Raiders new coach goes on the offensive

The Raiders once again have the youngest head coach in the NFL after announcing the hiring of 31-year-old Lane Kiffin on Tuesday. But as Kiffin was quick to point out, age isn't the biggest hurdle facing him or Oakland.

''Players don't care about age,'' Kiffin said as he sat alongside Raiders owner Al Davis at a press conference at the team's headquarters in Alameda. ''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: This is what we need from you, this is what you're not doing, this is how we're going to get you better. So we'll be up front with our players, honest. We'll have high standards for them and that's what they want and that's how they get better.''

Kiffin, the former offensive coordinator at USC who first interviewed for the same job with the Raiders before drawing interest as the team's head coach, made a lot of promising statements in his first appearance as an employee of Davis'.

He spoke emphatically about the need for Oakland to get better across the board, his desire to get the franchise back to its winning ways after a four-year tailspin, and about the opportunity to be the man to do that.

More significantly, he talked about putting his stamp on the franchise, something neither of his three predecessors -- Bill Callahan, Norv Turner and Art Shell -- were able to do.

Specifically, Kiffin said the Raiders offense -- an outright disaster in 2006 -- will have his fingerprints all over it.

''We're going to hire an offensive coordinator to assist me in daily plans and activities,'' Kiffin said, ''but I'll call the plays for us to make sure that my name's on this franchise and my name's on this team and my name's on this offense, that it's run the way I want it to be run and that it remains a highly explosive offense that is attacking at all times.''

The Raiders ranked last in the NFL in several offensive categories, including total yards, passing and scoring. That led Davis to fire Shell after just one tumultuous season in which the former head coach openly feuded with players and management, causing a rift and division within Oakland's locker room that that team was never able to recover from.

In Kiffin, the Raiders believe they have someone capable of turning the offense around.

Adam Treu, the senior member on the Raiders' roster and the lone current Oakland player to attend the press conference announcing Kiffin's hiring, said he is happy with the decision.

''A coach needs to have rapport with his players,'' Treu said. ''When Jon (Gruden) was here, it seemed it was a little better but since then .... it hasn't been 100 percent.''

The Raiders finished 2006 with a 2-14 record that was the franchise's worst in modern history. Oakland lost its first five games then ended the regular season on a nine-game skid in which it was shut out twice and failed to score more than 14 points.

Kiffin, on the other hand, was at the helm of an explosive offense at USC where he worked with players like Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett.

In all, Kiffin spent six years with the Trojans with whom he crafted a lofty reputation as a knowledgeable coordinator and play-caller.

Although Davis said Tuesday that Kiffin was his main target, it wasn't until USC quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian pulled his name out of the running that Kiffin rose to the forefront.

''Working with (USC head coach) Pete Carroll for the last six years has prepared me every day for this job,'' Kiffin said. ''He's coached me for the last six years not to be an assistant coach but to be a head coach. I'm extremely confident that I'm the right man for the job.''


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