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Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis shook up his organization again by firing coach Lane Kiffin at the end of last month. It remains to be seen, however, if the move will help turn the struggling team around.
Following a bye week, the Raiders play their first game under interim coach Tom Cable when they visit the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
After several reports predicted Kiffin’s firing, Davis made it official on Sept. 30. The Raiders (1-3) claimed that Kiffin was dismissed for cause, and thus would not pay him for the remainder of the three-year deal worth about $6 million he signed when he took the job prior to last season.
Davis publicly lamented his decision to hire Kiffin, detailing acts of what he called insubordination.
“I just couldn’t go on much longer with what I would call the propaganda, the lying that had been going on for weeks and months and a year and time,” said Davis, adding that the move was based more on Kiffin’s criticisms of the franchise than it was Oakland’s poor start.
Since reaching the Super Bowl in 2002, Oakland has been anything but a stable organization. The Raiders have gone 20-64 in that span, and Cable - originally hired to be Kiffin’s offensive line coach - becomes the fifth Raiders coach in six years.
Davis is hoping the latest change in leadership can help restore the franchise to respectability.
“We’ll get back, we’ll be back,” Davis said. “The Raiders will be back. I have unshakable confidence, the will to win, and I just know that the fire that burns brightest in this building is the will to win, and we will win. We will win.”
That could be hard to do considering the Raiders’ recent problems.
They relinquished fourth-quarter leads in each of their last two games. After blowing a nine-point advantage in a 24-23 loss at Buffalo in Week 3, they failed to hold a 12-point lead in a 28-18 home defeat to San Diego on Sept. 28.
Cable, though, hopes to help the Raiders forget those results as he makes his NFL head coaching debut.
“I really believe that if we can be better out there on third down, better in the red zone, and finish the game in the fourth quarter, then those things will take care of themselves,” Cable told the Raiders’ official Web site. “Right now we need to do those three things as good as we can to help us win football games.”
Cable has helped the Raiders develop the third-best rushing game in the NFL (155.0 yards per game). This week, they face a Saints defense that is allowing the eighth-most total yards (364.8 per game) in the league.
On Monday, New Orleans (2-3) held Minnesota to a season-low 270 yards - including only 44 on the ground - but couldn’t protect a seven-point, fourth-quarter lead as it fell 30-27 at home.
Mistakes plagued the Saints, who had four turnovers, several dropped passes and 11 penalties for 102 yards.
“The quickest way I know how to get rid of that feeling and to get going again is to put some wins together,” coach Sean Payton told the Saints’ official Web site. “You can’t put wins together without getting the first one, so it starts well with playing well in this Oakland game, it starts with eliminating the turnovers and the penalties.”
New Orleans’ miscues overshadowed a strong special teams performance by running back Reggie Bush, who tied an NFL record by returning two punts for touchdowns.
Quarterback Drew Brees threw two interceptions, but also completed 26 of 46 passes for 330 yards, and connected with Devery Henderson on a 17-yard touchdown. Brees leads the league with 334.6 yards per game and ranks seventh with a 97.7 passer rating.
Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell, meanwhile, looks to build on his career-best 277-yard effort from the loss to the Chargers.
The Raiders have lost four of their last six matchups with the Saints, including a 31-26 defeat at home on Oct. 24, 2004, in the most recent matchup. They last played in New Orleans on Nov. 19, 2000, when Oakland posted a 31-22 victory.
They also placed rookie starting cornerback Tracy Porter on injured reserve. Porter will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated right wrist.