Kiffin sounds off on his Raiders

Published: March 27th, 2007
By NFL_Czar's Blog

At Tuesday morning's AFC coaches' breakfast at the lush Arizona Biltmore, it was standing room only around 31-year-old Lane Kiffin's table. The Raiders' fifth different head coach since 2001 handled the nationwide reporters pretty well. He never got flustered, and even admitted that he snuck into the Raiders' Alameda facility for his final interview with owner Al Davis "through a back door, so no one would see me. Kind of like the CIA."

Kiffin said some interesting things. He believes that disgruntled Randy Moss will be a Raider this season and that he is building a good relationship with Jerry Porter, who spent last season in Art Shell's doghouse. Kiffin said he was even coaching Porter on the practice field last week.

On Moss, Kiffin said that after watching film of how Moss played, or lack of it, last season, he saw "a very talented player who was not playing at the standard I would expect of a player of that stature. He looked to me like he was just a very frustrated player," Kiffin said.

Sometimes, the youngest NFL head coach said, those are symptoms of a player who is simply highly competitive and totally frustrated by having two passes thrown his way in the course of a game. Moss was frustrated because he knew he couldn't help the Raiders win under those circumstances.

It was impossible to get an accurate read on whether Kiffin prefers LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell over Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson in the upcoming draft. He compared Russell to a quarterback in a video game. "He can make every throw, just like in the game," Kiffin said. "But some of those throws, the ones 70 yards across the field, you may make two of them in the course of a season."

Kiffin admitted that Russell is a quiet leader, very similar to Titans quarterback Vince Young. You can tell, he said, that Russell's teammates simply gravitate to him and want to be around him. "I saw the same things prior to when we played Texas in the Rose Bowl," said Kiffin, who used to be USC's offensive coordinator. "You could sense how much the Texas players wanted to perform and play for Young."

The intriguing aspect to Oakland owning the first choice in April's college draft is that Johnson may be the best player in the draft.

"He seems perfect for the most part," Kiffin said. "When a player is considered for the top spot in the draft, you want to find negatives about the guy. You know all the scouts like him and are saying great things about him. But with Johnson, you can't find a bad thing about him. His character, his make-up, his commitment to working out, all his off-season work, and well, there are no holes in his game."

Kiffin compared Johnson a little to former Heisman winner Reggie Bush. They are the kind of players, that if a teammate runs a better 40-yard time, they are ready to race that guy, challenge him.

Who knows if Kiffin can win in Oakland? Nobody has since Bill Callahan took the Raiders to the Super Bowl, where they were torched by former Raiders coach Jon Gruden and Tampa Bay in the big game. He said his father, veteran Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, told him what guarantees to seek from Davis, and that he was satisfied. He also admitted that some coaches advised him against taking the Raiders' job.

"But my process happened so quickly, there wasn't much time to really talk to a lot of people about what they thought I should do," he said.

Who's No. 1?

Kiffin said it was too early in the draft process to be saying who should be the first pick, but many league observers believe it will hard for Al Davis to pass on Calvin Johnson. "He's the kind of can't-miss player that Al has always coveted," said a rival club president who knows Davis and also is drafting in the top five. "It's going to be difficult for Al to take a quarterback when there are no flaws in Johnson. At 6-foot-5, Johnson is not only going to be bigger than all the cornerbacks he goes against, but faster than almost every one of them. He could be impossible to cover."

"His vertical jump was 43 inches," said Kiffin, who knows that Johnson will attack the football and use his 235 pounds to muscle the ball away from defenders.

Green and Miami

It may take some time, but the Chiefs believe that Miami will eventually make a trade to acquire veteran Kansas City quarterback Trent Green. Granted, Green may have only a year or two left on his body, but he's a quarterback who knows Cam Cameron's offensive inside out and the word out of Florida is that the new head coach doesn't believe Daunte Culpepper will ever be of any use to the Dolphins.

"We keep hearing that Cam doesn't like Culpepper," said a rival GM. "You have to think that Cam will make a move because he has a solid defense and he has a chance to win now with Green."

Such a trade could put Culpepper on the street. You can bet that the Raiders would have an interest in Culpepper. Oakland definitely has an interest in former Houston quarterback David Carr. "I think he can still play," Kiffin said. "I was at Fresno State when (Carr) put me into early retirement as a quarterback there. I can remember Coach Tedford telling me I should start thinking about becoming an assistant coach."

Drew goes on the offense

Drew Rosenhaus took a beating on his handling of Terrell Owens in Philadelphia. We all remember the press conference outside of T.O.'s house. "Next question" was the common reply from Rosenhaus that day.

Well, Rosenhaus was back in bravado action Monday at the NFL League Meeting, ushering Bears linebacker Lance Briggs among the media and the coaches and GMs in the hotel hallways here. He and Briggs are doing their best to free themselves from Chicago and are being very aggressive about it. You can surmise that Rosenhaus caught the Bears' front office off-guard with a potential trade to the Washington Redskins for the sixth overall draft choice for his client.

Earlier in the day, Bears GM Jerry Angelo was prepared to offer Briggs a guarantee that the club wouldn't place the franchise tag on him next year if he would simply agree to play for $7.2 million this season, the franchise number, and start attending the off-season workouts and mini-camps. But Rosenhaus didn't want anything to do with such an offer.

In the past, teams like Seattle placed the franchise tag on offensive tackler Walter Jones for three straight years before working out a long-term contract. Last season, Buffalo guaranteed cornerback Nate Clements that they wouldn't place the franchise tag on him this year and he received $20 million in guaranteed money earlier this month from the San Francisco 49ers.

The Redskins are obviously gearing up to win this season. The trade would be a good one for Chicago, considering Briggs was a third-round pick and he definitely doesn't sound a bit interested in sticking around. The only downside to grabbing the sixth overall choice in the draft is that Chicago doesn't like being that high in the round because they would have to pay out a $10 million signing bonus to a rookie. If the Bears do make the trade with Washington, they most likely would trade down from the sixth spot.