Kiffin: Progress made but not enough

Another Monday came and went with no coaching change in Oakland but that's hardly surprising. The axe was supposed to fall on Kiffin two weeks ago yet nothing happened. But has there been a change of heart from Al Davis?

A day after the Raiders suffered a fourth-quarter collapse and lost for the second straight week to drop to 1-3, Kiffin addressed the media for more than 30 minutes. Most of the time Kiffin talked about the loss to San Diego, the costly mistakes the team made and the continued growth and maturation of quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

But what seemed to cause the most intrigue was a question posed to Kiffin regarding his conversations with Davis. The way Kiffin responded left several longtime NFL writers in attendance believing that the owner and head coach had reached a truce of sorts.

I'm not ready to go that far and won't believe Kiffin's job is safe until I see him at practice at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. That's the next time the players, coaches and Kiffin are scheduled to assemble together. The players were given Monday off because of the bye week and Tuesday is their normal allotted day off.

Here are excerpts from Kiffin's press conference:

Question: Have you had any feedback positive or negative about where you stand or what your future is with the Raiders?

Kiffin: No, I have not heard anything to date. Same story as every Monday when you guys ask me.

Question: How did JaMarcus Russell play? Was that his best game?

Kiffin: You saw a totally different game plan from what you're used to seeing when you watch us, as far as throwing the ball more, a different ratio in the run-to-pass, the ball being downfield a little bit more. So, I don't know which way is better. You could be critical of that game and look at it and say, as much as it was probably more fun for you guys to watch, did it put us in a better position to win, I'm not sure of that. We got sacked six times, we had a sack-caused fumble. Even though it didn't feel like it at the time, we still had the lead at that point. So, you're always going to look at things and look for ways to make the team better and compete. This was a different game plan than the week before because the week before you kicked yourself by going three-and-out by being conservative in a similar time with the two runs and then the throw on third down. This time around, we went with a different approach. He threw the ball better, he threw for more yards, he threw his first interception, he had a fumble and he was sacked six times. So, we'll continue to look at what will be the right mix each week depending upon who we play.

Question: Are you more concerned with Russell or the players around him in terms of the passing-game woes?

Kiffin: It's everything. You have to look at everything, it's never just one player in the passing game. It's from protections to routes to the quarterback. So, we'll continue to try to improve on it. We did improve on it this week by the way that we were able to move the ball through the air comparable to the two weeks before.

Question: Were you surprised Russell didn't score and got stopped at the goal line?

Kiffin: He came right off and knew it. He kind of screwed it up. He was indecisive of whether I was going to run over the guy or whether I was going to cut back and then, at the last second, he thought maybe I'm going to throw it and maybe I'm going to run it outside. It's a situation where all he has to do is pump it and put his head down and he gets in the end zone nine out of 10 times real easy there. It was a corner anyway that ends up making the tackle. So, it's a situation for a young guy to learn from, one that he hadn't been in the exact same situation. He'll learn from it and next time he'll get in the end zone there.

Question: Is the defense playing better?

Kiffin: Yeah, we continue to, especially for the first three quarters, play as well as anybody in the league. We're shutting down the run and that's what's keeping us in the games. We have not been turning the ball over. What's really putting us in position where we're ahead going into the fourth quarter has been not turning the ball over, playing great special teams and stopping the run. It did it again for us. To single some guys out, Terdell Sands played his best game, by far, since I've been here. He single-handedly, him being in shape and playing the way he is, is changing our run defense from last year. Then, Gibril Wilson No. 2. Gibril Wilson's down there, I don't know, he had 13 tackles and really played extremely physical, the type of strong safety that you need to run this system. We looked different. Kalimba is taking over for where we lost Chris Clemons and even playing more on first down now than Chris did for us. He's not just a pass-rusher. So, we're much improved on defense. And DeAngelo is tackling well outside, which was an issue for us with our left corner last year.

Question: Were you surprised San Diego kept going after DeAngelo Hall even though most of the time Chris Johnson and not Nnamdi Asomugha played the other side?

Kiffin: I would think coming in they anticipated Nnamdi playing, and when you put in a passing game plan a lot of times, maybe their idea was, they're going to throw to our right, and Nnamdi was still active, so, it's not like Nnamdi was inactive, for an hour-and-half they have a chance to go, let's change these plays Nnamdi was still playing a little bit on third down for us, so I would guess, the way I looked at the film, that was probably their game plan going in, they were going to throw a little bit more to their right, and they didn't change it on the fly because of the last minute of Nnamdi not playing.

Question: Russell seemed more mobile in college and he hasn't been running much in the NFL. What happened?

Kiffin: I really think that has to do with the difference between college and the NFL. I think you're talking about completely different, I mean, as great as the SEC is on defense, it seems like it's the NFL sometimes when you watch those games, but it's a totally different world. The defensive linemen and the linebacker speed, and where you see a guy take off in college and get 10 yards, that doesn't happen the same here. I don't think it has anything to do with the offense, or has anything to do with him. I know he's in better shape right now than when he was at LSU. I know he's moving around better, as we see him on the field. Now comparatively, because you're looking at him, vs. Shaun Phillips, that's a little bit different. I don't think that has anything to do with it except for the change in competition.

