Shutdown Corner - NFL

In a fascinatingly-bizarre press conference this afternoon, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis ripped into Lane Kiffin, the head coach he fired this morning after nine months of speculation. Davis called Kiffin a "flat-out liar" and seemed to accuse Kiffin of leaking information to ESPN's Chris Mortensen in a plot to orchestrate his own firing so he could collect the $3.3 million that he was owed on his coaching contract. Davis said he has no intention of paying that money, as Kiffin was fired not for performance but for "cause". (Pro Football Talk has a great rundown.)

Davis rarely speaks to the media, so my generation's knowledge of him is shaped by the old stories of his fierce battles with Pete Rozelle and of the way the Raiders have been run like a banana republic in recent years. Because of Davis' image, the public perception had been that Kiffin was the victim in this situation; a young coach subjected to the crazed whims of an owner past his prime.

That's why it was so surprising to hear Davis effectively turn the tables on Kiffin during his 30-minute diatribe. The 79-year-old Davis lucidly laid out his case against the coach he labeled a "disgrace" and a "mistake" and it was tough not to find yourself nodding in agreement. Davis said the first thing Kiffin said after he was told of his termination was, "Do I still get paid?" Even if it's not true, that's a devastating soundbite and will likely give any owner (or college president) pause before hiring Kiffin.

The ex-Raiders coach has called a presser of his own tomorrow, but it's not likely to do much good. Davis read a three-page letter that contradicted the info Kiffin had leaked to the press, so the ex-coach's credibility is already compromised.

Make no mistake though, Lane Kiffin isn't the reason the Raiders franchise is a mess; it's all on Al Davis. Just because he came across in a good light today doesn't absolve Davis of any of the blame for the current problems of his franchise.

Photo via Associated Press

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