ALAMEDA, Calif. - The Oakland Raiders fired Lane Kiffin on Tuesday just four games into his second season, bringing finality to a situation that had been simmering for eight months.
The decision on Kiffin was as much about his frequent criticisms of owner Al Davis' franchise as it was the team's performance on the field. Those critiques reached a peak when Kiffin distanced himself from the defense after a blowout loss in the season opener, saying that was under coordinator Rob Ryan and Davis' control.
The Raiders said the move was made for cause, meaning they will likely try not to pay Kiffin for the remainder of his contract. He signed a two-year deal worth about $4 million with a team option for 2009 when he took over last year. Kiffin's agent Gary Uberstine had no immediate comment.
The move comes a day after the St. Louis Rams let go of Scott Linehan, marking the second firing at the quarter point of the season. The last time a coach had been fired this early in the season was when Davis got rid of Mike Shanahan after four games in 1989.
The Raiders did not immediately announce a replacement for Kiffin, but there are plenty of candidates on staff, including Ryan and receivers coach James Lofton, who both interviewed for the job when Kiffin got it in 2007. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, running backs coach Tom Rathman, offensive line coach Tom Cable and advance scout Paul Hackett also could be possible choices.
Kiffin's job security was in question as far back as January, when a dispute with Davis over whether he could replace Ryan as defensive coordinator led to the owner sending his coach a letter of resignation to sign.
Kiffin refused to sign it and the feud went on throughout the offseason as Kiffin questioned big-money signings and other personnel moves made by Davis.
The situation grew more heated with Kiffin's comments on Davis' involvement with the defense two days after a season-opening 41-14 loss at home to Denver. Three days after that, reports surfaced that Davis was ready to fire his coach at any time and it dragged out from there.
Kiffin did his best to deflect the controversy and never went to Davis to lobby for his job or a resolution. The team played much better the past three weeks, beating Kansas City and taking leads into the fourth quarter against Buffalo and San Diego before losing.
Davis' once-proud franchise has fallen on hard times of late, with the blame going beyond one coach. Oakland has an NFL-worst 20-64 record since the start of the 2003 season, a stretch spanning the tenures of Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell and Kiffin.
The firing was first reported by ESPN and NFL.com.
Oakland has lost at least 11 games for five straight seasons, tying the dismal Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the 1980 for the worst stretch in NFL history.
Since returning to Oakland in 1995, the Raiders have had just three winning seasons and will be on their eighth head coach. The success mostly came under Jon Gruden, who led Oakland to division titles in 2000 and '01 before leaving for Tampa Bay. Callahan took the Raiders to the Super Bowl the following season, but nothing positive has happened since that 48-21 loss to Gruden and the Bucs.
The one constant during that period has been Davis, who won three Super Bowl titles in his first 21 years with the Raiders but has had little success over the past quarter-century.
Kiffin, the son of longtime NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, became the latest coach unable to turn the Raiders around.
Kiffin was just a 31-year-old assistant at Southern California when Davis hired him to replace Shell following the 2007 season, becoming the youngest head coach in the NFL's modern era.
Davis said at the time that Kiffin's youth was not an issue, pointing to the success the Raiders had in the past with young coaches like John Madden and Gruden.