What a difference a year makes for the USC Trojans and Lane Kiffin.
The questions for Kiffin after last year's campaign circled around how USC would compete for a National Championship this year. Twelve months later those same questions have transformed into whether Lane Kiffin will be around next season (h/t BR's Lisa Horne).
Every bit of criticism is well deserved for the boisterous, over-confident head coach after USC's 7-6 season. Kiffin was at fault for many of USC's downfalls, both on the field and off it.
After three tumultuous years it has come time for USC to part ways with Kiffin, here's why.
Before we get to the on-field fiasco called Lane Kiffin's play-calling, let's start with the basics.
Many of USC's off-field problems indirectly relate to Kiffin.
While he is not at fault for their "Reggie Bush Sanctions," I'm a supporter of the opinion that the NCAA came down harder on USC because they hired Kiffin in the middle of the fiasco.
At the time when Bush was in school, Kiffin was USC's wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator. It isn't too far fetched to believe Kiffin hid something back then as an assistant when he wasn't a stranger to violations as a head coach at Tennessee (via conquestchronicles.com)
After the NCAA specifically ordered USC to vacate anything associated with that era (wins, trophies, jerseys, pictures, etc.), USC goes out and hires two of the coaches from that team. Ed Orgeron was USC's defensive line coach, assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator during that time period and was one of the coaches Kiffin brought along with him from Tennessee back to USC.
It simply wasn't any coach they hired. They hired Kiffin, who at the time was already in hot water with the NCAA. In fact, after Kiffin left Tennessee, they were hit with recruiting violations (h/t AOL.com)
Do you think the NCAA would just let Kiffin skip town like that without any retribution? Even worse, he went to a place where the NCAA was already looking to bring down the hammer.
Kiffin didn't stop there though. During his time at USC, there have been many minor infractions and allegations that keep popping up. From Dillon Baxter's run-in with agents to the team manager deflating game balls (does anyone really believe he acted on his own?), Kiffin is walking a fine line at USC.
It's only a matter of time before these minor incidents turn into major ones, all the more reason for USC to pull the plug now.
On-Field and Team Management
Never have I seen a coach go for as many fourth downs or two-point conversions as Lane Kiffin (I'm not including Chip Kelley because anything Oregon does on offense is impossible to compare).
Kiffin made it clear to USC fans from the get-go that he wasn't your conventional coach. In his first game against Hawaii, Kiffin went for two points after USC's first three touchdowns, converting one out of the three.
Kiffin didn't stop there. Too many times over the past three years have the Trojans scored only to have their momentum ruined by one of Kiffin's bonehead two-point conversion calls.
Besides his propensity to go for it in risky situations, Kiffin was also a below-average play-caller on offense. He would often abandon his game plan early if the Trojans were struggling or behind, and revert to an air-it-out approach that usually didn't work (See: Stanford 2012).
Kiffin should also take blame for the defensive woes as it was he who brought in his father to run the defense. Monte Kiffin's Cover-2 worked in the NFL, but in college it was a disaster.
The Trojans' defense barely put up a fight in their two mid-season losses to Arizona and Oregon. In those two games alone they allowed 101 points and over 1,300 yards. Lane Kiffin's loyalty to his father superseded his loyalty as a coach and was one of the many reasons for USC's downfall in 2012.
After those two losses, Kiffin lost control of his team. They went on to lose the final three games of the regular season and five out of the last six. Two of those losses came at the hands of their bitter rivals UCLA and Notre Dame. The third loss came in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech, and was an embarrassment to the program.
The locker-room fight that followed the bowl loss should be the final straw for Kiffin (via USA Today's Paul Myerberg). His management of the team and his inability to control them during times of turmoil is all the more evidence he is not ready to be a collegiate coach, or any level of coach, at the time.
Turn the Page and Start Fresh
The bowl ban is over and after this season the scholarship reduction will be as well. There is no better time for USC to clear house and start fresh.
Pat Haden tried to keep the head coach within the family after Pete Carroll left, but Kiffin has been a disaster. Over three years he has only won 25 games while losing 13, hardly living up to the standards his predecessor set.
Kiffin's coaching performance has been even worse than his record suggests. He was gift-wrapped one of the best quarterbacks in the country when he arrived at USC and still wound up ruining things.
One of the upsides to having Lane Kiffin on a staff is his recruiting prowess, but in the past few months all the news has been of him losing recruits rather than bringing them to USC. Kiffin's credibility in the eyes of recruits, his most attractive quality, is disappearing before our eyes.
USC can close the book on a decade marred by controversy and start from scratch if they get rid of Kiffin.
What the Trojans need now is a leader, and that is something Lane Kiffin is not.