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Kiffin sticks with McCown despite 'embarrassing' passing game

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Lane Kiffin is sticking with Josh McCown as his starting quarterback this week against Cleveland even after the Oakland coach called the Raiders' passing game "embarrassing" in their latest loss.

McCown went 8-for-16 for 73 yards and one touchdown and three interceptions, failing to generate any consistent offense through the air against the Broncos. But Kiffin said Monday that McCown gives the team a better chance to win than Daunte Culpepper and would remain the starter at least for this week.

"Our passing game was basically embarrassing," Kiffin said Monday. "That falls on all of us, from up front to the receivers to the backs to the quarterback to the coaches, all of us. It's obviously something we need to improve on."

Given the job in part because of his ability to manage the game, McCown threw three interceptions against the Broncos and has five through two games. If that doesn't change soon, Culpepper could get the nod.

"Josh has got to get better, that's no secret, or he won't be our starting quarterback for long, especially at this pace," Kiffin said.

After getting booed in his debut with the Raiders despite throwing for 313 yards and two touchdowns, McCown figures to get more of the same treatment this week.

With a former Pro Bowl player in Culpepper and the No. 1 overall pick in JaMarcus Russell waiting in the wings, McCown is clearly not the fan favorite in Oakland.

"I don't get caught up in it because it does me no good," McCown said. "It's just going to bring me down. I have to play to a standard that I want to and as bad as the fans may think that you play or whatever, this is just something they go and watch, and they go and get enjoyment from. This is my life, this is my job. If they want me to do better than just imagine how much I want to do better and how well I want to play."

McCown's play has been spotty at best the first two weeks. He started slowly against the Lions in the opener as Oakland fell into a 17-0 hole, before leading a comeback that briefly gave the Raiders a 21-20 lead in the fourth quarter. McCown went 30-for-40 for 313 yards and the two touchdowns, taking advantage of underneath passes that Detroit gave Oakland.

On Sunday, the Broncos shut down those short routes, and the Raiders fell behind 17-3 before once again rallying to take a fourth-quarter lead.

"My confidence is not shot whatsoever," McCown said. "I'm highly confident in what I can do, what our offense can do."

McCown was able to complete only one downfield throw all game -- a 46-yard TD pass to Jerry Porter -- and threw interceptions on two other deep balls and missed an open Porter streaking down field late in regulation.

"It's not a very hard completion to make," Kiffin said of the missed pass to Porter. "He throws off his back foot and overthrows Jerry or the game's over at that point. Those are the plays that, if you're going to be really good on offense and if you're going to be really good at quarterback, you have to make those plays."

The running game was the bright spot offensively for Oakland as LaMont Jordan had 25 carries for 159 yards and the Raiders had 200 yards rushing in a game for the first time since their Super Bowl season in 2002. It was just the second time since 1973 that the Raiders lost a game in which they ran for at least 200 yards.

Despite the two losses, there have been some signs of progress for an offense that managed only 12 touchdowns a year ago.

"One thing I will say is that's a different Raiders group," Broncos safety John Lynch said "I know from talking to those players, they really believe in what Lane Kiffin's selling to them. In the past, you get the Raiders down and they kind of wilt. They showed no wilting. They came back and got back on top."

That's all well and good, Kiffin said, but it doesn't matter until that translates into wins.

"We can talk about, 'Our team fought back, and we've been ahead in both games in the fourth quarter. Are we better than we used to be?' All that stuff," he said. "But we're 0-2 and it's my job to win here."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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