Our long National nightmare is finally over…or has it just begun?

It finally happened. After week after week of speculation and months of reporting, the inevitable has finally come to pass. Al Davis has fired Lane Kiffin. The media was loving being able to report every juicy tidbit and spread every little rumor “leaked” from the Raiders. To the fans, however, it was a long, drawn out, torturous process. In the offseason it was seen as just another thing for the media to talk about. Then the regular season had finally arrived after an offseason that always seems like an eternity, REAL games were to be played…on the field.  But after every Sunday game, Monday brought more questions surrounding Kiffin’s job and dysfunction in the organization. Not only that but the announcers would talk about it during the game as well. Every couple of minutes they would show Al Davis up in his luxury box looking like he was going to pull a Roman Emperor move and hold out his arm with the thumb to the side and then turn his thumb down. All the while, fans were saying “Excuse me, but I am trying to watch the game!”

But that is all over now. Kiffin has been fired, Tom Cable has been “installed” and there is joy in Whoville because the Grinch’s heart grew ten sizes that day. Finally the coaching staff will speak to one another as well as Al Davis. And they will be one big happy family. The media will be relieved too and be saying “Whew, finally we don’t have to report on the drama in Raider land anymore.” And the Raiders franchise and it’s fans can return to some sense of normalcy. And then you wake up.

It seems clear at this point that the only reason Al Davis didn’t fire Kiffin in the offseason is so that he could build up enough of what he thinks is evidence so that he can fire him for “cause” and not have to honor his contract. Just that fact alone tells me that his only priority is himself and some convoluted obsession with being intimidating and ruthless. At least that is how he sees himself. Since the press conference, I have heard quite a few other words to describe him as well as this situation. Words such as Absurd, Bizarre, Mind Boggling, perplexing, unusual, and embarrassing. Many of these words have followed him in recent years which means that they have also followed the Raiders teams and fans that support them. So I suppose one could also add the word “ashamed” to that list.

The aftershock of this event will be felt  far and wide. The long term effects of the manner in which this played itself out could very well cause destruction far greater than the Raiders have experienced in recent years. And all because Al Davis couldn’t just fire a coach like a normal owner for a normal team. He couldn’t do it in the offseason and he couldn’t honor the coach’s contract. The days in which Al Davis loved the Raiders above all else, has long passed. At what point did the Raiders become a distant second to that of his pride and vindictiveness? Let’s examine that for a moment shall we?

The first real proof of Al Davis’ self serving  ways came when he fired Mike Shanahan in the exact same fashion after the exact same number of games as Kiffin and that was 1989 so one would suspect that it goes back at least that far. Both Al Davis and Mike Shanahan have had it out for each other ever since that day. And Shanahan has gotten the better of that vendetta over the years. The Raiders futility could be just pure bad luck on Al Davis’ part but not likely. In Denver, Shanahan was given a long tenure and control of his team so he could build something. He accomplished what Al Davis thought he was capable of when he hired him but would neither give him the power nor the time to accomplish it. Since that time Al has made one bad coaching decision after another. In fact the only successful coach since that time was John Gruden and Al hated him. So he traded him away. Further putting himself above the success of the Raiders. Then Gruden’s predecessor used the same playbook and simply opened the offense a bit and took the Raiders to the SuperBowl. The next year he went 4-12 and was promptly fired. And we are all well versed in the series of coaching failures that have occurred since then. This means that Al Davis has only had one good judgment of coaching talent since 1988 and he couldn’t even get along with him. Then, like Shanahan before him, Gruden unleashed his revenge on Al after their bitter parting. Kiffin will now begin his mission to follow in their footsteps.

During Tuesday’s press conference in which Tom Cable was to be announced Al Davis was caught on mic as saying “Who is going to introduce Tom Cable?…I don’t know anything about the guy.” He also said in his press conference just prior to that in regards to Lane Kiffin, “I didn’t hire the person I thought I was hiring.” So I suppose you can now add Tom Cable to the long list of coaches that Al Davis hired that he “didn’t know”. That is a scary thought from a player and a fans perspective. While we have all been on board with his decisions, we now have proof that Al Davis has been hiring coaches he didn’t know since as far back as 1988. Ok so now might be a good time for you take a break and grab a few pain killers. I’ll wait…

Oh you got a beer? Hope you got a couple. To continue…

By this point the Al Davis press conference is already cemented in infamy. Everyone involved or mentioned in it will have their name dragged through the mud every time it is replayed which is sure to be often. You see, Al’s only motivation in making his speech was to smear Kiffin’s name so he could void the rest of his contract and not have to pay him the 3.5 million he is owed. This seems like a trivial amount in the scheme of things. Especially when you consider how much was paid to the likes of Tommy Kelly, Javon Walker, Darren McFadden, DeAngelo Hall, and Gibril Wilson in the offseason. But for Al Davis is about more than the money. He wants to stick it to Kiffin to prove a point and to “Just win Baby”. But this is just another of Al’s personal battles that has nothing to do with the team. He is not thinking of the good of the Raiders and in the process he is destroying them.

