A Definitive Statement, Please.
At the end of the 2007 season, there were many rumors about Al Davis playing a childish game of chicken with Head Coach Lane Kiffin. The rumor implied that Davis had drafted a resignation letter for Kiffin to sign. Kiffin allegedly refused to sign the resignation letter and was in effect saying to Al "Fire me". Of course if this rumor is/was true, the cat and mouse game continues.
Why does it continue? Why is the media continuing to run this story? The chief reasons, in my mind, are that either the Raider organization enjoys wallowing in dysfunction or the organization simply doesn't understand the importance of making a definitive and declarative statement about Kiffin's status. Just as the rumors started to die down during the Senior Bowl, they began to fly again during the combine. This is what well respected Oakland Tribune beat writer Jerry McDonald said:
"After speaking with a number of people both in and out of the organization over the past few days here, Kiffin is no lock to be the Raiders coach when the season begins.
Those who side with Kiffin believe he has been stripped of his authority and that Davis is attempting to get him toresign. Either Davis' words about Kiffin's acumen with regard to personnel a year ago was just a lot of press conference bull, or Davis changed his mind. As things stand now Kiffin isn't expected to have much input into choosing the 53 men he is supposed to coach. It is a temporary punishment or something more permanent? Only Davis knows for sure."
As the uncertainty and doubt again takes hold, here are a few questions to ponder ...
1. Does the Raiders organization truly value their loyal customers?
The wave of negative press over the past 2 months and "lame duck" status of Kiffin is giving pause to some of the most loyal, core fans from renewing their season tickets.
2. How important to the Raider organization is the function of media relations?
Part of a good marketing campaign would be to use an effective communications strategy that informs the customer base and when necessary, refutes negative stories (ie. rumors). The constant barrage of bad press leads to the perception that the Raiders are a very poorly run business. We all know that the product on the field (19-61) the last 5 years has not met the expectations of the customer. The customer is also savvy enough to realize that stability at Head Coach is critical to improve the product on the field yet our HC is dangling in the wind.
3. Is it asking too much for Al Davis and Lane Kiffin to hold a joint brief press conference to set the record straight?
If in fact Lane Kiffin is the HC for 2008, a definitive and declarative statement would do wonders to ease the minds of fans and active players. It would give potential free agents one less reason to scratch the Raiders off their list of viable destinations. The silence from the organization on Kiffin's status is feeding fresh meat to the media hyenas.
4. Can the relationship between Kiffin and Davis be salvaged?
Has Kiffin's authority been stripped to the point where he will no longer command the respect of the 53 men he leads? Does Kiffin no longer have any input in terms of the selection of draftees and the signing of free agents?
Normally during the offseason I'm full of optimism as I immerse myself in the draft and free agency. The rumors involving Kiffin have felt like a splinter in my brain. It feels like a ship being loaded up with all the passengers with the Captain sitting idly on the dock. As mentioned in point #3, a direct affirmation of Kiffin's status would be the equivalent of the Raiders organization giving the Raider Nation a friendly pat on the head and letting them know that "Everything is going to be all right. We are moving forward in 2008 with our leader Lane Kiffin at the helm." Davis has 2 distinct choices. Either give Kiffin his full, undivided support and endorsement for 2008 or cut bait immediately. Dragging this uncertainty and dysfunction around further will impede the team's success in 2008 and beyond.