, and CEO of the Detroit Lions Matt Millen.  The embattled GM stepped down after seven seasons according to a report by’s Jay Glazer.  

Millen was informed of the move during a meeting with the Lions’ leadership on Tuesday night.  The report wasn’t clear on whether Millen stepped down during the meeting or if Lions officials fired him.  But I am sure that William Clay Sr finally listened to his son Bill Ford Jr,  after the younger Ford made it clear changes needed to be made at the top of one of the NFL’s worst franchises in recent years.  You could say, “The Wool was finally pulled from” the eyes of Ford Sr as he could no longer keep Millen as the head football man in Motor CIty, even though the two were very close.

Since Millen’s hiring in 2001, the former linebacker and broadcaster turned football administrator had rode the Lions aground (were 9-7 in 2000) compiling an embarrassing 31-84 record (winning pct of 37%) including a high win total of seven in ’07 — last in the playoffs in ’99.  Millen always pinned the blame on the four coaches and maybe five (Rod Marinelli is struggling too) that he hand picked.  But after losing season after losing season and picking notable first-round draft busts WR Mike Williams, WR Charles Rogers, and QB Joey Harrington to name few, enough was enough.

Now Millen can possibly return to the booth where it is a lot safer and fans will not be holding marchs to get him fired if he stinks.  As for the Lions fans, they can finally turn their attention to the field where the Leos have compiled an 0-3 so far this season.  The Millen-less era of football starts in week 5 against NFC North rival the Chicago Bears after the Lions re-group during their bye week.

Kevin’s Keen College Football Observations for Week 4

Kevin’s Keen College Football Observations for Week 4

Did WVU Pick the Wrong Man for the Job ?? – After West Virginia beat up on favored Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, the administration overreacted and hired Bill Stewart as their full time coach. In the wake of the Rich Rodriguez fiasco they gave Stewart the reins to the extremely successful Mountaineer program, even with a career 8-25 head coaching record at VMI. Then after WVU lost to East Carolina they decided to give him a contract extension. Now, after their second straight loss to Colorado last Thursday, it is evident that Stewart is now questioning himself.    Continue reading