Question: When was your last conversation with Mr. Davis and did he give you any any indication of his feelings about job that you're doing?

Kiffin: I'm going to kind of stop these questions here and go from here on out. That conversation, or lack of conversations with Al, I'm going to keep between Al and I. I just feel we're going to open up too many things, and those are conversations that I do or do not have with him that should stay between him and I. I apologize for that.

Question: Want to say when the last one was?

Kiffin: No. Sorry.

Question: How do you gauge JaMarcus' progress? With an industrial scale?

Kiffin: Well, the proof's on film, and the film never lies. When we go back over the film again, now we're gonna take - now that we have a bye right here, we're gonna take all four games, put 'em together, look at his 99 pass attempts, and see exactly what we can do better around him, what he's doing well, and continue to improve on it. I think there's some really good things going on with JaMarcus. I would've been really pleased if you had told me at the beginning of the year, we're sitting here in a press conference after the fourth game, and he's thrown 1 percent interceptions. He has 99 attempts and one interception. That's impressive for a young quarterback to do. I know I've said a lot, you lose games when a guy throws interceptions, cause you don't put yourself in a chance to win, especially when your defense is playing well. And he's a big reason, by the way, that he's not throwing interceptions is why we're going into the fourth quarter with these leads.

Question: How is Michael Huff doing at his new position?

Kiffin: Michael had his least productive game of the season this game. Missed three or four tackles and ended up not having any tackles in the game. As well as we played on defense, this wasn't one of Michael's better games. And so I know Michael will come in here this week and work extremely hard to get back to playing, cause he was playing much better his first three games this season. And that happens sometimes, guys just don't have a real good game. And it happened to be that case for him, with our other safety, Gibril, probably had his best game.

Question: How did Gerard Warren and Derrick Burgess hold up?

Kiffin: I thought Gerard played great again. As much as you like to look back, it just sits in your mind that if he would've been in there in that fourth quarter in Buffalo, cause he was playing so good. But I thought a number of our guys showed a lot about themselves. There was a bunch of guys who were banged up. Some guys could've pulled themselves out and not played in that game, and Derrick and Gerard were two of 'em. And they both battled in there, they both played a bunch of snaps and threw their bodies around in there, didn't play like they were injured at all. And that shows a lot about 'em. And it really fired me up to see, because both those guys medically could've not played.

Question: Are you and Randy Hanson O.K.?

Kiffin: I'm going to answer your question and I'm not going to talk about anything else about Randy. A decision was made after I talked to our staff, and our medical staff, about Randy, and Randy needed to deal with some personal issues. So Randy took some time off to deal with some personal issues, which I'm not going to go into. Randy's back, he's doing better and the decision that was made, No. 1, by far, was in the interest, the best interest of Randy. And as I do with our guys, I protected Randy by what I said, by saying it was personal issues, which it was, and out of respect for Randy and his family, I'm not going to go any further than that.

Question: Would this team benefit from a resolution to your job situation?

Kiffin: I don't think it helps for them to read this stuff every week and deal with it. But I can't control that. I can't come out and say that I'll be here the rest of the year. It's not my decision - or that I won't be. I'm worried about what I can control. And I think that our players and our staff are doing a great job right now. I wish for everybody, our fans and our players, that the games were ending different than they were these last two weeks. But it's not by (lack of) effort by the staff or by those players. They're preparing extremely hard every week and they're doing the best they can for it not to affect them, I think.

Question: You going to get back to running the ball vs. New Orleans?

Kiffin: A couple things happened to throw that off. One Fargas being down and two, if we had any other options Darren would not have played yesterday. He wasn't right. He wasn't right before the game, he wasn't right in warmups. And neither was Nnamdi. Both those guys we would not have played if we had other options on our roster but we didn't have anybody to suit up. We played both of those guys because of that situation. Knowing that, and at that point that also went into why we threw the ball. Yeah I'd love to run the ball all the time for a bunch of yards. That is a tough defense to run the ball on at times. It's a weird defense because sometimes they'll go just like Minnesota last year, they'll give up a ton of yards but in other games they'll play really good. If you don't hit the big plays against them they don't give up a bunch of 10-, 15-yard runs. You're going to have big little and we really didn't hit many of our big runs against them yesterday. I'd like to get back to that but at the same time let's see how far we can take this passing game as well to stay balanced.

Question: What changed on defense in second half?

Kiffin: First of all before you get into what we were calling. You have to look at we're getting tried. Why are we getting tired? It's not because we're not in shape, we're getting tired because we can't convert a third down on offense for the second week in a row. You can only keep going back out there so many times before you start to wear down a little bit on a hot day. And so that happened. We got tired not because we're not in good shape, but because we kept putting the defense back on the field. We didn't pressure as much in the second half, similar to the week before. It's easy to second guess all of that because you're trying not to give up big plays because you get the lead and you don't want to give them a chance to hit a big play and all of a sudden they go 80 yards. That's not abnormal. That's very normal for this league to be a little bit safer in your calls once you get a big lead.


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