Commentary

Win or lose, Kiffin has right attitude to endure pressures as Raiders coach

Lane Kiffin could wake up Monday celebrating a Sunday victory -- but out of a job as Raiders head coach. Kiffin's "What, me worry?" approach is a wise one to take, Jeffri Chadiha writes.

Originally Published: September 14, 2008
By Jeffri Chadiha | ESPN.com

Darren McFaddenJamie Squire/Getty ImagesAn injury to starter Justin Fargas on Sunday put the burden of the Raiders' running game on rookie halfback Darren McFadden. He responded with 164 yards rushing, stiff-arming Chiefs defender Jon McGraw here.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Oakland Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin did exactly what you might expect Sunday in the face of published reports of his potential firing: He acted like he could not care less.

Kiffin had just watched his team earn a 23-8 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. He knows the opportunities to enjoy anything this season might be few and far between. Above all else, Kiffin surely realized that there was nothing he could say to make the situation better or worse. As he correctly pointed out, this whole thing is out of his hands.

That being said, it's fair to say Kiffin has to be looking forward to the days when he can bid farewell to the Silver and Black. That's also why we shouldn't feel sorry for the guy.

For all the drama that has played out over the past eight months -- going all the way back to January, when Raiders owner Al Davis asked Kiffin to resign -- Kiffin had to know what he was getting himself into in the first place. You just don't become the Raiders' head coach without knowing the position is going to test your sanity.

Davis is harder to work for than any other NFL owner. So it's best that Kiffin does what he seems prepared to do: Ride out this run for as long as it lasts and then move on with his life. As he said Sunday, "I don't worry about things I can't control. It's not my decision as to whether I can be here or not, so I don't worry about it."

It was a predictable response to a question Kiffin had to know was coming from the minute he stepped to the podium for his postgame news conference. The Contra Costa (Calif.) Times reported earlier in the day that Davis was ready to fire Kiffin, possibly as early as Monday. That story merely confirmed what had become obvious to anybody who follows this team: Kiffin and Davis have reached the point where they simply can't coexist anymore. In fact, the only thing that seems to be keeping Kiffin in Oakland is Davis' apparent reluctance to fire a coach who still has two years left on his contract.

Still, it's hard to see money or anything else keeping Kiffin in his current position much longer. Even though the Raiders played relatively well against the Chiefs, there wasn't substantial evidence that the 41-14 loss to Denver in Week 1 was an aberration. Sunday, the Raiders just took the opportunity to pounce on a weaker, less-talented team. They probably won't have that luxury again until the Chiefs come to Oakland later this season.

[+] EnlargeRob Ryan, Lane Kiffin
Douglas Jones/US PresswireDefensive coordinator Rob Ryan (left) and head coach Lane Kiffin made the best out of a rough working relationship Sunday as the Raiders beat the Chiefs.

What also can't be ignored is Kiffin's decision to do everything possible to make Davis fire him. Kiffin was the guy who clashed with Davis over the fate of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan (Kiffin wanted Ryan fired; Davis denied Kiffin that opportunity). Kiffin also publicly questioned Davis' high-priced personnel acquisitions this offseason and last week the head coach went a step further: He admitted that Ryan and Davis meet regularly to discuss defensive game plans. If you wanted a textbook on how to get under Davis' skin, you can bet Kiffin will soon own the copyright on such a manual.

Kiffin even admitted he accepted that he'd probably be a short-timer in Oakland during a teleconference with Kansas City media. "You have to look at the history," Kiffin said. "History is what it is, that [Davis] doesn't keep people very long. We don't have a general manager. Everything goes through [Davis]. That sets up a difficult situation at times. Knowing who the owner is, you know from day one there's no job security."

It's definitely strange, but Lane has to look out for himself like we all have to look out for ourselves. I wish him luck, but I don't know what's going to happen.

-- Raiders DB DeAngelo Hall on head coach Lane Kiffin's job security

Kiffin's candor on this topic tells us one important thing: He saw this gig as a stepping-stone from the moment he accepted it last year. He was a 31-year-old, first-year offensive coordinator at USC at the time, a man clearly thirsting for a shot at a big-time head coaching job. Now he can say he has earned some valuable experience running an NFL team. Even though that experience came with the Raiders, it's hard to see future employers viewing Kiffin as damaged goods because he couldn't improve a team that has 20 wins since 2002.

Kiffin's players, for the most part, seem happy to stand on the sidelines in this dispute between head coach and team owner. They were basking in the afterglow of rookie Darren McFadden's 164 rushing yards against the Chiefs, the primary reason the Raiders evened their season record at 1-1.

"A lot of guys didn't know what was going on," defensive back DeAngelo Hall, one of Davis' high-priced offseason acquisitions, said of the Sunday newspaper report.

"It's definitely strange, but Lane has to look out for himself like we all have to look out for ourselves. I wish him luck, but I don't know what's going to happen."

The larger question is what happens to the Raiders once Davis dumps his head coach. The names that already have been thrown around in media reports -- people like Ryan and fellow Raiders assistants James Lofton and Tom Rathman -- don't inspire much confidence. It's also unlikely somebody who actually has some sort of reputation worth protecting would throw his hat in the ring. That leaves the other usual suspects (like former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel and current Raiders scout and longtime NFL assistant Paul Hackett) trying to resuscitate their careers.

The next Raiders coach should pay close attention to Kiffin's current actions, because Kiffin's comments say as much about the current work environment in Oakland as they do about the head coach himself. What Kiffin basically has been telling us is the Raiders' job is only good for people who don't have much interest in spending much time in Silver and Black. And at this point of his tenure, it's hard to argue with that kind of logic.

Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

Jeffri Chadiha, formerly of Sports Illustrated, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Chadiha first attended Wyoming on a full football scholarship before injuries led him to transfer to Michigan after two years. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication from Michigan in 1993 before pursuing a career in journalism. Chadiha is also a frequent contributor to ESPN TV.