Lane Kiffin is a serious candidate for a head coaching position in 2015. Just typing those words kind of seems ridiculous. I mean, how many chances to fail does one guy get?
Kiffin has been a head coach three times already. He was a disaster with the Oakland Raiders, an embarrassment with the Tennessee Vols, and a contributor to one catastrophe after another at Southern California. Shouldn’t that track record be enough to disqualify Kiffin from any future head coaching jobs?
Simply put, no.
Kiffin’s previous shortcomings just aren’t a significant part of his story at the moment in light of what he’s been able to accomplish over the last two years as offensive coordinator at Alabama. Rarely in sports do things work out exactly as planned, but Kiffin’s time on Nick Saban’s staff is one of those examples. He came to Tuscaloosa looking for a reputation reboot and that is exactly what he has gotten.
As a matter of fact, Kiffin’s work with the Crimson Tide offense has been so impressive that another school should scoop him up to be its head coach this offseason.
This is true for three reasons.
Lane Kiffin has learned to be quiet.
To say that Kiffin has had trouble with microphones would be like saying Hillary Clinton has had minor issues with her emails. The single biggest road-block to career success for Kiffin has been his own mouth. However, the great thing about working at Alabama for Kiffin is that Nick Saban doesn’t allow his assistants to speak to the media. Therefore, there have been no opportunities for Kiffin’s words to get him into trouble, and the odds are that a couple of seasons of silence have probably made Kiffin a little wiser and a little more humble for his next employer.
Lane Kiffin has learned to cooperate.
The perception has been that Kiffin and Saban were doomed to a fail with each other because their philosophies are so different. Saban is a coach who is thought to be committed to running the ball and controlling the pace of the game. Kiffin, it is believed, wants to throw the ball and play a “hurry up” offense. However, the greatest testament to Kiffin’s success this year is that he has found a way to combine these two competing visions. According to teamrankings.com Alabama is actually running more plays per game than in-state rival Auburn, a team that is famous for its desire to play at the fastest pace possible. Yet in speeding up its offense, Alabama hasn’t had to sacrifice anything on the other side of the ball the way most up-tempo teams seem to do. The Crimson Tide’s defense is still ranked no. 1 in efficiency according to footballoutsiders.com. Kiffin deserves a lot of the credit for the way the Crimson Tide has struck that balance.
Lane Kiffin has learned to win.
Alabama is 21-3 so far with Kiffin as offensive coordinator, was a College Football Playoff team last year and is a significant favorite to be back in that spot again this season as well. There is a lot to be learned from a program that is as consistently excellent as that. Habits are contagious, and Kiffin appears to have caught some good ones at Alabama.
Of course, there is a chance that when Kiffin is no longer under the watchful eye of Nick Saban, he will veer back in the direction of the silliness that defined his coaching career before he came to Alabama. Maybe he will once again feud with his employer the way he did with the Oakland Raiders or feud with other coaches the way he did when he was at Tennessee. Maybe Kiffin’s fourth stint as a head coach will be no more distinguished than his first three opportunities were.
Frankly though, that seems like an unfair assessment of Kiffin. While his evolution at Alabama may be a surprise, it is impossible to deny that it has happened. Kiffin is a better coach today than he was two years ago. He seems ready to be a head coach once again, and this time he seems destined to truly find success.
But if for some reason it doesn’t work out, I’m sure Kiffin would always be welcome back in Tuscaloosa.