Raiders' owner describes in great detail firing of Kiffin

Updated: October 1, 2008, 10:34 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

The silver and black came out of Tuesday black and blue.

In an unprecedented news conference, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis explained the firing of Lane Kiffin in great detail. Davis said he was "embarrassed to watch" the Raiders play under Kiffin.

"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 the lengthy news conference. "It hurts because I picked the guy. I picked the wrong guy."

At one point, Davis read a letter that he sent to his former coach that detailed mistakes Kiffin made on and off the field. The owner said he finally fired the coach for cause because he "disgraced" the organization, citing a variety of issues, including conflicts over personnel moves and outright lies to the media, according to Davis.

"I don't think it was any one thing," Davis said. "It was a cumulative thing. I think the pattern just disturbed me."

If firing Kiffin for cause is upheld by the league, Davis will not have to pay the remainder of the coach's salary. Kiffin signed a three-year deal worth about $6 million when he took over last year. Davis was asked if he thought he could win that battle.

"I wouldn't do it unless I was going to prevail," Davis said.

Davis said that Kiffin objected to drafting quarterback JaMarcus Russell and complained about other personnel decisions. The owner finally told the coach to stop complaining all the time and coach the team on the field.

Letter Of The Law

In a letter sent to Lane Kiffin in September, Al Davis lays down the law on his young coach, telling him that any further transgressions will cost him his job. Read the letter

Despite the conflicts dating back to last season, Kiffin's first, Davis didn't fire the coach in the offseason.

"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."

Dressed in Raiders 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 Raiders' woes, though he also blamed himself for hiring him in the first place.

"I think he conned me like he conned all you people," Davis said.

Davis denied a report that Kiffin was sent a resignation letter after the 2007 season but refused to sign it. The owner said Kiffin was responsible for getting that false claim into the media. That was one of the examples Davis cited for describing Kiffin as a "flat-out liar" and a "professional liar" in his sometimes rambling remarks.

Kiffin told ESPN's "SportsCenter" after the news conference that Davis was presenting only one side of the story. Regarding the letter Davis sent to Kiffin this season, which the owner put on an overhead projector, Kiffin said: "Just because you put something on paper doesn't mean it's true."

Gary Uberstine, Kiffin's agent, had no comment and said he advised his client not to hold a news conference on Wednesday. Kiffin instead will make his case directly to the commissioner in a grievance.

Davis was asked if Kiffin was trying to get fired so he would receive the remainder of his salary.

"I don't know what he was doing, but he got me to fire him," Davis said.

Kiffin responded that his passion for coaching and his preparation belied any premeditated attempt to get fired.

"I think that's a real hard case to make," Kiffin said. "I'm here to say that there's no way I was trying to get fired."

The Raiders now move on to their fifth coach in seven years. After taking a break during his news conference, Davis returned and named Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable as the interim coach.

Davis was asked if he felt responsible for the instability in the organization.

"I bear the responsibility," he said. "It takes a toll on me. It sure does."

Despite the end, Kiffin said he has "no regrets for taking the job."

"I think it was a very valuable experience and will really help me in the future," he said.

But the way Davis handled his firing, and the news conference in particular, left a bad taste in his mouth.

"It was something I wasn't proud of to be associated with, and I was embarrassed for him, to tell you the truth," Kiffin said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE