PALM BEACH, Fla. -- After a few warmup questions, Lane Kiffin was asked to describe working for Al Davis. The Oakland Raiders coach paused.
"I need a sip of water," he said, chuckling.
Kiffin has widely been reported as being on the outs with the Raiders' longtime owner and uninvolved in the many personnel decisions the team made this offseason. But the way Kiffin explained those moves Tuesday, from the re-signing of running back Justin Fargas to the additions of free agents Javon Walker, John Wade and Gibril Wilson and the trade for cornerback DeAngelo Hall, it seemed clear the coach was a major part of the transactions.
"It's very unique," Kiffin said of coaching for Davis. "He's an owner who is very hands-on, prides himself on his knowledge of football.
"It's not the easiest job. I know people have left because of that. Al is very demanding. At the same time, he is someone who has done a lot of things in this league -- coach, [AFL] commissioner, owner -- and has a lot of knowledge."
Only when discussing the retention of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan did Kiffin emphasize Davis' decision-making role.
"At the end of the season, Rob and I had a meeting and Rob felt it was in his best interest to go somewhere else," Kiffin said. "I met with the owner and expressed that with Al, we talked about a lot of things and a lot of different scenarios that could come up, and Al decided to stay with Rob. Rob has one year left on his contract.
"I've always had a strong and very good relationship with Rob."
And his relationship with the only person who really counts on the Raiders? That can only improve if Oakland's record gets better.
"Nobody was happy with 4-12, but it was a very valuable year for me and our staff to learn more about the team and see what we had," Kiffin said. "All that information helps for the future."