Sports

Kiffin should just wait

This is a ridiculously easy play to call. Lane Kiffin should sit back and let Al Davis twist and shout, looking like an even bigger buffoon than usual, and force the Raiders owner to decide between common sense and dollars and cents.

You know what he'll do.

You win if you wait him out.

Then take the money and run.

The organization's protests and spin control notwithstanding, Davis clearly doesn't want his promising young coach around anymore, Kiffin doesn't need anymore of Davis' chronic meddling, and while reasonable men would resolve their differences and collaborate on the formidable task of rebuilding the Raiders, that will never happen.

ESPN, citing unidentified sources, reported that Davis drew up a resignation letter for Kiffin two weeks ago, but the coach refused to sign it. The Raiders denied that report.

Davis hires and fires on an almost semi-annual whim, still behaves like he belongs on the sideline instead of in a rocking chair, conveniently forgetting he was Coach of the Year back in 1963.

He's a power-hungry has-been, and no matter how many coaches he devours, he's never satisfied.

Listing Davis' procession of successors would consist of cruelty to trees. The current decade alone, Jon Gruden, Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell and Kiffin have been hired and heralded by Davis, only to fall dramatically out of favor.

Gruden was the lone forceful personality whose presence dominated the locker room and alienated the boss. Callahan, Turner, Shell and Kiffin failed to win enough games to satisfy Davis; in the case of Callahan, the defeats including a Super Bowl humiliation against Gruden's Tampa Bay Bucs. Most significantly, all of the recent Raiders coaches eventually refused to keep kissing the ring -- in Al's fantasy world, a fireable offense. In the real world, he seems intent on making Kiffin so uncomfortable he quits with two years left on his contract, saving the Raiders some $4 million.

Sadly, no one expects Davis to do the honorable thing, to simply cut Kiffin a check and send the youngster on his way. These are the Raiders, always the black hats and eyes of the NFL.

Had Davis been motivated by something other than a thirst for power, he actually could have justified a coaching change to a certain extent, saving himself from another public lashing. Though Kiffin, 32, restored discipline and accountability to a franchise that for decades has targeted lawyers, politicians and referees as their most formidable adversaries, the club finished with a disappointing 4-12 record. The defense ranked 22nd and was worse against the run.

And despite serious lobbying by numerous Raiders executives, prized rookie quarterback JaMarcus Russell received valuable playing time only in the final weeks.

No, philosophical differences were apparent even in the beginning, with Kiffin clearly more comfortable with Josh McCown running his conservative system than veteran Daunte Culpepper or the much-publicized Russell, who missed all of training camp because of a contract impasse. The fans' almost weekly serenading of McCown did little to influence Kiffin, who said winning games -- not the pursuit of an exciting style of play -- was the prelude to eradicating a losing culture.

"It's a difficult mentality to have when people are so used to losing that it's just what they know," Kiffin told reporters during his postseason media discussion. "It's what happens. You lose games. You find a way to lose them. It's more difficult than if a team had just had one year of it. ... What's the best chance to win? Well, it's gonna be to run the ball and stop the run. And to build off the defense with 11 returning starters."

While Davis and Kiffin tussled over other player moves and personnel issues, the deal-breaker appears to be Kiffin's desire to replace longtime defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and members of his staff. When Davis resisted several weeks ago, even after the changes were reported as imminent, the relationship between coach and owner became fractured, undoubtedly irreparably so. And, as always, Davis is seeking a split strictly on his terms. He wants Kiffin to quit so the Raiders don't have to pay the final two years of the contract.

The fact that the first-year coach inherited virtually the same roster that finished 2-14 in Shell's final season? That the defense failed to provide the anchor? That the Raiders were more organized and put forth a far greater effort than a year ago?

Hey, Al's the boss. He still thinks he can coach.

Who in their right mind would touch this team now?

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