The inevitable became reality Tuesday when Lane Kiffin was fired by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.
In a one-paragraph release, the team said, "Lane Kiffin has been released as head coach of the Oakland Raiders for cause.
Sources told ESPN that Kiffin was fired via the telephone and without pay.
"I reached a point where I felt that the whole staff were fractionalized, that the best thing to do to get this thing back was to make a change," Davis said during a lengthy news conference. "It hurts because I picked the guy. I picked the wrong guy."
Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable has accepted the head coaching job. Cable was introduced at a news conference later Tuesday. Cable was among three coaches interviewed by Davis on Monday night; the others were offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and special consultant Paul Hackett.
Cable is regarded as one of the top offensive line coaches in the game, and he worked with successful units in Atlanta and Oakland. He spent four years as a college head coach at Idaho and was also an assistant at UCLA, California and Colorado.
"This is in many ways a strange day," Cable said. "I have a friend who lost a job. That's difficult in this business but, as we know, this is a business. It is time for us to move forward and to put the past behind us. ... We have a good coaching staff here and a good football team here."
Unlike the St. Louis Rams, who fired coach Scott Linehan on Monday, the Raiders and Davis did not deliver the news in a face-to-face meeting. Kiffin was notified by a team executive Tuesday morning that Davis would call him at 9:15 a.m. PT to relieve the coach of his duties. The call came shortly after that time.
Linehan also was allowed to speak briefly with his players on Monday. Kiffin will not be afforded the same opportunity, a source said.
The news did not blindside Kiffin, who was informed by a team executive that he would be fired after the Raiders' 24-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 3. Even though Davis didn't act a week ago, as Kiffin was told, many team insiders expected the Oakland owner to fire the coach during this bye week.
"I know that we left this team a lot better than when we got here," Kiffin told KPIX. He is expected to have his own press conference on Wednesday. Speaking to ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Tuesday, Kiffin did take exception with Davis' take on the situation.
"It was very painful for myself and my family," he said. "A lot of accusations were being made there. A lot of information was put up. A number of lies were very hurtful.
It was tough to stomach for myself and my family. But it is what it is. We'll deal with it from here."
The Raiders are 1-3, having blown leads in the fourth quarter to the Bills and the San Diego Chargers. During Kiffin's 20-game tenure, in which the team was 5-15, the Raiders took leads into the fourth quarter of 11 games.
Davis hired Kiffin, who was USC's offensive coordinator at the time, as the NFL's youngest coach (at 31 years old) in February 2007. Even though many observers questioned the hiring, Kiffin ultimately gained respect around the league for fielding a significantly more competitive team than the Raiders had displayed before he was hired.
While Oakland was competitive in most of its games, Kiffin and Davis had a falling out on several fronts, starting when Davis believed Kiffin expressed private interest in the head coaching position at the University of Arkansas during the 2007 season.
However, it was well-documented that their relationship disintegrated when Kiffin attempted to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after the 2007 season. A source said Kiffin suggested to Davis that the owner had reneged on an agreement that the coach would have control over his own staff. Shortly thereafter, Davis sent a letter of resignation for Kiffin to sign, sources said. Kiffin declined.
Davis denied a report that Kiffin was sent a resignation letter in the past but refused to sign it. The owner said that Kiffin was responsible for getting that false claim into the media. On Tuesday, Davis was asked if Kiffin was trying to get fired so that he would receive the remainder of his salary.
"I don't know what he was doing, but he got me to fire him," Davis said.
Kiffin denied any attempt to get fired and said that he has lawyers looking into the Raiders' attempt to avoid paying the coach.
Kiffin had opposed some of Davis' big free-agent signings, such as wide receiver Javon Walker and, to a lesser degree, cornerback DeAngelo Hall, sources said. Kiffin also expressed public frustration that the team was not more aggressive in claiming other teams' released players via the waiver process to strengthen the bottom of the roster.
However, a Raiders source said that Davis privately sent a letter to Kiffin after the season's opening-game loss to the Broncos, attempting to "document" that the coach approved of the offseason acquisitions. A source close to Kiffin described that claim as "fiction."
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.