The Lane Kiffin error, I mean era, has begun and I, for one, am vehemently opposed to his hiring. Paul Finebaum once described Lane Kiffin as the “Miley Cyrus of college football.” Now Kiffin comes into Tuscaloosa like a wrecking ball. Of course this particular wrecking ball left the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and USC Trojans in shambles, yet Nick Saban has chosen to anoint him as Alabama’s new offensive coordinator.
It’s mystifying to me how a person could achieve so much by achieving so little throughout their career. Saban could have had his choice of any accomplished quarterback coach and coordinator to choose from. But, instead of conducting a countrywide search, Saban picked Lane Kiffin – a man who has never achieved any amount of success on his own at any level.
Before you disregard this article as the rantings of someone with an axe to grind against the Crimson Tide or Nick Saban, you should know that I’m a very proud graduate of the University of Alabama. I take great pride in watching my alma mater do great things on and off the football field, so watching the Alabama football team conduct themselves in a first class manner on the football field and in the classroom means a great deal to me. I want my University to be represented in a class manner at all times, so perhaps that is why I am so vehemently opposed to the hiring of Kiffin.
As a football fan and someone who considers himself a student of the game, when I look at the bios of a new Alabama football coach I look for statistical success, a reputation for holding players accountable and a person who young men can look up to. Kiffin does not measure up in any of these areas so it is befuddling to me that he was even considered for the job, let alone hired. Disagree with me? Let’s take a look at the Kiffin files…
In 2005, Kiffin was the co-offensive coordinator (with Steve Sarkisian) at USC where they set multiple records on offense with the likes of Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, Lendale White and Dewayne Jarrett. However, exactly how much credit Kiffin should get for this is highly debatable. After 2005, Steve Sarkisian’s stock continued to skyrocket while Kiffin’s hasn’t done anything noteworthy since. It certainly appears that Sarkisian had far more to do with USC’s success in 2005 than Kiffin did.
In 2007 and 2008, Kiffin went 5-15 as the Raiders’ head coach and play caller. The Raiders ranked 23rd in offense in 2007 and, in 2008, the offense slipped to 29th. After a 1-3 start in 2008, Al Davis fired him, telling him “I will no longer stand silently by while you continue to hurt this organization.” Davis later said, “I think he conned me like he conned all you people … 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. It hurts because I picked the guy. I picked the wrong guy.” Now Saban has made the same mistake and has been conned by Kiffin.
In 2009, the Tennessee Vols hired Kiffin where he once again was the head coach and play caller. While the Vols offense improved during his lone season in Knoxville, they still ranked just 60th in total offense.
In 2010, Kiffin took over the USC team as their coach and play caller once again. Instead of showing steady improvement during his time there, the USC offense progressively went downhill. Kiffin inherited Matt Barkley, who was once thought to be a first rounder. As a result of being “coached up” by Kiffin, Barkley ended up not even getting drafted until the fourth round. In this past year, the Trojan offense rankied a woeful 70th in total yards and 60th in total points, even with 4 or 5 stars at nearly every position on offense. Here is a look at Kiffin’s “success” coaching offenses on the collegiate level:
Tennessee/USC Offensive Stats
Many will say that Kiffin was hamstrung by the crippling sanctions that USC suffered from (sanctions for recruiting improprieties that happened during Kiffin’s time tenure I might add) and they say comparing and dissecting USC’s offensive stats simply isn’t fair. Well, the next graph IS a fair comparison. This chart is the very best judge of how effective Kiffin truly is as a playcaller. Isn’t it an incredible coincidence that once this “outstanding and creative offensive coach” was fired, the USC offense suddenly got much, much better? Here are the stats with Kiffin and without Kiffin – this is the fairest judgment of his abilities as an “offensive mastermind.”
These stats illustrate that, simply put, Kiffin isn’t an effective offensive coordinator. Once Kiffin was fired, quarterback Cody Kessler improved significantly, showing that Kiffin clearly isn’t a good developer of quarterbacks, either – a task that is of paramount importance for Alabama in 2014. Want further proof that Kiffin can’t develop quarterbacks? After Matt Barkley suffered a collarbone injury at the end of 2012, Kiffin had well over a month to prepare 4-star QB Max Wittek to play Georgia Tech (ranked 95th against the pass) in the Sun Bowl. Wittek went 14/37 for 107 yards and three interceptions while throwing the ball to the likes of Marquise Lee and Robert Woods.
Not a Good Person
It’s amazing to me how quickly Alabama fans seem to have forgotten the numerous off the field issues that Lane Kiffin has had over the years. Here’s a quick recap for you folks who need a quick refresher:
- In 2007, Kiffin publicly feuded with Al Davis, stemming from openly criticizing his players to the media – a low-class move by any standard.
