Is JaMarcus Russell a bust? Was Lane Kiffin ever the problem in Oakland?

JaMarcus RussellWhile it might be incredibly unfair to suggest this of a player that has only started nine games in his career, but is JaMarcus Russell a bust? Granted he plays for the circus that is the Oakland Raiders, but check out his completion numbers in his first five games this season: 65%, 35.3%, 47.4%, 59.5% and 37.1%. That’s atrocious.

The former first overall pick finished 13 of 35 for 159 yards and an interception Sunday in the Saints’ 34-3 rout over the Raiders. Russell also fumbled twice in the game…in the first quarter.

But to suggest at this point that he’s bust might be a bit premature. Again, it’s not like he has the best situation in Oakland. Not only is his offensive line brutal, but Greg Knapp also continues to prove that he’s a bit clueless in his play calling after taking over those duties since Lane Kiffin was fired.

Speaking of Kiffin, Oakland’s play on Sunday might have proved that he was never the problem. (Or at least, not the main problem.) Even though they were losing, the Raiders at least played hard under Kiffin and showed some improvement this year before he was let go. Nothing against interim head coach Tom Cable, but the only reason he’s in the position he’s in now is because he must have shown at some point that he’s willing to bow down to Al Davis.

Kiffin wasn’t perfect and he made his fair share of mistakes, but given their effort against the Saints on Sunday, it’s fair to say Davis didn’t give the young coach a fair shake. (Or any shake for that matter considering he fired Kiffin over the phone.)

Davis needs to realize that his ship is sinking and he’s at the one at the wheel.

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Raiders fire head coach Lane Kiffin

Lane KiffinThe Oakland Raiders have fired head coach Lane Kiffin.

The inevitable became reality Tuesday when Lane Kiffin was fired by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis without pay via the telephone, according to team sources.

Tom Cable, the team’s offensive line coach, was emerging as the leading candidate to replace Kiffin, a source said. Cable was among three coaches interviewed by Davis on Monday night; the others were offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and special consultant Paul Hackett.

Davis is expected to have a press conference later Tuesday to explain his decision to dismiss Kiffin.

Unlike the St. Louis Rams, who fired coach Scott Linehan on Monday, the news was not delivered by Davis in a face-to-face meeting. Kiffin was notified by a team executive Tuesday morning that Davis would call him at 9:15 a.m. PT to relieve the coach of his duties. The call came shortly after that time.

Linehan also was allowed to speak briefly with his players on Monday. Kiffin will not be afforded the same opportunity, a source said.

Wow, don’t piss off Al Davis, I guess. You’d think that Davis would have the common courtesy to fire Kiffin face to face, but obviously things were much worse between the two than anyone could imagine. Amazing how Davis hired this man less than two years ago and now it appears that he can’t stand him.

Update: The Raiders have chosen offensive line coach Tom Cable as their new head coach according to

Al Davis has lost his mind…

…or so Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says in a round-about way. On Monday, Kawakami had a run in with Raiders senior executive John Herrera about the state of Oakland Raiders’ head coach Lane Kiffin and his future employment.

On Tuesday, Kawakami sat down with Deadspin to discuss, among other things, the mental state of Raiders’ owner Al Davis.

Al DavisHas Davis lost it? Are we talking latter-day Howard Hughes?
Al knows football. But he’s also paranoid; he’s into conspiracy theories about himself. He was that way when he was 40, but even more so now. And the ability to think around that gets harder as he gets older, so that effects his judgment. Also, he used to have people around him who were good at public relations. Guys like Bruce Allen, who were there during the Gruden years. Allen was a real people person and could help Al deal with the outside world. But Bruce is gone now. Al has absolutely no one around him who is good in dealing with people. It’s just Al in the darkness now.

So, what’s the second-strangest thing that has happened to you since you began covering the Raiders?
Do you know the Deng Xiaoping story? That’s the infamous one, I guess. It was at the press conference announcing the hiring of Kiffin. Afterwards I was talking to Al, and remarked that I thought it was a strange hire, given that Kiffin was so young and had no head coaching experience. Al didn’t like that, and said: ‘I’ll bet you don’t even know who Deng Xiaoping was.’ I was like, what? What does that have to do with anything? Al pressed it. ‘Who is Deng Xiaoping?’ So I thought for a minute, and said, ‘Well, if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t he the General Secretary of the Chinese government during the Tiananmen Square massacre?’ And Al repiles, ‘But what can you tell me about him other than that? See? You don’t even know anything about your own culture.’ I said, ‘Al, I’m Japanese-American, not Chinese.’ And Al said, ‘Ohh, geez. I bet you’re going to kill me on that now.’ It all happened in front of about 20 reporters, so I didn’t have to.

In the interview, Kawakami notes that the only reason Kiffin still has a job right now is because Davis isn’t prepared for what happens next. Davis wants Kiffin gone, but isn’t prepared to go through the process of finding another coach.

So in other words, things are about status quo at Oakland Raiders’ headquarters.

Here we go again: Lane Kiffin to be fired

Lane KiffinWith his team’s collapse Sunday in Buffalo, rumor has it that Oakland Raiders’ head coach Lane Kiffin could be fired by owner Al Davis as early as today.

Kiffin has been informed by Raiders officials that Al Davis intends to remove him as the team’s head coach as early as Monday, has learned.

Davis blamed Kiffin for the Raiders’ 24-23 loss on Sunday to the Bills, and told his underlings that he will make the move on Monday. However, word was leaked out last week in a similar fashion and Kiffin survived. Players reached out to to express hope that the move would not be made, and with Davis you can never be certain.

Kiffin reportedly has been on bad terms with Davis since shortly after last season. Sources said that when Kiffin informed Davis of coaching changes he wanted to make, the owner actually sent word to those coaches that the head coach was looking to make a move, but that Davis would protect them.

Davis isn’t running a football team – he’s running a circus. He’s going to fire Kiffin, the man he hired just over a year ago, because as it turns out Kiffin isn’t a “yes man.” And the team that has rallied around Kiffin the past two weeks will be left in the lurch once again.

Davis is apparently leaning towards wide receivers coach James Lofton or defensive coordinator Rob Ryan as Kiffin’s possible successor. Whichever one Davis thinks he can control will likely get the nod.

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