Firing Lane Kiffin may satiate the USC faithful who disdain the program's head coach, but making such a move would not be in the best interest of the program—at least not yet.
Instead, what the Trojans brass should do is give Kiffin one more season to right the program's sinking ship and prepare its contingency plan in the event he fails.
For its part, USC seems committed to Kiffin for the 2013 season, according to ESPN's Marc Saxton:
Kiffin told reporters after the game that he had a recent conversation with [USC AD Pat] Haden that assured him his job was safe. Haden, who initially declined comment as he came off the Rose Bowl field following Saturday's loss, later confirmed Kiffin's account in a text message to ESPNLosAngeles.com.
"Absolutely," Haden said in the message.
While that sounds positive, it wouldn't exactly be the first time a coach has gotten a vote of confidence before getting axed.
Kiffin's job uncertainty is especially true considering how disappointing of a season USC had. It's not an exaggeration to call the 2012 Trojans one of the most underperforming teams in FBS history.
By finishing the season unranked, USC became the first preseason No. 1 team to end the campaign outside the Top 25 since Ole Miss in 1964. Their 7-5 regular-season record was a true exercise in futility, as the Trojans matched that Rebels squad as the only preseason No. 1 to finish with five losses.
Considering that USC still has a bowl game to play, it may not be done with its record-setting ineptitude.
Under normal circumstances, USC would have grounds to fire Kiffin.
However, firing Kiffin would also forget his triumphs. He took a job that very few wanted, kept the program afloat despite NCAA penalties and even massively overachieved with a 10-2 record last season.
What's more, Kiffin's biggest problem on the 2012 squad was eradicated when his father, Monte, resigned on Nov. 29 to pursue opportunities in the NFL.
Monte, who served as the defensive coordinator, led a unit that became the Trojans' overarching deficiency, especially late in the season. In their final four Pac-12 games, the unit gave up a whopping 39 points per game, including 62 in a loss to Oregon.
On the other hand, USC's offense (Lane's specialty) was only truly at fault twice for the team's losses. When you look at the opponents in those games, Stanford and Notre Dame, it becomes glaringly apparent that the defense was the root evil this season.
If Kiffin is able to find a strong successor for his father, one who will help resurrect the Trojans' struggling defense, the Trojans might get back on the righteous path.
More importantly, Year 4 is always vital for a college coach. It's the season when the players from the previous regime are mostly eradicated, leaving only talent the current coach brought to town.
What that means is there will be very few Pete Carroll leftovers. Instead, the 2013 Trojans will be Kiffin's team, for better or for worse.
From a talent standpoint, the answer seems to lean toward the latter. Running back Silas Redd and wide receiver Marqise Lee will likely be back. But other than those two stars, there is a cavalcade of questions surrounding the Trojans' skill-position players.
Most notably, USC will have to find a replacement for Matt Barkley at quarterback. Whether that's Max Wittek or big-time recruit Max Browne, neither guy has enough experience to inspire any confidence going forward.
If Kiffin is unable to produce an improved unit and show he can coach a less talented group of players, he deserves a one-way ticket to Dumpsville. By then, he will have had ample opportunities, with both his players and ones from a previous regime.
When it comes down to brass tacks, those who are clamoring so hard for USC to fire Kiffin simply don't like him as a person.
Should his seat be on fire coming into the 2013 season? Absolutely. But to fire Kiffin would be a preemptive strike similar to the one a fellow Los Angeles team pulled off in the NBA.
Give Kiffin one more year to fix things. If he fails? Perhaps Jon Gruden will still be hanging around waiting to pounce on a college job.
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