Mike Shanahan and Lane Kiffin are not alone.
According to Larry Kennan, executive director of the NFL Coaches Association, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has a long history of attempting not to pay coaches after they've been fired. Davis, who fired Kiffin on Sept. 30 and suggested the former head coach would not be paid the remainder of his contract because of insubordination, tried to withhold payment to six assistant coaches he fired after letting go of Art Shell following the 2006 season, Kennan says.
The Raiders dispute the claim.
"Following the 2006 season not a single coach filed an arbitration claim of any kind," wrote Mike Taylor, the Raiders' public relations director. "Some of the coaches remained and performed services. They were paid pursuant to the terms of their contracts. Some of the coaches were paid in full over the season and some opted take a buy-out so that they could pursue other jobs – none filed a grievance or arbitration demand of any kind."
Still, Kennan claims he actually experienced difficulties trying to receive pay from Davis in the past.
"And I worked for him twice," Kennan, a member of the Raiders' staff from 1982-87 and again in '96, said with a light chuckle. "He even tried to keep me from going to Denver as an assistant and not pay me (after 1987), but eventually I took it to arbitration and won. … I have great respect for what Al has accomplished in the NFL, but when it comes to money and contracts, he's difficult to deal with."
Kiffin, with Davis, when he was introduced as head coach in January 2007.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Again, Taylor paints a different picture.
"There never was an arbitration involving Mr. Kennan. … Mr. Kennan wanted to be paid the difference between his Broncos salary and former Raiders salary for approximately six weeks," Taylor wrote. "Following an exchange of correspondence in 1988, Mr. Kennan was paid the difference."
A year after the Kennan dispute, the Raiders fired Mike Shanahan, who eventually sued the organization for not paying him $250,000.
Kennan and the NFLCA, which works cooperatively with the NFL Players Association, will represent Kiffin (shown with Davis when introduced as head coach in January 2007) in what's expected to be an arbitration hearing against the Raiders through the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell will appoint an arbitrator to hear the case. Kennan said Kiffin also has outside representation.
"Lane hadn't been in the league long enough to really know what we do for coaches, so I called him two or three weeks ago before he got fired and basically said, 'Look, if you do get fired and you have problems, we have your back.' I think he was relieved to hear that," Kennan said.
For Kennan and the NFLCA, which has grown in power over the past 10 years, there are roughly five or six cases a year where teams refuse to pay a coach, frequently an assistant. Lawyers for the NFLPA, including interim executive director Richard Berthelsen, represent coaches in arbitration.
"The team will say that maybe he hasn't tried hard enough to find another job or there's something about offset language," Kennan said, referring to the fact that teams aren't responsible to pay a coach certain amounts if he goes to work for another team.
When asked if the Raiders had an unusually high number of such cases in recent years, Kennan said in complete deadpan, "Well, he has fired a lot of coaches lately."