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."
The next step
Jack Del Rio's fifth season as coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars was his most successful. Still, the team only got as far as the divisional round of the playoffs after going 11-5 during the regular season. And the Jaguars play in the NFL's toughest division, the AFC North, where Indianapolis is a power, Tennessee also was a wild-card playoff qualifier, and Houston finished 8-8.
"We've had a great beginning in Jacksonville," he said. "Over five years, we've become very solid, built a strong football team and we're excited about 2008.
"Our division is full of fierce competition. It's strong and getting stronger. For us, one of our division rivals (Indianapolis) has been on top, with a terrific quarterback, well-coached. Everyone is pursuing what that team has been able to accomplish in control of our division."
"There's no better example than what the New York Giants were able to do last year," Del Rio said. "They started 0-2, had injuries, had a great player (running back Tiki Barber) retire, questions circulating all over. They got hot, played great football, and they're world champions."
Could Jacksonville follow that scenario this season?
"It's not like you can accomplish something in March or April and think you've arrived," he cautioned. "You'll fight for that in the regular season and then fight for that in the postseason. Regardless of how well-stocked you are or coached, or how talented you are, it's production in the season that counts most."
One year after losing out to Dallas for the 2011 game, the home of the Colts is competing with Houston and Phoenix for 2012.
The bid lays out committed hotel rooms and public meeting spaces; the city's transportation plan; seating availability and configuration; and the number of suites available to the NFL.
The city also is trying to raise $25 million in private money.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press