"How many Raiders coaches ended real great? It's all Al Davis. He's gonna run the whole thing. What's going to happen is whatever he feels like that day.''
-- Lane Kiffin, the former Raiders coach, on his ill-fated tenure as coach in Oakland under owner Al Davis, in an interview with Andrea Kramer running Tuesday night on HBO's "Real Sports.''
Kiffin also defended his itinerant self with Kramer, who said to him: "When you came into Knoxville, the first thing that you preached was loyalty and togetherness. Now you're leaving a year later and there's no loyalty.'' Sounds familiar -- if you read this column. Said Kiffin: "I never once told any of those players I would be there forever. I never made the statement, 'I'm coming here, this is my dream job, I'm never leaving.' I never made those statements ... It's part of the business. You know, and as they get older they understand.''
We'll see about that.
"I want fans to feel they can trust me and believe in me. The young, immature Finley, I thought he was foolish. And the new Finley, I think is going to do the work, do what he's supposed to do and be that player the Packers know I can be and all the fans out there too.''
-- Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, in a revealing profile by Greg Bedard in Sunday's Milwaukee Journal.
Good reporting by Bedard, who discovered that in the past year Finley skipped out of training camp to sleep in his own bed consistently. The tight end missed curfew the night before Green Bay's playoff game at Arizona, changed agents and then changed back, partied so hard in Texas this offseason that his marriage was endangered and now has thrown himself on the mercy of the coaching staff and front office of the Packers, determined to prove he'll be good and responsible. When Finley's right, there aren't three tight ends in football better than him.
"I am no longer concerned about the offensive line at all.''
-- Dallas owner Jerry Jones, to reporters last week.
Well, he might be the only one who isn't.
The one thing about player movement that has befuddled me all offseason is when I hear fans and some in the media wonder, "Why isn't anyone going after Shawne Merriman? He's a restricted free-agent, only 25, and the Chargers would let him go.''
The answers: He may not be what you think he is, the Chargers put a compensation level of first- and third-round picks for him early in the offseason, he wants too much money, and ... well, that would just about do it.
But let's stick with the facts, and the numbers. It's been since 2007 that Merriman was good. Why would anyone pay a premier number for him? Divvying up the first five years of his career:
Merriman won the NFL's defensive rookie of the year award in 2005, then was suspended for four games for using performance-enhancing drugs in 2006, and then had another strong year in 2007. In 2008, he went against the wishes of the Chargers and eschewed knee surgery early in the offseason; he played one game, then had to have the same surgery the Chargers wanted him to have months earlier, a bad decision that led to him playing in only one game in 2008. Last year, he was a run-of-the-mill rusher, almost totally without impact.
So I ask: Why would any team pay significant compensation and give him the kind of contract he feels he deserves? Merriman turns 26 this month. If I were him (unless he knows he's washed up and just wants to get some guaranteed money before he goes on to his next career), I'd play for the one-year contract this year, stop trying to get a rich deal elsewhere that won't come, and prove again I'm a premier player.
Thought of this the other day: In the past three drafts, the Baltimore Ravens have drafted zero players from the University of Florida. The New England Patriots have drafted five Gators since 2006, the first offseason Urban Meyer would have been able to give good advice to NFL coaches about his Florida players after taking over the job in 2005.
I make the point because the two teams have good connections to the Florida football program, and they are using those connections in far different ways. Bill Belichick admires Meyer and they share strategic nuggets. This is the third year Greg Mattison has been on the Ravens' coaching staff after being Florida's defensive coordinator. It would stand to reason Mattison not only knows the Gators' draft prospects as well as or better than any other person in the NFL right now, but also would have a direct pipeline into the program to find out the scoop on all of them.
For instance, with the Ravens having such a major tight-end need this year, you'd think Florida's Aaron Hernandez slipping into the fourth round would have set off alarm bells in the Ravens' draft room. But no -- Baltimore instead took tight end Ed Dickson of Oregon over Hernandez, and then another TE, Dennis Pitta of BYU right after New England chose Hernandez. Simple scouting preference? Maybe. Or maybe it's more about the character questions and positive marijuana test (or tests, according to Albert Breer of the Boston Globe) that pushed Hernandez away from the Ravens.
New England has to hope its three Florida draftees -- defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham, linebacker Brandon Spikes and Hernandez -- fare better than the first two from Florida in the Meyer era. Wideout Chad Jackson and lineman Jeremy Mincey, both taken in 2006, made zero impact in New England.
Our JetBlue flight from Boston to Jacksonville got us here just fine Sunday afternoon, but with nothing but hot air flowing through the cabin. Try that for three hours, when no one has the sense to close the window shades to cut down on the heat. About midway through the flight, the captain came on to apologize for the warm temps and said they were doing everything they could, but nothing ever changed, and it was a toasty 88 or so throughout the last couple of hours inside the boiling tube. When I got off the plane, Don Hasselbeck (the former NFL tight end, now a Reebok exec coming in for the tournament) followed me off, and I noticed his polo shirt was soaked through. Now that's a pleasant flying experience, sweating on your fellow stranger.
"Not to pile on, but the nickname JaCarcus seems especially relevant now that Russell's career with the Raiders is dead.''
-- @BobGlauber, Newsday football writer Bob Glauber, on the spectacularly flamed-out 2007 first overall pick in the draft, JaMarcus Russell. Oh, that's not piling on.