As first reported on SBReport earlier today, the Oakland Raiders will promote defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to head coach after severing ties with Lane Kiffin.
Ryan, 45, will become the 17th head coach in Silver & Black history, and the sixth head coach since the decade began. The fiery coordinator interviewed for the job in 2007, after the firing of Art Shell, but Oakland went with the young assistant from USC, telling Ryan in the process that he would make a good coach in the league in the near future.
After the 2-14 season in 2006, Ryan’s stock was on the rise, as his pass defense and enthusiastic unit was the lone bright spot. But in subsequent seasons, his defense took a step back with a roster full of high draft picks.
He will take over for Kiffin, who was in a tumultuous relationship with Al Davis during his 21 months on the job. The owner reportedly drafted a letter of resignation for Kiffin, attempting to force the offensive-minded coach out of his deal when things began to sour.
Kiffin avoided commenting on any of those rumors when they first made headlines during his stay at Mobile, Ala., where his staff was coaching at the Senior Bowl, stating, “I’m not going to comment on anything that has transpired in the past three weeks.”
This off-season, rumors also began to circulate about Ryan’s future, and how Kiffin wanted more control over personnel decisions. It appeared that Ryan was ready to bolt to the New York Jets after a disappointing 2007 season. But Oakland ended any speculative bantering with a press release and ultimately, retaining Ryan’s services, a move that possibly frustrated Kiffin, who wanted more autonomy to make decisions regarding his staff and roster.
Davis and Kiffin’s rapport deteriorated during the early stages of his first season at the helm. Rumors about certain players being cut against the coach’s wishes and other players remaining on the roster against his desires were some rumors that began to leak out last summer. This after Davis addressed the media in January of 2007, stating, "To the Raider fans, players, to the Raider nation, to the organization, that bleed and give their loyalty and skill to the organization...we will come back, and Lane Kiffin will lead us back!"
In mid-August, Davis commented, “He’s not the guy I hired...”, foreshadowing his departure.
Kiffin in recent days stated, "You have to look at the history. History is what it is, that (Davis) doesn't keep people very long. We don't have a general manager. Everything goes through (Davis). That sets up a difficult situation at times. Knowing who the owner is, you know from Day One there's no job security”, adding to the speculation about his pending release.
The last time the Raiders fired a coach during a season was in 1989, when Mike Shanahan was jolted after four games.
Ryan, whose defense ended a disappointing 22nd overall in 2007 despite returning every starter will now be under the microscope. He has the most expensive secondary in the league, young players all over the roster and an owner ready to get irate if his big spending is not validated with a substantial improvement in record.