The inevitable became reality Tuesday when Lane Kiffin was fired by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis on Tuesday.
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.
Tom Cable, the team's offensive line coach, was emerging as the leading candidate to replace Kiffin, a source said. Cable was among three coaches interviewed by Davis on Monday night; the others were offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and special consultant Paul Hackett.
The team was planning to address the media at 5 p.m. ET Tuesday at its facility in Alameda, Calif., to discuss its decision.
Walk The Plank
The Raiders may have improved under Lane Kiffin -- but they were still among the dregs of the NFL.
Worst Win Pct., 2007-Present Team Pct. W-L
Dolphins .105 2-17
Rams .150 3-17
Raiders .250 5-15
* Chiefs .250 5-15
* - The Chiefs are the only team on this list not to make a coaching change since 2007.
More Kiffin coverage:
• Lane Kiffin's ouster in Oakland is the best thing that could have happened to the embattled coach, ESPN.com's Bill Williamson writes. Blog
• SportsNation: Who is to blame?
Unlike the St. Louis Rams, who fired coach Scott Linehan on Monday, the news was not delivered by Davis 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 three. 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.
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.
More on ESPNEWS
ESPNews will have coverage of the Oakland Raiders' news conference to discuss the firing of Lane Kiffin, expected to begin Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.
Despite being competitive in the majority of 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.
They Be Scurvy Pirates
Many teams experience Super Bowl hangovers. But since Oakland went to Super Bowl XXXVII, the Raiders have been an absolute shipwreck:
Winning Pct. .238
Road Wins 7
* - worst in NFL
Kiffin also 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 team's 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.