Raiders finally fire Kiffin

ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA (TICKER) —The Lane Kiffin-Al Davis saga finally came to an end. And it had a conclusion befitting a riveting soap opera.

In a rambling press conference that included a power-point presentation, Davis, the long-time owner of the Oakland Raiders, explained why he fired Kiffin on Tuesday after just 20 games as the team’s head coach, calling him a “professional liar.”

Citing a long pattern of dishonest statements on the part of Kiffin, Davis said he dismissed the 33-year-old coach “for cause.”

“I’m firing him for cause. I’m not firing him for any other reason than cause,” the 79-year-old Davis said. “It’s not about a personality conflict, it’s flat-out accusation (of) lying and bringing shame to the organization.

“It’s the first time I let anyone go based on what I call a flat-out liar.”

Tom Cable, the offensive line coach, was named by Davis as the interim replacement for Kiffin.

In stressing “for cause” as the reason for the firing, Davis is attempting to avoid paying Kiffin $3.5 million for the remaining years on a five-year contract he signed in January 2007.

Kiffin’s agent, Gary A. Uberstine, could not be reached for comment.

The firing ended a tumultuous 20-month tenure for Kiffin, who became the youngest head coach in NFL history when he was hired.

“It hurts because I picked the guy” Davis said. “I picked the wrong guy.”

Kiffin told ESPN that he was embarrassed by the press conference and added that it was “painful” watching Davis spell out a number of accusations about him.

“I had a real sick feeling watching it. It was just real pain,” Kiffin said. “I was kind of embarrassed for him.”

The former offensive coordinator for Southern California, Kiffin guided the Raiders to a 4-12 record in his first season after the team won two of its first four games. Oakland had gone 2-14 in the previous campaign under Art Shell.

Davis was set to pull the plug on Kiffin’s brief tenure after the Raiders’ 41-14 season-opening loss to Denver. But Oakland bounced back with a 23-8 victory at Kansas City the following week, giving Kiffin a reprieve.

However, after back-to-back narrow losses to the Buffalo Bills (24-23) and San Diego Chargers (28-18) dropped the Raiders to 1-3, Davis finally made the long-anticipated move.

Asked why he did not sever ties with Kiffin earlier, Davis accepted the fault.

“Because I wanted to make it work. Maybe I didn’t want to admit I made a mistake,” he said.

Davis was particularly irked to hear Kiffin tell the media on September 22 that he had not spoken with the owner since before the season opener. Davis, in fact, claimed the two had spoken the previous night at the airport following the Raiders’ 24-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

To prove his point to the media, Davis showed a long letter to the media detailing a number of issues with Kiffin, from his unhappiness with both the coaching staff and the talent level of the squad - specifically quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

The owner said the point of the letter, which he said he send to Kiffin two days before the September 14 game against Kansas City, was to put Kiffin on notice that further violations of his contract would be grounds for termination.

“I would not go on with the propaganda and lying that has gone on for weeks and months and over a year,” Davis said.

Kiffin told ESPN that he would not possibly attempt to refute all of Davis’ claims.

“Just because you put something on paper doesn’t make it true,” Kiffin said. “There’s no way I’m about to get in an ‘I said, he said thing.’ “

One of the more damning accusations by Davis was that Kiffin was hoping to get intentionally fired and still get paid. Kiffin scoffed at the notion.

“I think that’s a real hard case to make,” he said.

Davis cited a head coaching job at Arkansas in December 2007, which went to Bobby Petrino, who bolted his job with the Atlanta Falcons after 13 games last season.

“He wanted to beat Lane to the job,” Davis said. “Lane was mad.”

Davis said Kiffin approached him in the offseason and asked if the owner would release him from the position without a financial penalty. Davis said he was amenable to that and went so far as to draw up a contract with Kiffin’s agent allowing him to leave.

“He lies,” Davis said. “He’s a professional liar.”

Kiffin was the fourth head coach fired in six seasons by the Raiders. He went 5-15 in his one-plus seasons, giving the franchise a record of 31-69 since the beginning of the 2002 season.


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Updated Tuesday, Sep 30, 2008