It's a lot easier to be a salesman with the first sign of positive reinforcement in nearly a year.
"You know, I had lost two in a row here and it felt like it had been a
long time," Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said Monday. "Well, there are people
in this building who haven't won in 322 days."
Kiffin's first victory as an NFL head coach, a 26-24 win over the
Cleveland Browns, snapped an 11-game losing streak dating back to last Oct.
29 and a 20-13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since arriving in Oakland as a 31-year-old (Kiffin has since turned 32)
head coach with no head-coaching experience at any level, Kiffin has remade
the offense in terms of both philosophy and personnel, attempted to rid the
team of players who were indifferent about being part of the Raiders and
instituted an entirely new system of training camp and practice schedules.
All well and good, except none of it means anything without a payoff.
"It was like we had a black cloud hanging over our heads for the longest
time," wide receiver Ronald Curry said.
When Tommy Kelly blocked a 40-yard field-goal attempt by Phil Dawson
Sunday, all Kiffin's changes meant a little more than they did the day
"There have been so many things we have been selling about how we need to
do things, how we need to play, how we need to practice," Kiffin said. "Any
time you win, it helps with that. It helps the players feel you are going in
the right direction and adds to what they are thinking about us in general."
The carry-over effect, if there is any, will happen during the week
rather than on Sundays, Kiffin said.
"You want them to remember the feeling they had after the game and how
great that locker room was," Kiffin said. "Playing hard on Sunday, that's
the easy part. It's when you come in Wednesday and Thursday, and it's an
hour and a half into practice, how hard are you going to practice? Are you
going to stay and watch more film of your opponent? That's the stuff that
wins games during the week."
One of the ideas Kiffin is selling has to do with a sense of team. Toward
that end, game balls are not awarded to individual players. Linebacker Kirk Morrison broke with Kiffin's protocol after the Browns game by awarding the
coach the game ball.
Kiffin neglected to mention it when asked about the game ball during his
postgame press conference, with Morrison later telling the media about it in
the locker room.
"In a way, I wish he wouldn't have done it because it goes against what
we talk about," Kiffin said. "Everybody from the equipment room to the
training room, everybody who was in that locker room got a game ball because
we won that game with everybody. But for Morrison to do that was special."
No fine then?
"No," Kiffin said. "We'll just make him pay for the ball."