Sunday, October 9, 2011

If You Read Only One Al Davis Obit this Weekend...

Make sure it's this one.

The only things missing is the just how ahead of the curve Davis was on many football-related issues, including some of his own creation ... namely, the Lane Kiffin situation.

You might remember Davis' rambling press conference, one of the most memorable in football history in my estimation, wherein the Raiders' owner sacked his wunkerkind head coach only four games into his second season with a ferocity that appeared bitter, vengeful, spiteful and/or megalomaniacal. At the time, Davis was almost universally panned for the spectacle. But the the whole thing was actually Al-being-Al, and sticking up for the people who were loyal to him:

[I]t was well-documented that their relationship disintegrated when Kiffin attempted to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after the 2007 season. A source said Kiffin suggested to Davis that the owner had reneged on an agreement that the coach would have control over his own staff. Shortly thereafter, Davis sent a letter of resignation for Kiffin to sign, sources said. Kiffin declined.

Davis denied a report that Kiffin was sent a resignation letter in the past but refused to sign it. The owner said that Kiffin was responsible for getting that false claim into the media. On Tuesday, Davis was asked if Kiffin was trying to get fired so that 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's decision probably had little to do with Ryan's performance. He wanted to bring in Monty Kiffin, his father (and Ed Orgeron, a coach with ties to Monte), but Monte was working with Tampa Bay at the time. Recruiting Monte would have been coach tampering, something that is illegal in the NFL, but is probably a lot easier to do when family members are involved. Davis, not only wanted to play fair, but he also didn't believe Rob Ryan deserved to be fired, since if ever there was a coach meant to be on the Oakland sidelines, it's Rob Ryan (the current Defensive coordinator of the Cowboys and brother of Jet's head coach Rex) and tossing aside a coach in such a unsporting manner, even though it happens routinely when new head coaches take over, would not have to appealed to his sense of honor.

And that was the beauty of the man: he was a visionary, but also an anachronism. He was maverick, but one who lived by a strict code.

Kiffin, of course, landed on his feet with one of the desirable coaching gigs in college football, the University of Tennessee, where he proceeded to rack up precious few wine, a ton of NCAA violations, and the ire of the entire Volunteer State when he bolted for USC after just a single season. This was undoubtedly a bittersweet moment for Davis: he had been vindicated, but that vindication came as a result of his nemesis winning a job at an institution beloved by Davis:
Al is the one who must be in a trance right now. Either that, or he’s screaming into the air, to the rooftops, to anybody who will listen.

Because Al loves USC, above all other sporting entities except, of course, the Raiders.

(He has two former USC head coaches currently on his staff. Al was an assistant for three years in the late ’50s at ‘SC. Loves USC.)

Al loves USC almost as much as he hates Lane/Lance Kiffin. And yet, suddenly, shockingly, Kiffin is the King of USC, the last place and last job Al would’ve ever wanted Kiffin to land.
It's the kind of contradiction that made Davis such a fascinating character.

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