The Oakland Raiders were the top NFL team of 1976, 1980 and 1983. What happened and why has the team finished seasons with abysmal scores like 4-12 (2007) and 2-12 (2006)? Now in their forty-ninth season, the team will attempt to avenge their defeat. Much of the team's failures have to be at least influenced if not attributed directly to the coaching of Lane Kiffin. The Raiders owner Al Davis took a big chance by hiring Kiffin in 2007, officially making him the youngest coach to lead the Raiders and also in the entire modern NFL. Not a big risk at the time, considering that Kiffin would be bringing up a team from the dirt as 2006 brought a 2-12 pillaging. Davis was known as a coach that liked to select young, up and coming football dynamos like Tom Flores, John Madden and Mike Shanahan. Youth is not necessarily a deciding factor as some of Davis’ best young minds took the Raiders to a Super Bowl Championship in the past.
However, a 4-12 record in 2007 didn't do much to please owner Al Davis. Nevertheless, whether or not Davis took action against Kiffin remains speculation. ESPN reported that Kiffin may have his sights set on coaching a University team. However, Kiffin denied this possibility and stated that he was going to return in 2008 and was already making plans to improve the team's performance. Later, it was reported (again by ESPN, who apparently hate Lane Kiffin) that Al Davis drafted a letter of resignation for Kiffin to sign after becoming a young laughing stock to many NFL fans. Allegedly, the story is that Kiffin refused to resign as ordered, as it would forfeit him from his remaining contract salary. At two million per year, Kiffin would be crazy to sign a release, whether or not some angry Oakland fans are gunning for that angelic smile. Officially speaking, the Raiders have denied the story and Kiffin has refused to comment. Though he stopped short of saying the rumors are absurd. Bottom line? Whether or not the Raiders drastically improve this season, be surprised if Kiffin stays the NFL's youngest coach past year three.
Overall, the Raiders have been holding their own in regards to talent negotiations. They have resigned a number of their best players, including Jarrod Cooper, Josh Shaw, as well as many new signings such as Marques Tuiasosopo, Greg Spires, Edgerton Hartwell and Javon Walker. In the cuts department, the team lost some talent in cut players Dominic Rhodes, Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, Stuart Schweigert and Duane Starks.
The draft picks have to account for some of the team's optimism. Running back Darren McFadden from Arkansas makes a great overall player, while cornerback Tyvon Branch from Connecticut makes for a great special teams pick. Wide receiver Armon Shields from Richmond who has proven himself a fearless team player and defensive end Trevor Scott from Buffalo who looks promising.
What do fans say about the Raiders’ chances? Most fans agree that defense was the biggest problem. Thus coach Kiffin looks on cautiously as the world waits to see his much publicized “changes" that will save the Raiders and possibly his job.
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