Nick Saban’s Alabama staff is shrinking by the day, but the Crimson Tide coach has been able to keep two important pieces — offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin — who have, at various times, been reportedly looking for jobs away from Tuscaloosa.
Both Cristobal (Florida International) and Kiffin (Tennessee and USC) have already been FBS bosses. None of those stops ended well.
Kiffin in particular has accrued a rare amount of baggage for a 40-year-old.
His “highlights” are well-known in the football world: inexplicably calling out Urban Meyer’s recruiting tactics, jumping from Tennessee to USC after one season, getting pulled off the Trojans team bus to receive his walking papers, etc.
“I don’t know what his issues were as a head coach, but that’s not what we hired him for,” Saban said this summer. “We have one of those. We don’t need that.”
Well, another program might need Kiffin’s services soon, and ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit told SEC Country that he would hire Kiffin if given the opportunity.
“I think he deserves a chance,” Herbstreit said. “And if I were an AD, I’d give him that chance and see if he gets the program turned around.”
Before Tennessee or USC fans raise their voices to object, know this: Herbstreit thinks Kiffin is a changed man after two seasons in Tuscaloosa. Sure, he was “erratic” and “inconsistent” at previous stops — Herbstreit’s words — but those flaws might have disappeared under Saban’s tutelage.
“If he did it all over again, I think he’d be a lot more hands on with everything, just the way coach Saban is,” Herbstreit said. “I think he would, if he put a staff together that he would be able to trust.”
Read between the lines, and Kiffin clearly had authority issues in Knoxville and Los Angeles.
Can a couple years of “The Process” really give him the tools to succeed?
“Lane has so much to offer,” Herbstreit said. “And you see it with the way Jake Coker’s improved. Do you ever watch him on the sideline during a game? Do you ever watch when the bullets are flying and people are yelling and everything’s going crazy? He has a really calm way about him and how he communicates with his quarterback. I think he’s really grown as a playcaller. I think he’s in a really different place as a coach.”