Posted: Monday January 22, 2007 11:04PM; Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2007 12:59AM
By Michael Silver, SI.com
Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator at Southern California, agreed Monday night to a five-year contract to replace Art Shell as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, SI.com has learned.
Kiffin, the 31-year-old son of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, becomes the youngest NFL head coach in decades.
According to a source familiar with the negotiations, Kiffin and the team completed the deal after negotiations began earlier Monday.
He earned the job with a strong interview after the Raiders failed to reach a deal last week with 32-year-old Steve Sarkisian, Kiffin's fellow assistant to Pete Carroll at USC.
Sarkisian had two strong interviews with the Raiders last week, but decided to stay at USC on Friday night. Both claimed Sarkisian never was offered the job, though numerous media reports said Sarkisian turned the club down.
Davis first interviewed Kiffin on Thursday -- apparently to explore the possibility of hiring Kiffin as the club's offensive coordinator. Kiffin, who also coached receivers for USC, returned to the Bay Area on Sunday for a second interview, this time to discuss becoming the Raiders' head coach.
Kiffin also was a finalist for the top job at the University of Minnesota earlier in the offseason.
At 31 years, 8 months, Kiffin is even younger than Harland Svare, who took over the Los Angeles Rams in 1962 at 31 years, 11 months. Svare is listed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Web site as the youngest coach in the modern era, though younger coaches -- including George Halas -- led teams during the league's founding years.
But Raiders owner Al Davis has ample reason to trust in young minds: Jon Gruden, Mike Shanahan and John Madden all succeeded as Raiders head coaches in their 30s -- as did Davis.
Kiffin is 14 months younger than Madden was when the Hall of Fame coach took over the Raiders in 1969. Davis was 33 years, 6 months when he took charge of the Raiders in 1963.
The former Fresno State quarterback is younger than at least nine players who finished the season with Oakland, including defensive tackle Warren Sapp, fullback Zack Crockett and receiver Alvis Whitted.
After beginning his coach career as an assistant at Fresno State, Kiffin became a secondary coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2000. The following year, he joined Carroll's staff at USC as a tight ends coach, becoming wide receivers coach in 2002 and offensive coordinator in 2005.
Davis fired Shell on Jan. 4 after the Raiders finished with the NFL's worst record at 2-14. It was Oakland's worst record since going 1-13 in 1962.
Oakland has won just 15 games in the four seasons since reaching the Super Bowl after the 2002 season. Davis has fired Bill Callahan, Norv Turner and Shell since then, and many prime candidates for other top coaching jobs apparently are put off by Davis' management style.
The Raiders have serious personnel problems with one of the NFL's worst offenses, but their defense was among the league's best. Oakland also has the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft.