ALAMEDA, Calif. - As reports of his imminent firing swirled in the media in recent weeks, Lane Kiffin said he’d keep plugging away as Oakland Raiders coach until he heard directly from Al Davis.
The Raiders owner delivered his message loud and clear Tuesday. Davis informed Kiffin of his decision to fire him in a morning phone call then held a lengthy afternoon news conference that featured more theatrics than many Raiders games in recent years.
Davis read and displayed on an overhead projector a three-page warning letter that he had given to Kiffin more than two weeks ago, calling on the coach to “cease your immature and destructive campaign” of criticizing the team in the media.
Davis called Kiffin immature and a “flat-out liar” and detailed acts of what he called insubordination by Kiffin.
“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,” Davis said.
Offensive line coach Tom Cable will take over on an interim basis. The team has a bye this week before Cable coaches his first game at New Orleans on Oct. 12.
The Raiders said Kiffin was fired for cause, meaning they will not pay him for the remainder of the three-year deal worth about $6 million he signed when he took over in January 2007.
Kiffin earlier told ESPN he was “embarrassed” for Davis while watching the news conference.
“It was very painful for myself and my family,” he said. “A lot of accusations being made there, a lot of information being put up there, a number of lies. It was very hurtful and it was tough to stomach.”
Kiffin had a 5-15 record since being hired last year, losing his final game 28-18 on Sunday to San Diego. But the decision to remove Kiffin was more about his frequent public criticisms of Davis, his players and even assistant coaches.
Those critiques reached a peak when Kiffin distanced himself from the defense after a blowout loss in the season opener, saying that was under coordinator Rob Ryan and Davis’ control.
The 79-year-old Davis was front and center for more than 90 minutes, sharing the stage with Cable for some of that time and then sticking around afterward to take more questions. The once omnipresent owner rarely talks to the media anymore, last holding a news conference on Aug. 1, 2007, shortly after Bill Walsh died.
Dressed in Raider silver-and-black, his face weathered by years of standing on football sidelines, Davis sat at a podium reading from notes illuminated by a large desk lamp. He seemed angry at times, blaming Kiffin for most of the Raider woes, though he also blamed himself for hiring him in the first place.
“It hurts because I picked the guy. I picked the wrong guy,” Davis said.
Cable is regarded as one of the top offensive line coaches in the game, and worked with successful units in Atlanta and Oakland. He spent four years as a college head coach at Idaho, and was also an assistant at UCLA, California and Colorado.
“This is in many ways a strange day,” Cable said. “I have a friend who lost a job. That’s difficult in this business but, as we know, this is a business. It is time for us to move forward and to put the past behind us. ... We have a good coaching staff here and a good football team here.”
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Kiffin, the son of longtime NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, was just a 31-year-old assistant at Southern California when Davis hired him in 2007. With that, he became the youngest head coach in the NFL’s modern era.
Kiffin’s job security was in question as far back as January, when a dispute with Davis over whether he could replace Ryan as defensive coordinator led to a resignation letter being drafted for the coach. Kiffin refused to sign it and the feud went on throughout the offseason as Kiffin questioned big-money signings and other personnel moves made by Davis.
The situation grew more heated with Kiffin’s comments on Davis’ involvement with the defense two days after a season-opening 41-14 loss at home to Denver. Three days after that, reports surfaced that Davis was ready to fire his coach at any time and it dragged out from there.
That’s when Davis said he gave Kiffin a letter, ordering him to stop making those types of public comments or risk being fired. Davis said he didn’t want to fire Kiffin in the offseason or in training camp because he thought the situation was not yet untenable.
“I wanted to make it work, to be real honest,” Davis said. “It’s my belief that I would work and it could work. I wanted to make it work. Maybe I didn’t want to admit that I’d made a mistake. And to be quite frank with you, I’m firing him for cause right now. I’m not firing him for anything else other than cause.”
Davis’ once-proud franchise has fallen on hard times of late, with the blame going beyond one coach. Oakland has an NFL-worst 20-64 record since the start of the 2003 season, a stretch spanning the tenures of Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell and Kiffin.
Oakland has lost at least 11 games for five straight seasons, tying the dismal Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the 1980s for the worst stretch in NFL history.
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