It should not take long for Lane Kiffin to return to the football world, likely as an offensive coordinator. Kiffin, after being fired following USC's 62-41 loss to Arizona State, appeared on the set of ESPN's College GameDay, giving Chris Fowler the exclusive first interview. Kiffin was measured, calm and—as USA Today's Erick Smith pointed out—solid in putting a good face on his current situation.
In the ESPN interview, Kiffin accepted responsibility for the failures of USC and showed that he missed that team he helped build. While some speculate about Kiffin moving to the television world—Fox Sports, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and ESPN all are looking for the next big personality—the fact is that Lane Kiffin is a football coach.
There are two things that Kiffin truly enjoys: coaching ball and recruiting talent. Neither of those can be done while sitting in a suit behind a desk talking about other people's teams.
For that reason, expect to see the 38-year-old on the sidelines or up in the coaches' box when the 2014 season kicks off.
As it stands now, the USC and UConn jobs sit waiting to be filled. Texas is also a strong possibility, and the dominoes that are the coaching world will begin to fall, creating vacancies around the nation. Throw in the revolving door of the NFL, and there will be plenty of possibilities for Kiffin. It is a matter of opportunity for the unemployed coach.
While the casual fan hems and haws over just how bad they think Kiffin is, as a coach and a person, athletic directors and head coaches are in the business of what matters: trying to win football games. Part of what wins football games is a high-quality offensive scheme. Another major contributor to wins is high-quality players.
Lane Kiffin can deliver both.
Although Kiffin wants to be a head football coach, the smart money—and the smart play—is on him returning to the ranks of coordinator. The head coaching jobs that get offered to recently fired individuals are less than sure things when it comes to creating job momentum, something Skip Holtz, Bobby Petrino and Charlie Weis can each speak toward.
Instead of taking on a gig in a no-win situation, where a school and an athletic director are hoping to capitalize on the "Lane Kiffin" name-recognition bump, Kiffin can get back to the recruiting trail and X's and O's that he truly loves. Offensive coordinators don't have to deal with the media. Offensive coordinators don't have to glad-hand boosters. Offensive coordinators do not have to do radio shows and television spots.
That is what Kiffin needs to get back to doing.
For all of the talk about what Kiffin did to USC, the job in Los Angeles has also done a number on him. The coach has to get back to square one, back to rebuilding his reputation as an elite offensive mind. While some recognize Kiffin's upside, such as NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah, it is going to take time to remind people of what he can do.
Lane Kiffin doesn't want to be on television. Lane Kiffin wants to do what he loves, and that is coach football. As ESPN's Ivan Maisel pointed out, Kiffin's at home in the film room and on the recruiting trail and not comfortable with the media, the spotlight and the boosters.
If you are a betting type, put your money on an offensive coordinator job being in Kiffin's near future. Success as a high-level play-caller is the surest route back to where Kiffin wants to be: a major college football head coach.