Al said that Kiffin didn’t want JaMarcus Russell although it was Kiffin that called Russell at the draft to tell him the Raiders were interested. He then went on to say that Kiffin was forgiven for his bad decision making because of his lack of experience. Then Al said that Kiffin  pushed for the signings of Javon Walker and DeAngelo Hall. He was saying this as a way of proving that Kiffin was part of the decision making process but in saying it, he sounding like he was blaming Kiffin for the signings. Javon Walker’s psyche is pretty delicate these days as we all know. I think, if I am Javon, what I heard him say was, “naivete on Kiffin’s part led to the mistake of signing me and not only that but the ONE guy that wanted me here is now gone.” And Al talked him out of retirement for this? Let us not forget that DeAngelo Hall is still on this team too. As well as all of his teammates that hear this stuff and probably feel like a kid whose parents are fighting and is caught in the middle of it. This team may be 1-3 but the analysts and announcers alike have been raving about how hard these guys have been playing. Will they still give that kind of effort the rest of the season? Will they still feel motivated to give their all for this organization? I know the fans are not feeling that way. So outside of their paychecks and themselves, what do they have to play for and be proud of when they put on that uniform? That is the question that will linger this year and next year and beyond.

A few days ago, Nnamdi Asomugha was interviewed by Trey Wingo and this is what Nnamdi had to say in regards to the firing of Lane Kiffin, “I wasn’t shocked…For newer, younger players, you never know how they’re gonna react. You got guys coming out of college that think that everything over here is rosy…It’s been a tough couple of weeks. Now that Lane is gone you have to put it behind you because if you keep thinking about it, it could put a dent in your play…The players liked Lane. Everybody had a great respect for Lane because you knew he was a fired up, energized guy that wanted to change things. He wanted to change the losing we had gone through. You knew that was his number one goal and guys respected that and you saw it in our play every week. Guys wanted to win not only for ourselves, but for him as well.”

The one player that should be absolute top priority for this team to sign long term is Nnamdi Asomugha. In the past he was willing to sign a deal to stay with his hometown team. He was not offered that deal prior to his contract year and this offseason they signed his counterpart DeAngelo Hall to a huge contract and then wouldn’t offer Nnamdi equal or greater pay. It appears now that no amount of money can get Nnamdi to stay with the Raiders. Why would he want to stay? He will be the highest paid corner this coming free agency regardless of where he goes so why would he want to stay in Oakland when he can get paid well and go to a franchise that is not dysfunctional and whose owner and GM are focused on winning football games? We have all been in a similar situation. Money is great, but money without the stress is ideal.

Derrick Burgess’ has been passed over as well. After quickly posting some of the best sack totals in the history of the Raiders, he was not rewarded for it and like Aso, watched unproven, overrated, and injured players all around him get huge paydays. I can’t see why he would want to stick around either.

Greg Knapp reportedly told Al Davis that he would rather stay as a coordinator than move into the head coaching position. This could be the writing on the wall that he has every intention of moving on after the season. In Seattle, Jim Mora Jr. is slated to take over the head coaching job next season. Knapp was Mora Jr’s offensive coordinator in Atlanta the year they had the #1 rushing attack in the NFL. Mora Jr has most likely spoken to Knapp about the possibility of reuniting in Seattle.

If Tom Cable cannot have success this year as the interim coach then he will not remain. It is hard to say whether he would be fine with stepping back again to being a position coach for the same team that unseated him as head coach. Not only that but, yet again, what reason would he have for extending such a gesture to the Raiders? His services will no doubt be in high demand after his zone blocking scheme has revived the running game for multiple franchises. And if his time as the head coach plays out like others before him, Al Davis will have burned that bridge as well.

The only way that disaster can be averted is if this team starts winning again immediately. They say winning heals all wounds in sports and that is certainly the case most of the time. If Cable can inspire this team and he can unite the staff and get the players to play hard for him just as they did for Kiffin, then that is always a possibility. If Cable could somehow lead this team to a  .500 or better record among the remaining games then this team may get their pride back and see a light at the end of the tunnel. If not then prepare yourself for a fallout.
That would mean that the this team could regress and finish with yet another 12+ loss season. They would then lose their two best defensive players in Nnamdi Asomugha and Derrick Burgess as well as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach (now interim head coach) that molded this offense into a top 5 rushing attack in the past two seasons. This possible outcome is not pretty. I am not alone in thinking that if you keep the current staff and players together for at least one more season, they could go from being competitive to being winners. Although even that seems like high hopes as long as Al Davis is continuously sabotaging this team’s attempts at building for success. So as we all take a deep sigh of relief that one fiasco is finally over, don’t get too comfortable because we could be in for a long, arduous and heartbreaking road ahead.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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