Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis is quoted as saying "I picked the wrong guy." He was referring to his recently fired head coach, Lane Kiffin. Davis gave the 32 year old USC assistant a chance to coach in the NFL and it went horribly wrong.
Kiffin was accused of being a liar and bringing disgrace to the Raiders organization.
Somehow, he found another team in need of a coach to give him a second chance at the University of Tennessee.
Now after just over a year in the SEC, he has bolted for the premier program in the Pac-10, Southern Cal. By leaving almost as quickly as he got there, he has made it look like Tennessee made a mistake hiring him as well.
While on the surface this looks as simple as him going back to where he got his start, there appear to be more layers to this story.
If one is to believe the media reports, the Trojans wanted a higher profile coach like NFL stalwarts Jeff Fisher of Tennessee or Jack Del Rio of Jacksonville. When they were not available, they started looking at the Carroll family tree.
The only one it seems they could get quickly was Kiffin. Since he was an assistant under Carroll at USC from 2001-2006, he has ties to the program and its recent glory years.
Surprisingly, USC is also getting Norm Chow to leave UCLA to come back and be the Trojans’ offensive coordinator. This is the same post he held under Carroll until leaving to try his hand in the NFL with the Titans, before returning to college for the crosstown rival Bruins.
USC needed someone now, with National Signing Day less than 3 weeks away, they may lose some of their prize recruits due to having no coach in place. Now, with Kiffin on his way to LA, the Men of Troy are hoping that some of the prize recruits that were going to attend Tennessee, will follow the former Volunteer Head Coach to the West Coast.
I don’t think Kiffin’s heart was really into coaching at UT. It just happened to be the best high profile job available at the time, so he jumped at it. And now he has jumped at the next best job available to where he feels he belongs.
Notwithstanding the tumultuous season with the Raiders, what has Kiffin really accomplished as a head coach? In his 14 months in Knoxville, he is know for his smack talking against Florida, six minor NCAA violations, and a very average 7-6 record.
Kiffin acts and talks a good game with an attitude of unearned bravado. He seems to continuously lie out of both sides of his mouth to players, supporters, administration, and possibly, his own staff.
Yet he and his seemingly overblown ego keep getting paid to take the next big opening. And he keeps getting these offers without really having the resume to deserve them.
It also seems a little fishy for a school that is on the cusp of NCAA sanctions in both basketball and football for recruiting issues would take a chance on Kiffin. Why would you want to bring in a guy with his own problems with the NCAA to take over a program that is already in hot water?
Not to mention, he may have already violated more rules by trying to contact some of his current recruiting class at Tennessee to convince them to join him on the left side of the country.
Not a very good business plan to clean up your program. Maybe the basketball team should bring in Kelvin Sampson too, but I digress.
But with that said, this could be a good thing for all parties involved.
Tennessee will get someone who loves the tradition and will do everything they can to be a part of their entire program, not just there for the pay check and the press coverage.
USC gets a coach that is "family", having been a former assistant. He also is bringing with him several former members of Carroll’s staff to help out. With this coaching staff and the young players that are returning, the Trojans should be right back towards the top of the polls in fairly short order.
Kiffin gets to go back home to Southern California where he feels he belongs, much closer to Hollywood than to Rocky Top. As one writer has put it, traded in the banjos for the beach. Seems like a good deal if you can get it.
Can't say I blame him, but it seems very disrespectful to those he left behind. The coach can leave for the money and the bright lights with no penalty, but the kids he abandoned can't transfer without losing eligibility.
It doesn't seem fair, but that is a rant for another day.