Following a heartbreaking, miracle 34-28 loss to Auburn and getting a downright 45-31 shellacking in the Sugar Bowl by the Oklahoma Sooners, it appeared that the wheels were beginning to fall off the University of Alabama’s football team, which has been, perhaps, the most prestigious football organization in all of college football over the past five years or more.
It didn’t take long into this offseason for Alabama’s wheels to officially come off when Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban announced that he’s decided to hire the lord of sleaze and all- around bad guy Lane Kiffin as Alabama’s next offensive coordinator. Following the vapor trail of Kiffin’s negative impacts at the Raiders organization, the University of Tennessee and the University of Southern California, I was not alone in thinking that disgraceful man would never be hired again. And yet here he is getting a high-ranking job at Alabama. It begs the question: Is Lane Kiffin not as bad as I think he is? Or is the University of Alabama’s football team not as prestigious as I think it is? Perhaps both.
Over the past few weeks I’d heard on various sports talk radio broadcasts that Kiffin was interested in the OC job at the University of Florida. Coming off a disastrous 4-8 season, the Gators might just be desperate enough to pick up Kiffin. Even then, I thought Kiffin had done too much damage in his coaching tenure be considered seriously for the Florida job.
It was the middle of last week when I heard the rumor that Alabama was giving Kiffin the chance to interview for its vacant OC position, after Doug Nussmeier left the organization for an OC position at the University of Michigan. Hearing the rumor early in the morning, I nearly spit my coffee all over myself.
“Good luck in getting that job, Kiffin,” I said to my computer, as if it could offer a reply.
I honestly thought it was a joke. Perhaps Kiffin’s agent was making a little media storm in order to get him a job at some lower-level coaching position, say, for a local middle school team or something.
To my utter surprise, it was announced late the next afternoon that Saban would be the next offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama.
“We are excited to have Lane join our staff,” Saban said in a press release according to CBS Sports. “He is an outstanding and creative offensive coach who has great experience both at the college and N.F.L. level. He has a very good understanding of the game, and I have always been impressed with what I saw in the games he called. He coaches with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm, and also does an excellent job as a teacher. Lane will be an outstanding addition to our coaching staff, and we look forward to him and his family joining us at the University of Alabama.”
To say the least, the news blew up online with comments from across the South, particularly in Knoxville, Tenn., where Kiffin ditched his head-coaching position for the beaches of Southern California.
Obviously, Saban’s announcement that Kiffin was hired was prepared in advance. What’s surprising is that his statement was 90 percent bullshit. Kiffin may be a creative coach, he may have enthusiasm; Kiffin is not, however, an excellent teacher and Saban is crazy to say that he is “impressed” with the games he has seen Kiffin call. Was Saban’s head so far up his own ass last year to see the downfall of U.S.C. over the last three years? His record was 28-15 in just over three seasons at U.S.C.
Does Saban realize that Kiffin is one of the only coaches, if not the only coach, to be fired midseason by both an N.F.L. and a college football team?
Some say Saban’s decision to go with Kiffin is simply brilliant, and that Kiffin’s miscues have usually been on camera and in speaking to the public. Under Saban, Kiffin will be up in the booth calling plays. He will not be answering media questions; he will not be the face of the Alabama football team. This is all fine and dandy, but is Kiffin what Saban needs to boost his offense? No way.
Saban believes Kiffin will bring a new high-tempo, bi-play offense to Alabama, which is how many schools in college football are trending right now. And perhaps Alabama’s offense does need new blood. But the Kiffin experiment already failed at U.S.C. The Trojans were once a big, bruising offensive football team that used its size and power to move the ball. All Kiffin wanted to do was confuse the defense and throw long passes. Under Kiffin, U.S.C. got away from what it has: size and power.
What does Alabama have? Or should I say, how do you win games in the Southeastern Conference? Size and power. Run the damn ball. Kiffin, with his slick hair and sunglasses, is going to try to get cute with his SEC opponents at Alabama, and it’s going to backfire on Kiffin and Saban. U.S.C. and Alabama are not that dissimilar. They both have the ability to recruit the nation’s biggest and fastest players. The Kiffin experiment failed in U.S.C., and I believe it’s going to fail at Alabama, even under the auspices of Nick Saban.
On a personal note here, I will have to apologize to my Crimson Tide-loving mother-in-law. Before last week, I would generally cheer for Alabama, as long as they weren’t playing Colorado State University or the Tennessee Volunteers. Next year, with that a-hole Kiffin on board, I can no longer cheer for Alabama at any point – I just can’t. It would go against everything I believe in in college football. I am sorry, Camille. Blame Saban.
So go ahead and mark Oct. 25, 2014 on your schedule now. That’s the day Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin will enter the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium before 102,000 screaming Volunteer fans who want a piece of Alabama and Kiffin’s head. What a scene that will be.
Also mark last Friday, Jan. 10, in your calendar. That historic day marks the beginning of the end of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s run as one of college football’s best.