Now that Lane Kiffin is squarely in the media's sights, what with his hiring at Florida Atlantic and Alabama preparing for a Peach Bowl matchup against Washington, there are plenty of things to rehash from Kiffin's sordid past as a football coach. This includes, obviously, his time with the Oakland Raiders.
It was a disastrous stint that led to one of the all-time great press conferences, where the late Al Davis announced he was firing Kiffin. And it was a quickly broached topic in a lengthy Sports Illustrated feature this week on Kiffin by Pete Thamel, where Kiffin revealed he "begged" Davis to draft Calvin Johnson instead of JaMarcus Russell.
Kiffin also adds that Davis based the JaMarcus evaluation on a single game and that he didn't mind being canned by Davis because "Al Davis fires everybody."
He spends little time reflecting on the Raiders, other than pointing out he begged Al Davis to use the No. 1 pick on Calvin Johnson instead of JaMarcus Russell. Kiffin says Jeff Garcia had agreed to come to Oakland in free agency, and Davis based his Russell pick off evaluating the television copy of LSU's Sugar Bowl blowout of Notre Dame. He shrugs: "The Raiders wasn't that hard. Al Davis fires everybody."
The draft in question is the 2007 NFL Draft, which featured Russell, one of the greatest busts in NFL Draft history, going No. 1 to Oakland. The Lions would take Johnson, who went on to perform at a Hall of Fame level before retiring after the 2015 season. Joe Thomas, still playing at an All-Pro level, went No. 3 to the Browns. Adrian Peterson (No. 7 to the Vikings), Marshawn Lynch (No. 12 to the Bills) and Darrelle Revis (No. 14 to the Jets) were all part of the top half of the draft, too.
Russell was a massive miss -- combining Garcia as a free agent and Johnson could've changed the last half century for the Raiders.
But Kiffin might be a beneficiary of history here, as well as the fact that Davis is no longer around to refute his claim.
There's no disputing Kiffin didn't want to draft Russell. Davis admitted as much in the lengthy letter he delivered to Kiffin announcing he was firing the young coach.
I do realize that you did not want us to draft JaMarcus Russell. He is a great player. Get over it and coach this team on the field, that is what you were hired to do. We can win with this team!
However, there's no clear-cut indication that Kiffin actually wanted to take Johnson at No. 1.
According to Davis in a side session with reporters following the lengthy press conference, Kiffin kept bouncing back and forth on who he wanted to take.
"There were several. Every day it was different, that's the thing," Davis said. "He didn't want Russell. At one time he wanted Brady Quinn. At one time Calvin Johnson. At one time to trade it."
So maybe Kiffin is telling the truth here. It's not hard to make a jump from "no JaMarcus" to "take Calvin." Johnson also felt like a can't-miss prospect, as much as those can exist. Even the Lions managed to hit on him, and they were a literal laughingstock when it came to wide receiver selection.
Kiffin's stint at FAU is going to be fascinating to watch given his previous failures while running programs. The good news is it can't possibly end in more awkward fashion than his time with the Raiders.