The Oakland Raiders fired Lane Kiffin today just four games into his second season, ending a public feud with owner Al Davis that had been simmering since the start of the year.
"I reached a point where I felt that the whole staff were fractionalized, that the best thing to do to get this thing back was to make a change," Davis said during a lengthy news conference. "It hurts because I picked the guy. I picked the wrong guy."
The Raiders promoted offensive line coach Tom Cable to interim head coach.
Kiffin had a 5-15 record since being hired last year, losing his final game 28-18 on Sunday to San Diego.
The decision to remove Kiffin was more about his frequent criticisms of Davis' franchise as it was the team's performance on the field.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.
However, during a news conference Tuesday, Davis also critiqued several of Kiffin's coaching and personnel decisions. Among other things, he said Kiffin objected to the Raiders using the first pick in the 2007 draft on quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
"I didn't think it was any one thing, it was a cumulative thing," Davis said. "The pattern just disturbed me."
The Raiders said Kiffin was fired for cause, meaning they will likely try not to pay him for the remainder of his contract. He signed a three-year deal worth about $6 million when he took over last year.
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.
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.
The firing comes a day after the St. Louis Rams let go of Scott Linehan, marking the second firing at the quarter point of the season. The last time a coach had been fired this early in the season was when Davis got rid of Mike Shanahan after four games in 1989.
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."
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.
Kiffin did his best to deflect the controversy and never went to Davis to lobby for his job or a resolution. The team played much better the past three weeks, beating Kansas City and taking leads into the fourth quarter against Buffalo and San Diego before losing.
"I know that we left this team a lot better than when we got here," Kiffin told KPIX. He is expected to have his own press conference on Wednesday.
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.
Since returning to Oakland in 1995, the Raiders have had just three winning seasons and will be on their eighth head coach. The success mostly came under Jon Gruden, who led Oakland to division titles in 2000 and '01 before leaving for Tampa Bay. Callahan took the Raiders to the Super Bowl the following season, but there was nothing to cheer about in that 48-21 loss to Gruden and the Bucs—and nothing since.
The one constant during that period has been Davis, who won three Super Bowl titles in his first 21 years with the Raiders but has had little success over the past quarter-century.
Kiffin, the son of longtime NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, was just a 31-year-old assistant at Southern California when Davis hired him to replace Shell in 2007. With that, he became the youngest head coach in the NFL's modern era.
Davis said at the time that Kiffin's youth was not an issue, pointing to the success the Raiders had in the past with young coaches like John Madden and Gruden.
Kiffin, instead, is following the path of Shanahan, who was hired at age 35 in 1988 and then fired four games into his second season. Until this move, Shanahan had been the only coach Davis had fired in the middle of a season since joining the Raiders in 1963.
Shanahan went on to win two Super Bowls with Denver.