After Saturday nights throttling at the hands of Arizona State, University of Southern California football head coach Lane Kiffin wasn’t even able to get to baggage claim at LAX before USC Athletic Director Pat Haden canned him to help save the face of the program. This came as a surprise to no one that has followed college football over the past 3 years, seeing a once proud traditional powerhouse in college football turn into a PAC-12 doormat under the tutelage of Lane Kiffin’s care. How did this happen? What has Lane Kiffin accomplished to get gifted the USC head coaching position?
Lane is the son of the impactful Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin who popularized the cover 2 defense now widely used in the NFL. With the notoriety of his father Lane was able to get ahold of a quality control assistant for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2000, after a year with Colorado State as an offensive line coach. After the 2000 season with the Jaguars, Pete Carroll, now head coach of the USC Trojans asked Lane if he wanted to become a part of his staff as a Tight Ends coach. Here is the first connection Lane had to the USC program which would later serve as a catalyst for his hiring.
Under the Carroll regime, Kiffin moved his way up the staff becoming Offensive Coordinator and Recruiting Coordinator in 2005 after Norm Chow left his place to join the Tennessee Titans. Under Kiffin’s control the 2005 Trojans offense went on to set many school records including averaging 49 points and 579 yards per game. With the success of the USC offense, Kiffin became a hot commodity in the coaching world. No longer living in the shadow of his father, Lane went out to build his own legacy.
That opportunity came in 2007 when none other than the Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders were looking for a new head coach (Who would've thunk?). Davis and the Raiders signed Kiffin on January 23, 2007 to a 2 year $4 million dollar deal making him the youngest head coach in NFL history. After a 4-12 season Kiffin was not looking pretty in the head coaching position, and neither did Al. When Davis tried to get Kiffin to resign as head coach Lane reportedly refused as resigning would cancel out his contract option. Al did not take kindly to Lane’s apprehension from leaving and eventually fired Kiffin on September 30, 2008 leaving with a 5-15 record.
Here is where the seeds of this whole Lane Kiffin coaching ordeal began to sprout. After the firing, Al Davis called a press conference to call Kiffin a “liar” and “bringing disgrace to the organization”. At the time this just sounded like spoiled milk as Davis and the Raiders had a history of being inept. But the signs of Kiffin’s short stints and burnt bridges begin to take hold.
After the brief failure in the NFL, Kiffin went back to his bread and butter, big-time college football. After the removal of longtime coach Phil Fulmer, the Tennessee Vols needed a new coach. Needing a spark to reignite the vol fire, the school thought that Lane Kiffin's success as a recruiter and offensive mind at USC will translate into Tennessee’s climb back atop of the SEC.
After the hiring of Kiffin in 2009, it didn’t take long for Lane to make enemies of the old dogs of the premier football conference in America. Taking jabs at Urban Meyer about recruiting violations, and South Carolina by telling Gamecocks WR Alshon Jeffery that if he chose South Carolina over Tennessee, he would be pumping gas for the rest of his life (Alshon Jeffery is now a starting WR for the Chicago Bears). Even with all the rhetoric and trash talking the Vols only improved marginally with a 7-6 record under Kiffin versus a 5-7 record under the last year of Fulmer.
After aggravating the rest of the SEC with comments and questionable recruiting tactics. Kiffin once again decided to burn the bridge of his employer after a short amount of time and minimal success, when the USC head coaching position became available after Pete Carroll bolted for the NFL’s Seahawks, before major recruiting violations were about to hobble the program. After one year with the Tennessee Vols, Kiffin left them high and dry for the greener pastures of Southern California.
Before becoming the USC coach, Kiffin had a total head coaching record of 12-21 or a winning percentage of 57%. Somehow USC thought that trojan family was more important than a winning history and brought in Kiffin right after the 2009 season. Due to NCAA penalties, Trojans scholarships got cut as well as becoming bowl ineligible for the next 2 years. This is where Kiffin shined as a head coach, taking an undermanned and ineligible Trojan team to a joint 18-7 record with wins over Oregon, Notre Dame, and 2 wins over cross-town rival UCLA Bruins.
Going into the 2012 season USC and Lane Kiffin were once again flying high. Now bowl eligible and ranked #1 in the Preseason by USA Today Poll, USC were once again in line to compete for a National Championship. But history was once again made by Lane Kiffin, but not in a good way. The Trojans became the first team since 1964 to start the season #1 and end the season unranked ending the season 7-6.
Heading into Kiffin’s now last season with the USC football program, USC started the season ranked #24 and without their star QB Matt Barkley who entered the NFL draft the season outlook seemed bleak. Let me reiterate that it was bleak. The offense was non-existent for the first 4 games of the season, and only showed up in the 5th because they were getting beat down so much the Sun Devils took it easy. It was undeniable that the team was not getting better and something needed to change.
So here we are today, Kiffin, the man who found his way into 3 head coaching jobs in 6 years and a record of 40-36 is once again out of a job with Southern California again looking for their programs savior.
Now I am not a fan of USC and am pretty happy to see them fail, but it is not good for the rest of the college football landscape. With USC and Texas both shells of themselves, the football scene feels a bit lackluster at the moment. The SEC dominance has gotten overbearing, and I would like to see a big competitive game take place between teams that are more than a couple hundred miles apart. Yet until these programs get their acts together and hire a coaching staff that matches their talent, the south shall rise again, and again, and again.
Lane Kiffin, the man will most likely find himself in another head coaching position sometime soon. His arrogance and swagger doesn’t match the record he accumulated, but it finds him jobs. Let’s hope this firing finally taught some humility, but human nature is repetitive cycle that is hard to break so I wouldn’t put money on it. Lane better hope to find success or humility soon, because until he does he will simply be known as Montee’s entitled, spoiled, and brat of a son.