The Raiders' recent firing of head coach Lane Kiffin is eerily similar to the way that Al Davis handled young Mike Shanahan in 1989. Shanahan, while more successful with the Raiders than Kiffin was, was fired after getting out to a 1-3 start in 1989. Those Raiders had lost 3 straight games to AFC West opponents, and it drove Mr. Davis to relieve Shanahan of his duties. Shanahan, despite what was said on ESPN on Tuesday night, still hasn't received the remainder of his contract from the Raiders. Davis told him when he was fired that he would honor the contract as long as Shanahan didn't take a job with the Denver Broncos. Shanahan took a job coaching the Broncos' quarterbacks, and Davis never paid him. It seems to me that Al Davis is creating Mike Shanahan, Jr. with Lane Kiffin.
As a Broncos fan, I don't mind seeing the Raiders lose. I am a bona fide Raider Hater, and I'm not afraid to admit it. However, take it from a Broncos fan, the NFL is much, much better when the Raiders are a good team. The Broncos/Raiders rivalry is a lot better. It's just not as fun to beat the worst team in the NFL as it is to beat a good team. Also, if you lose to a bad team, that really looks bad. The NFL and the AFC West need the Raiders to be a good team, but that won't happen as long as Al Davis is firing his coach every season.
In the NFL, there are 2 kinds of fans. There are Raiders fans, and there are fans of every other team in the League. The Raiders are the team that everybody loves to hate. While those sentiments are much stronger in Denver and Kansas City than anywhere else in the United States, I have always gotten the feeling that it is a general sentiment. The Silver and Black, the logo, and Al Davis have always made the Raiders a prime candidate to be the most hated team in the NFL (sorry Dallas Cowboys haters).
I'm not going to say that the Raiders would have been successful if they had kept Lane Kiffin around. Make no mistake, though - there is a lot of talent on that roster, especially on the defensive side of the ball. If JaMarcus Russell turns out to be a good quarterback, the Raiders will be a good team in the coming years. All the same, though, a coach needs to be given a chance to run his own system. That means being allowed to bring in his own coaching staff, draft players that work with what he wants to run, and not being fired for disagreeing with the owner on football and personell related issues. Kiffin should have been allowed to fire Rob Ryan and bring in the best defensive coordinator in the NFL in his own father, Monte Kiffin, inventor of the feared "Tampa 2" defensive scheme. If Ryan can't make it work with the talented Oakland defense in the head coach's eyes, then he should be let go.
Kiffin isn't free from blame in this. As is always the case, both sides share blame. However, Al Davis gave Kiffin a raw deal, and he didn't give him the tools to succeed in Oakland. If Davis wants to return the Raiders to prominence, he needs to allow the coach to make the calls that a coach is supposed to make. Having 5 coaches in 6 years isn't going to get it done. I won't be surprised when the Chargers hire Lane Kiffin someday down the road and come back to haunt the Raiders the way that Mike Shanahan has done with the Broncos, posting a 21-6 record against the Raiders since taking over in Denver in 1995. The Raiders simply have to be good, though. The AFC West needs it, and the NFL needs it. The NFL is simply a better product when the Raiders are good.