In an offseason rife with change, Trojan head coach Lane Kiffin finds himself facing a quandary of epic proportions.
Should he fire himself from a position that he obviously relishes?
Specifically, should Kiffin remove himself as leader of the offense and play caller in a year where his job is certainly on the line?
After going 7-6 last year with a team with national championship aspirations, there is little doubt that Kiffin is on the proverbial hot seat, and if there is not significant improvement in 2013, he will very likely be shown the door.
To address the problems that the 2012 Trojans encountered, Kiffin has shaken up the coaching staff by removing defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders and accepting the resignation of his father, Monte Kiffin, who was the defensive coordinator.
Meanwhile, linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton left to pursue other opportunities, and recently, Kiffin fired offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu, which brings him to his current dilemma.
It was well known that Polamalu was coordinator in name only and that Kiffin pulled the strings when it came to calling plays.
A former "boy wonder" as a play caller, Kiffin's prowess in that department includes a resume where he dictated the offense for the 2005 Trojans—one of the most prolific in college football history.
And his offensive mind is what certainly led Al Davis to hire him as the Oakland Raiders head coach and what played a part in his being hired for his one year stint at Tennessee.
To be sure, in Kiffin's mind, he has the ability to run the offense at USC.
Naysayers will point out that USC's offense stumbled in 2012 and that with the talent he had, the Trojans should have run rampant on their hapless opponents.
They have a point but only to a certain extent.
What the Kiffin haters will not admit is that prior to quarterback Matt Barkley's season ending injury, USC was among the leaders in total offense in the nation.
In fact, the Trojans only had two games (prior to Barkley's injury) where they scored fewer than 36 points, and in one of those (against Stanford), the Trojans lost their offensive line "heart and soul" when center Khaled Holmes went down with an injury. The other was against Cal, when they scored "only" 27 points.
Another thing that may be lost in the angst is that the Trojans tied for 116th in turnovers lost (that means only three teams had more) in 2012.
It is hard to get an offensive rhythm going when you are constantly turning the ball over.
This is not to say Kiffin didn't have issues and a lot of explaining to do for last year. He has started by accepting blame for last year and in an article by ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski, he said, "You got to blame somebody, so you're going to blame the head coach—and you should. I blame myself for this."
And well he should but not for the offense, which admittedly featured some questionable play calling but produced when the starting quarterback was available.
No, Kiffin's problems last year were more palpable in his overall coaching, and this brings us to a valid argument that the anti-Kiffin ilk offer when begging for a new play-caller.
That line of reasoning suggests that if he did bring on a new coordinator, he could focus more time running the team.
And ultimately, this decision may already be out of Kiffin's hands, as there has been conjecture (though none in writing), that a change is being requested by Pat Haden, Kiffin's boss.
If so, then all of this is moot.
But for my money, if he wants to call the plays with his job on the line, so be it. He has a track record that deserves one more chance, and he has a lot more at risk than you or I.
And maybe, just maybe, he can capture some of that 2005 magic in 2013.
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