- At a press conference in 2008, Kiffin accused Urban Meyer of cheating. Kiffin later embarrassingly had to issue a public apology because he was dead wrong with his accusations.
- In August of 2009, Kiffin mysteriously wrecked his leased Lexus and walked home from the one car accident. Rumors abounded about what truly happened that night but the Tennessee administration quietly swept the incident under the rug. Suffice it to say that it was fairly scandalous for the university when the incident came to light.
- Kiffin allegedly instructed Tennessee hostesses to travel to the high schools where top recruits were playing. This was a massive controversy that resulted in NCAA investigations and sanctions.
- After announcing that he was leaving for USC, in a low-class move Kiffin began calling Tennessee’s early enrollees to convince them not to enroll at the school. This was unheard of in the coaching profession and was frowned upon nationally.
- At USC, Kiffin was reprimanded for having his managers deflate the footballs during a game against Oregon. This was a blatant attempt at cheating and it got the manager fired.
- Kiffin pulled a jersey switcheroo on Oct. 20 in order to help the Trojans beat big, bad Colorado (1-8). USC had backup quarterback Cody Kessler change from No. 6 to No. 35 against the Buffaloes, a number worn by punter Kyle Negrete. Kessler then attempted to run for a two-point conversion. In the second half, Kessler was back to wearing No. 6, seemingly in violation of NCAA rules about changing jerseys in an attempt to deceive the opponent. That brainstorm was almost certainly the difference in USC squeaking out a 50-6 victory over Colorado.
- Kiffin shut off access to the L.A. Coliseum for Friday walk-throughs by visiting teams. This was another low class move as walk-thrus are a standard practice for the visiting teams across the country.
- Kiffin confronted L.A. Daily News reporter Scott Wolf, stripping his credential and banning him from practice for daring to report on an injury to USC kicker Andre Heidari. That led to a battle between the coach and the L.A. media, which ended with athletic director Pat Haden involved, Wolf’s credential being restored and Kiffin apologizing. Yet another embarrassing incident for USC to deal with.
Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater
Kiffin has a reputation as a top recruiter and that appears to be his only possible value. Of course with Alabama pulling in the number one class in each of the last four years, it would seem questionable as to whether this is really a need for the Crimson Tide program.
In his one year recruiting at Tennessee, Kiffin was applauded for his 2009 class that ranked 10th in the nation that year. However, after numerous dismissals and departures from members of that class (ranging from armed robbery to academic failings), Rivals now ranks that class as the worst one in recruiting history. Only one member of that much ballyhooed group of signees had more than 10 starts during their time at Tennessee.
In the past, Kiffin has used negative recruiting tactics, tactics that heretofore were not something the Alabama staff would stoop to. Kiffin publicly told Alshon Jeffery that he would end up pumping gas somewhere if he signed with Spurrier and the Gamecocks. That pissed him off and now Jeffrey is, of course, a star receiver in the NFL.
Recruiting sanctions have followed Kiffin at both USC and Tennessee, leaving both institutions with reduced scholarships and probationary periods for their coaching staffs. And, for all of the good recruits Kiffin may have signed, you should also know that he shooed away Vol commitments Tahj Boyd and Bryce Petty while he was at Tennessee and he told DeAnthony Thomas he had no use for him at USC.
Of course the worst of his offenses is the usage of hostesses to lure recruits to Tennessee. He really put the “ho” in hostess as several of them were alleged to be having “relations” with prospective student athletes. Is this the type of man we want at the University of Alabama? Do we not have higher standards than this? I’m embarrassed to have this man put on crimson and white shirts with our script A.
Not a Good Fit
Lane Kiffin has consistently carried himself as a smug, smarmy individual who thinks it is his birthright to have success coaching football. But while his father, Monte, forged a path to becoming one of the most respective defensive coordinators in all of football, all Lane has to show for his efforts is a family connection to someone (Monte) who knows football. Nothing Lane Kiffin has ever done has remotely suggested that he is a top-notch football coach. However, everything he has ever done has suggested that he is a low life human being.
Nick Saban could have hired anyone he wanted to be his offensive coordinator. Highly successful football coaches consistently line up to put the name “Nick Saban” on their resumes. However, instead of conducting a nationwide search for the best coordinator Alabama could find, Saban stopped the search after interviewing one person.
Now Alabama is stuck with a coach who has, at best, an average to below average ability to coordinate an offense. Now Alabama is stuck with the kind of coach that a smart father or mother would never want to entrust their son to.
The Alabama football team deserves better. My beloved University deserves better. With this hire, Mal Moore must be turning over his his grave. He never would have signed off on this. Mal was a man of class. A man of dignity. A man of honor. He represented everything that was good about our university and our coaching staff and he demanded excellence. Now, after hiring the likes of Lane Kiffin, we have to wonder where our program is headed.