We live in an instant gratification society, “What have you done for me lately” doesn’t matter. It’s “What are you doing RIGHT NOW?” that counts. I get it. But I don’t think it’s the right way to rebuild a fledgling NFL franchise.
Unfortunately for me, I am not the owner of the Oakland Raiders. That distinction belongs to the artist formerly known as Al Davis.
Earlier today he finally pulled the trigger on a firing gun he’s been aiming at coach Lane Kiffin for months. Did I mention Kiffin has coached just a little over one season with the Raiders? That’s right. Twenty games was plenty enough for Al Davis.
Since the similarly unceremonious departure of Jon Gruden in the aftermath of The Tuck Game in 2001, the Raiders have had four coaches—with a fifth on the way—and just one winning season, in 2002, which ended miserably with a Super Bowl loss against Gruden’s Buccaneers.
Bill Callahan lasted two years. Ditto for Norv Turner. Therebirth of the Art Shell era? That laughable experiment lasted just one season. But Kiffin’s firing establishes a new low by getting axed during the season.
The worst part is Kiffin finally had the Raiders playing respectable football again for the first time in five years. His 1-3 record this season and 5-15 mark overall doesn’t do him justice. Yes, the Raiders blew fourth quarter leads in consecutive games. But the losses came against undefeated Buffalo and the reigning AFC West champion San Diego Chargers.
Raiders fans weren’t happy with the results, but we were encouraged by what we saw on the field. This was a Raiders team with signs of life and a glimmer of hope for the future—something Raiders fans haven’t felt since Chucky and the Bucs stomped on our Super Bowl dreams earlier this decade.
The young quarterback with the cannon arm. The young running back with the best combination of speed and power in silver and black since Bo. And the young coach leading the way. It seemed like the Raiders had something in place that could work, but Al Davis didn’t see it. Kiffin dared to make a power play with Davis, and that was the end of it. The firing happened today, but it became inevitable weeks, if not months ago.
Still, Kiffin had the general support of the Raider Nation and it seemed to be growing despite his record. He was the most popular coach in silver and black since Gruden and, I think, his brash attitude and boyish looks reminded us of our former coach and past success.
In year one, Kiffin had to eradicate all the garbage left over from previous regimes in Oakland. In year two, he was making them competitive. I think it’s very possible they could’ve learned how to win by the end of the year, making 9-7 a realistic goal for 2009 with a full year of experience for quarterback Jamarcus Russell.
Now? Who knows what happens to the franchise. What I do know is they lost a talentd, up ‘n coming coach—again.
Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Lane Kiffin. Brash young coaches, hired and scorned by Al Davis. Shanahan and Gruden have gone on to torture the Raiders and enjoy Super Bowl success elsewhere. Don’t be surprised if Kiffin shows up on an opposing sideline to do the same sometime soon.
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