Kiffin still in as head coach ... for now

If Lane Kiffin is bothered by the prospect of being fired as the Raiders head coach, he isn't showing it. How much longer he remains with Oakland remains debatable, however.

A day after the Raiders thoroughly manhandled the Kansas City Chiefs 23-8 -- a critical win on the road and in the division -- Kiffin spent most of his 20-minute press conference answering questions about his future with the team instead of talking football.

Later, an internet report surfaced saying the Raiders had indeed severed ties with Kiffin and promoted defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to head coach. A team spokesman vehemently denied that report, calling it "fiction" and "out of left field."

Still, Kiffin understands the stories will continue to swirl. He tried to downplay them as best he could Monday but admittedly found it difficult.

No, the head coach has not met with owner Al Davis. Yet. Even though both men were on the team flight back from Kansas City, apparently they never bumped into one another which is odd in itself considering Davis always debriefs his coaches after games. Not sometimes. Always.

No, Kiffin reiterated, there's no problems between he and Ryan. The two men worked together peacefully in Kansas City and were already sharing thoughts on next Sunday's game in Buffalo.

And no, he did not lose any sleep last night wondering if he would wake up in the unemployment line, as some publications reported.

"I'm worried about what I can control," Kiffin said. "I've said that now for over a year and a half since we've been here. There are certain things I can control, there's certain things I can't. This happens to be the next one. (Davis) has a decision to make. It does me no good to worry about it right now. I was extremely pleased the way that our coaching team and our staff focused. The best thing that can happen for us is the more that we can stay focused as a team, as a coaching staff, and go forward from here, the better we will be."

That will be increasingly difficult to do until Kiffin is either fired or receives a vote of confidence from Davis. The latter isn't likely to happen since Davis' last public word of support for Kiffin came when he hired the former USC offensive coordinator to succeed Art Shell as the Raiders head coach last year.

Since then the relationship between the two men has deteriorated rapidly, to the point where Davis asked Kiffin to resign in the off season. When the head coach balked, the owner responded by stripping Kiffin of some of his authority.

Things appeared to calm down once training camp began but Kiffin's continued criticism of the team's talent level and veiled shots at some of the off season decisions that were made apparently stoked Davis' fires. When Kiffin distanced himself from the defense last week after the Raiders' 41-14 loss to Denver in Week 1, it turned into an all-out inferno.

Kiffin tried to clarify his statement regarding the defense.

"The statement I made earlier in the week was not to take accountability away from myself," Kiffin said. "For those of you guys who have been around here for over a year and a half since I've been here, I've been nothing but be extremely honest with you. Maybe that's caused issues at times. As you ask me questions, there's going to be times I don't have an answer for you so I got to tell you the way it is. And that's all I did. It had nothing to do with the way we played on offense, defense or special teams, what I said about the defense and Rob and Al's communication with the defense. And I don't think I really shocked anybody for you guys who've been around here to tell you that. So, I just told you the way it was and it was not reflective on the way we played on defense or to try to push the blame somewhere else. I was just answering the questions that were asked."

Whether Davis believes that or not remains to be seen. The 79-year-old owner has not commented publicly about the situation and was not at the team's headquarters when Kiffin was fending off questions about his job security.

But even Kiffin acknowledges that where there's smoke, there's usually fire. "I think you feel it a little bit anytime that there's so much media coverage about something and you read something, and ‘this comes from the building, and this comes from the building,'^" Kiffin said. "Anytime that that happens, I think you have some issues. If every paper that opens up, that they're writing about it, that – whatever the term is that's used around here – a team spokesperson is saying that job security's an issue, or saying there's a press conference today or later today, there must be something. But like I said, I've not had contact, or no one's told me directly about it."

Most players didn't seem too concerned about the situation. While expressing support for Kiffin, several shrugged off the issue.

"We've been dealing with that since March," wide receiver Ronald Curry said. "They've been going back and forth with it. You just worry about the things that you can control. I mean, it's business, and hopefully it doesn't happen. I think Kiffin does a great job, but it's Al's team and I think Kiffin knew that when he got here. Everybody knows what's going on."

Kiffin had no plans to meet with Davis but downplayed the fact that the two men hadn't yet spoken, be it about his job status or the Raiders win over Kansas City.

"That's not unusual. Don't make a big deal out of it. That's very normal," Kiffin said. "We don't sit next to each other on the plane. Al's not around as much as he used to be. He's around the office or he's at practice. He wasn't there all last week so I didn't see him. There's nothing new, that's not a result of anything that happened or any issues with him or I, that's just how the setup is."

Kiffin admitted the situation has made it difficult to work under. While the players try to blow it off, the truth is that everyone -- players, coaches, management -- will all be peppered with questions until a resolution is reached one way or the other.

"Well, I don't think it helps," Kiffin said. "But like I said, I can't do anything about it so all I can do is try to get our coaching staff to stay together in this type of situation, our players to stay together, and they did it last week. They certainly can't control whether I'm gonna be here or not so the last thing I want them to do is that they're sitting there worrying about it. I guess a bunch of things were on the news last night, so I had players calling me at home last night that were upset, or all the different emotions that they go through. I said ‘Stop worrying about it. I can't control it. You certainly can't control it. So let's go back to work tomorrow, and we'll take it one day at a time.'

"It's probably crazy, I really don't think about it very much, because what can I do about it? It's not my decision. I think it's a good lesson to our players. I even had coach with a different situation talk about it to me this morning. I talked about it to our team, quit going after the refs on every call, complaining to the refs every time. Hey, guess what? The next time you're not going to get a call if you keep doing that. You're wasting your energy. You're worrying about things you can't control. Well, that's on a smaller stage than this, but it's the same thing. I think you'll do all right, especially in this profession, if you don't let those things, especially as a head coach, don't let those things affect you. The last thing I'm going to do is let anything that's going on with the media or with the owner affect how I prepare this team every day and every week."

Asked if he had any regrets about coaching the Raiders considering all that has come with it, Kiffin wouldn't bite.

"No I don't have any regrets at all," he said. "I think it's been a great experience so far for me. And to deal with adversity that I've had to deal with and all the different changes on the roster and all the issue that you guys are continuing to talk about, I think it's great for me to have to deal with this at the age that I'm at. And with this team, to be able to hold the team together, if we can continue to play like we did last week and hold the team together, we can stay together in this thing. A pretty good story."


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