Zennie62 on YouTube

Friday, January 26, 2007

Oakland Raiders Cornerback Fabian Washington Happy With Change To Lane Kiffin - SF Chronicle

Raiders turn to fast Lane
REACTION: Oakland players welcome the change
David White, SF Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Raiders cornerback Fabian Washington has not spoken with Lane Kiffin. He doesn't know the coach's birth date, his philosophies on the vertical offense or exactly how he plans to turn around the worst team since 2003.

Here's what Washington does know: For the last two years, Kiffin held the keys to the juggernaut USC offense, and that alone has Washington pumped to get next season started.

"Hey, I'm excited about it," Washington said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his offseason home in Florida. "I hope he can do just half of what he did at USC with us. For what he's done there, I definitely think he can make it happen for us."

A sampling of players shared Washington's anticipation after Raiders owner Al Davis introduced Kiffin, now the former USC offensive coordinator, as Oakland's head coach at a news conference Tuesday.

Yes, Kiffin is only 31. No, he doesn't have NFL experience beyond one year at an entry-level job in Jacksonville, and that was seven years ago.

What Kiffin does have is six years of success working with Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. His time spent with the Hollywood blockbuster known as USC football is buying a lot of advance cred among players.

"I don't care how old he is," Raiders center Jake Grove said. "I just want to win. Mr. Davis thinks that's the one who is going to help us win football games. I'm open to anything.

"Hopefully, he can help bring us back to where we're winning football games again and competing for Super Bowls."

If it seems as if Kiffin is being accepted with no concerns voiced, it's because the players, like many fans, are to the point where they will give someone -- anyone -- a chance to awaken the Raiders from their extended catatonic state.

Today's players don't go on about the rich history of Raiders football, like Davis did during his news conference. They grumble about going 2-14 last season and losing an NFL-worst 49 games in four years.

They clearly are weary of all the losing. If it takes hiring a college assistant who's the youngest coach in the NFL, and the youngest in franchise history, whatever.

If anything, Washington thinks Kiffin's age will help him work with today's players in ways former coach Art Shell, 60, couldn't in his only season back with the team.

"I think he'll be able to relate more with us," said Washington, who just finished his second NFL season. "It's going to be good to get some new energy around here. He's young, but he's been coaching at a high level. It's not like they pulled him out of Conference USA."

He's right: Kiffin comes from the Western Athletic Conference.

Kiffin was a reserve quarterback at Fresno State from 1994 through '96. He gave up playing and joined the staff of first-year coach Pat Hill as a student assistant in 1997.

For two years, Kiffin coached players who, in some cases, were older than he. That experience should help with the Raiders, who had nine players on last year's roster who were born before Kiffin. The majority were in elementary school at the same time as their new coach.

"You could tell right away he was real bright, a real sharp guy," Hill said. "He picked up on things real quick. This is great news for him. He's really on the fast track."

Cal coach Jeff Tedford was Kiffin's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Fresno State. When Kiffin began interviewing with the Raiders late last week, Tedford was one of three coaches he called for advice.

Tedford, who has been pursued by various NFL teams since coming to Cal, encouraged him to jump at the opportunity.

"He's always had a bright mind and has always been a very dedicated, hard worker," Tedford said. "I think this is a good decision by both sides."

USC coach Pete Carroll said the same about Kiffin, his choice to replace offensive coordinator Norm Chow two years ago.

Though Kiffin clearly benefited from a roster of All-America players every year, Carroll credited Kiffin with putting USC's talent to best use -- something Davis said he must do with a Raiders roster that got limited production from high-salary offensive players Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, LaMont Jordan and Robert Gallery.

"His ability to get the most out of his players has been obvious," Carroll said. "His expertise and the success he's had with our offense will play to the strengths of the Raiders' personnel. It will be exciting to see it unfold."


Visit the new Zennie62.com

Zennie62 blog net

Google Analytics Alternative