Kiffin, 31, named coach of Raiders

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The Oakland Raiders hired Lane Kiffin as their coach Monday night, making the 31-year-old Southern California offensive coordinator the NFL’s youngest head coach.

Kiffin, the son of Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, earned the job with a strong interview Monday after the Raiders failed to reach a deal last week with 32-year-old Steve Sarkisian, Kiffin’s fellow assistant to Pete Carroll at USC.

Raiders owner Al Davis quickly moved to land another up-and-coming offensive mind with sterling college credentials, but just one season of NFL experience – as a defensive quality control coach with Jacksonville in 2000.

Raiders senior personnel executive Michael Lombardi confirmed the hiring in an e-mail to The Associated Press. The agreement was first reported by the Contra Costa Times and ESPN.

Kiffin is the Raiders’ 16th head coach – and the youngest in franchise history.

The former Fresno State quarterback is younger than at least nine players who finished the season with Oakland during its NFL-worst 2-14 campaign, including defensive tackle Warren Sapp, fullback Zack Crockett and receiver Alvis Whitted.

Coach Art Shell was fired after the season, and Davis apparently was determined to hire another young offensive-minded coach in the mold of Jon Gruden, his last successful hire. Davis has fired three coaches in the last four years: Bill Callahan, Norv Turner and Shell, whose return to the Raiders lasted just one year.

Kiffin had been at USC for six years. While former Raiders assistant Sarkisian coached from the sideline last season, Kiffin called the plays for the Rose Bowl champion Trojans.

Sarkisian had two strong interviews with the Raiders last week, but decided to stay at USC on Friday night. Both claimed Sarkisian never was offered the job, though numerous media reports said Sarkisian turned the club down.

Davis first interviewed Kiffin on Thursday – apparently to explore the possibility of hiring Kiffin as the club’s offensive coordinator. Kiffin, who also coached receivers for USC, returned to the Bay Area on Sunday for a second interview, this time to discuss becoming the Raiders’ head coach. Kiffin also was a finalist for the top job at the University of Minnesota earlier in the offseason.

Davis has ample reason to trust in young minds: Gruden, Mike Shanahan and John Madden all succeeded as Raiders head coaches in their 30s – as did Davis.

Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, San Diego Chargers receivers coach James Lofton and Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan also interviewed for the job.

The Raiders have serious personnel problems with one of the NFL’s worst offenses, but their defense was among the league’s best. Oakland also has the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft.

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