Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Can Lane Kiffin Make It To Year Three With the USC Trojans?

If you ask football fans what they think of current USC head coach Lane Kiffin, you're liable to get some pretty passionate responses.  If you're an Oakland Raiders fan, you dislike him. If you live in the state of Florida, you REALLY dislike him. If you're a Tennessee Volunteer fan, you REALLY REALLY dislike him.

What he needs to stop doing is finding ways to make USC fans (and potentially his own players) dislike him.

Kiffin has a very, very long history of sticking his foot in his mouth wherever he has been, and that trend continued after USC's close victory over Minnesota.  When asked what he learned about his team in the game, Kiffin said:
 “We’ve got two good players on our offense. We’ve got to figure out the rest.”
Prior to Pete Carroll leaving USC, the program was practically a pro team for Los Angeles.  They got many of the top players in the country, won a lot of games by a very large margin, and always went to a fantastic bowl game.

They were also well respected by their head coach.

Kiffin has established a different atmosphere since he took over USC in 2010.  Cracking the whip harder than it had before, changing some of the team rules, Kiffin sought to enforce the notion that he was now the new boss.

He inherited a program that was about to get hit by major NCAA sanctions (loss of scholarships, two-year bowl ban, among other things), but this was also USC.  The school recruits top players simply because of the name.

Lane Kiffin has yet to experience any real success as a head coach.  He went 5-15 with Oakland, 7-6 at Tennessee, and last year went 7-5 with USC.

How he got the USC job, not many people actually know.  It was probably largely due to the fact that USC was facing down the NCAA barrel, and that other (more successful and experienced) head coaches turned them down.  Either way, Kiffin is extraordinarily lucky to have this position, and he needs to respect it.

Whether Kiffin is still there at USC in a few years depends in large part in how the team does this year.  He's not going to get an extended grace period. It's not as if the cupboard was laid bare by Carroll's departure.  Kiffin has one of the top quarterbacks in the country, and plenty of four- and five-star talent on the team.  However, he only played 43 players on his roster when he surely had at least 60-65 players on the sideline.

That approach to playing time will not endear you to recruits.  It will also not endear you to your current team.

I'm not even going to get into his constant insistence on going for a two-point conversion after every touchdown.

Here's the situation, though.  USC comes off the NCAA sanctions after this season.  They will then be eligible for the Pac-12 title, BCS bowl games (if they're eligible), and even greater recruiting edge.

That's if they win.  The USC legacy that Pete Carroll built can be torn down by Kiffin in a mere two seasons.

USC will be watching Kiffin very closely this year.  If he doesn't win at least 9 games, it will be all too easy to dismiss him.  The USC job will be far more attractive to prospective coaches at that time, and USC will have no trouble jettisoning a coach that can't stop putting his foot in his mouth.

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