USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was hired as Raiders coach on Jan. 22, the team announced. He reportedly signed a three-year contract that includes two club one-year options.
The Raiders had been without a head coach since Art Shell was fired by Raiders managing general partner Al Davis on Jan. 4 following a 2-14 season.
Kiffin, 31, becomes the youngest head coach in franchise history and the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. His only previous NFL coaching experience was as a defensive quality control coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2000.
"I'm extremely excited about this opportunity and where I see this place going," Kiffin told reporters at an introductory news conference at the team's Alameda, Calif. training facility on Jan. 23. "It's a historic franchise that has had greatness and has fallen on tough times, but we will bring it back to where it was before. We will do that through hard work. I'm prepared to roll up my sleeves and go to work.
“I’m extremely confident I’m the right man for the job.”
Davis has a history of success with young coaches. Hall of Fame coach John Madden was 32 years old and Jon Gruden was 34 when hired by Davis.
At 31 years, 8 months, Kiffin (right) is even younger than Harland Svare, who took over the Los Angeles Rams in 1962 at 31 years, 11 months. Svare is listed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Web site as the youngest coach in the modern era, though younger coaches — including George Halas — led teams during the league's founding years, according to The Associated Press.
Kiffin, a former Fresno State quarterback, becomes the 16th coach in Raiders history.
“I think, '31 years old, wow, that's young,”' Davis, 78, told reporters Jan. 23 . “But you don't have to be old to be great. You have to be good. You have to want it. You have to have a desire, a passion for football.”
Kiffin said: “Players don’t care about age. Players want to be coached. Great players want to get better and that’s what we’re going to do, by a great system, one that’s in place on defense and one that I’ll bring on offense. They want to be talked to, they don’t want to be lied to. They want to be told the truth, whether it’s what they want to hear or not, you tell them the truth.”
Kiffin's father, Monte Kiffin, is the longtime defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay defeated Oakland 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII on Jan. 23, 2003. Since that game, the Raiders have gone an NFL-worst 15-49 the past four regular seasons.
Before hiring the younger Kiffin, Davis reportedly interviewed four other candidates — USC quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian, former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and San Diego Chargers receivers coach James Lofton. Ryan will be retained in his present position, the Raiders announced.
Kiffin's hiring comes less than a week after fellow USC assistant Sarkisian reportedly turned down an offer on Jan. 19 to be the Raiders' coach.
Kiffin reportedly interviewed with Davis on Jan. 18 as a candidate for offensive coordinator. Kiffin reportedly spurned that offer on Jan. 19.
The Raiders on Jan. 21 brought back Kiffin for an interview as a candidate to replace Shell. A contract reportedly was consummated the next night.
Davis told reporters that Kiffin was his top choice all along.
Kiffin inherits a Raiders offense that scored a league-low 168 points and had only 12 touchdowns during the 2006 season. The Raiders also led the league with 72 sacks allowed and 46 turnovers.
“I realized, as time went on, as the events passed, that this year of infamy is one that belongs to all of us who were part of the Raiders in 2006,” Davis said. “It was a tough year. It was week by week and it hurt.
"As time went on, I realized, or at least I felt that we have to go in a different direction. We have to move the clock back. We have to get youth in the organization. We have to go ahead and attack, with someone who really means that he will attack.”
Kiffin had been at USC for six seasons, ascending from tight ends coach to three jobs in the 2006 season as offensive coordinator, receivers coach and recruiting coordinator.
He helped the Trojans develop two Heisman Trophy winners — quarterback Matt Leinart in 2004 and tailback Reggie Bush in 2005. In 2006, USC capped an 11-2 season with a 32-18 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
“I will bring an explosive, powerful offense to this franchise,” Kiffin said. “We will utilize our skill players, our big-time players, in the best way. We will get them the football. They will play happy and they will play hard.”
Kiffin becomes the Raiders' seventh head coach since the franchise returned to Oakland in 1995. The others: Mike White (1995-96), Joe Bugel (1997), Gruden (1998-2001), Bill Callahan (2002-03), Norv Turner (2004-05) and Shell (2006). Shell joins Bugel (who had a 4-12 record in 1997) as the only coaches fired by Davis after one season.
Gruden is the only one of the six former Raiders coaches since 1995 to avoid being fired by Davis. The Raiders reportedly traded Gruden's contract rights to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February of 2002 for four draft choices and $8 million.
The Associated Press
Contra Costa Times