When one agrees with a football decision made by the late Al Davis in his latter years, one has to pause for a moment and re-think that position. Even after taking a moment to ponder, it is pretty clear that the legendary owner was correct in his analysis of Lane Kiffin.
Everywhere Lane Kiffin has been, he has been an outright disaster, and USC made the correct move Sunday to end his tenure as head coach.
While at Oakland, one could make the case that Kiffin was an up-and-comer who simply was forced to work for an all-too-controlling owner of a down and out franchise. Still, the comments Davis made about Kiffin were highly personal and of the nature of someone with a deep distrust of his coach, not just someone who wanted more input into football decisions.
At Tennessee, Kiffin was a serial violator of NCAA recruiting rules and constantly bickered with other coaches frustrated with his classless manner of conduct. When he left the program for greener pastures shortly after his first season, the brief and unapologetic exit meeting was interrupted by assistants calling up recruits trying to flip them to USC and pleading with new signees to take steps to transfer.
Kiffin’s tenure at USC was marred by immaturity, brash behavior, and underachievement. Over the last two seasons in particular, fans of the Trojans came to expect losses to lesser foes and predictions always factored poor coaching into the equation.
In the “Era of Saban,” USC got left behind under Kiffin, and the strengthening of the PAC 12 has put the power program well behind programs like Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, and Arizona State, all much healthier than USC who may even be behind teams like Oregon State and Arizona.
By getting rid of Kiffin, USC got rid of a cancer, a selfish and egotistical coach who was tanking the program and, given his history, would likely have the Trojans receiving further NCAA discipline sooner rather than later.
Looking ahead, I expect USC to make a big move. While this season is lost, the Trojans belong among the nation’s elite, and this may be their one chance for a quick reunion with the top programs in the country.
Jeff Fisher, currently 1-3 in his second year with the St. Louis Rams, will be a name thrown about in the coming days. Additionally, I expect that Jon Gruden, Boise State’s Chris Peterson (when has his name not been mentioned during a significant coaching search?), Steve Sarkisian (Washington HC who coached with Kiffin at USC), Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M HC), Al Golden (Miami HC), Dabo Swinney (Clemson HC), Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss HC), Bill O’Brien (Penn State), Art Briles (Baylor), and Ken Whisenhunt (former Arizona Cardinals HC and current OC for Sand Diego Chargers) to be other top candidates.
Names like Nick Saban and Bill Cowher could also be thrown around although it is unlikely either are serious contenders. “Back up” options may include Dan Mullen (Mississippi State HC), Gary Patterson (TCU HC), Bobby Petrino (Western Kentucky HC), Kirby Smart (Alabama DC), and Chad Morris (Clemson OC).
This job is arguably the best in the country as the program (and its location) sells itself better than any other. With the right hire, USC could get back on track quickly and reshape the college football landscape. What could be interesting, however, could be whether the Texas job opens up, making two of the top five college football jobs open in the same offseason, creating some certain bidding wars, especially over a certain reigning champion head coach.
As for Kiffin, I would not expect him to be coaching at a major program any time soon. This was the right call by Pat Haden.