Lane Kiffin: The Scourge of the West CoastDecember 5, 2012
Lane Kiffin has managed to accomplish quite a lot in a limited amount of time. During his days as offensive coordinator at USC, he transformed the Trojans offense into one of the most impressive that college football has seen recently. Al Davis hired him in 2007, making him not only the youngest coach in the history of the Raiders organization, but also the youngest coach in NFL history at 31. As for his tenure in Oakland, let’s just say that Raiders fans don’t have many fond memories. After a bumpy stop as head coach of the University of Tennessee, Kiffin returned to USC to take over the head coaching vacancy left by Pete Carroll. Even though their 2011 season showed promise, Kiffin’s three seasons at USC have culminated with him being the first coach in nearly 50 years to lead a team ranked first in the nation in preseason polls into unranked limbo by season’s end. Kiffin’s greatest accomplishment is leaving a mess everywhere he goes, so let’s examine why he’s the most loathed man out West.
Pete Carroll knighted Kiffin as his new offensive coordinator in 2005, and boy was that team fun to watch. Between Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, that Trojans team was an offensive juggernaut. However, thanks to the Reggie Bush scandal, USC’s 2005 accomplishments have been erased and the team was ordered to vacate all of their wins during the season. Though Kiffin is only guilty by association, that season still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the USC faithful. It would only be the beginning of Kiffin’s West Coast path of destruction.
Al Davis thought he knew what he was doing when he hired Lane Kiffin. Get a coach in his 30s—like John Madden, Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden—to light a fire under the team and lead them back to the glory days of old. Though it sounded like a great plan, it turned out horribly. Kiffin never wanted to draft JaMarcus “Lean Sippin’” Russell, which we can’t even blame him for in hindsight. There were rumors that Davis wanted to fire Kiffin after his first season with the Raiders, and that bad blood carried into the 2008 season. That season was more memorable for the feud between Davis and Kiffin than anything the Raiders did on the field, and after a bunch drama, Kiffin was terminated after just four games. Kiffin resurfaced as head coach of the University of Tennessee following the 2008 season, and even pissed off Raiders coach Tom Cable (who replaced Kiffin) by allegedly trying to hire one of his assistants with two weeks remaining in the regular season. Tom Cable looks like a Sons of Anarchy extra, so it’s a wonder he didn’t follow through and stomp Kiffin’s out.
Kiffin only coached the Vols for once pedestrian season, which was overshadowed by controversy off the field. He didn’t make any friends at the University of Florida when he took shots at former Gators coach Urban Meyer for allegedly violating NCAA recruiting guidelines, and that’s honestly the most memorable thing he did in Knoxville. He returned to USC in 2010 as the head coach, but by then the NCAA had taken action against the Trojans for the infamous Bush situation, imposing a two-year postseason ban and stripping them of 30 scholarships over three years. Kiffin posted records of 8-5 and 11-2 in his first two years as head coach of the Trojans, and he kicked off the 2012 season by resigning from his new post as a voting member of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll following controversy because he voted USC No.1. still, things got worse.
This season was the first in which the Trojans were eligible for the postseason under Kiffin, and he made it one that the Trojan faithful will not forget, though they’d like to. Basically, quarterback Matt Barkley came back for his senior season all so the Trojans could go from a top ranking in preseason polls to unranked by the end of the season. Talk about going from top 10 to not mentioned at all. The smoothest moment of the season was when Kiffin’s father, Monte, stepped down as the defensive coordinator so Kiffin didn’t have to fire him. That would’ve family gatherings quite awkward. At the end of the day, Kiffin is like the cast of Basketball Wives—drama wherever he goes. He hasn’t left USC, but who knows what the future holds and what Kiffin might say or do prior to leaving. Regardless, he won’t be feeling the California love anytime soon.