OK, so I am a Tennessee Volunteer fan, and will be jaded in my feelings about Lane Kiffin until I reach the grave, ever since he left the Volunteers one year into his job, taking his coaching staff and recruits with him to sunny Southern Cal.
Most of us who know football understand that being the head coach of an SEC football team, notably the Vols, is a job for bigtime coaches, and not to be taken lightly. We also know that while USC has been a top football school for years now, it just doesn’t equal the amount football splendor and tradition you find down South with teams like Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. USC is more like a bikini pool party with a little football thrown in on the side. Don’t get me wrong, I like bikini pool parties as much as the next guy, but if I want to coach football, real football, I am certainly not going to stab the University of Tennessee in the back and become a Trojan, and one has to question Lane Kiffin’s decision to do so.
After Kiffin left Knoxville with his coaching staff and some dedicated recruits, it was nice to see the Tennessee Titans file a lawsuit accusing USC and Kiffin of improperly luring Titans assistant running-back coach Kennedy Pola for not having written permission to discuss a job with any other team. Now, I don’t know how big a deal losing Pola is, but I do hope the Titans find a way to hurt Kiffin in the courtroom when all is said and done.
It was also really, really nice to see that not too soon after Kiffin accepted the coaching job at USC and promptly left Knoxville, fearing for his life, that the NCAA handed his football organization some serious penalties that stemmed from improper benefits Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush received in 2004 when USC won the National Championship. These penalties include a two-year Bowl ban, four years of probation and the loss of 30 scholarships. While Kiffin didn’t have anything to do with the Bush benefits, these penalties couldn’t have happened to a more-deserving guy.
So here we are in the days after a fantastic weekend of college football. Boy, was it nice to see good action in games that actually mean something. I have to admit that I was enthused to watch the USC Trojans taking on Hawaii in Aloha Stadium late last Thursday.
Kiffin’s team was expected to beat Hawaii, according to several Vegas bookmakers, by a margin of 21 points or so. Final score: 49-36. Kiffin’s offense looked good with quarterback Matt Barkley playing very effective and sharp. Kiffin’s defense, led by his dad, Monte, didn’t look so good. The Trojans gave up close to 600 yards against the un-ranked Hawaii team, which seemed to do whatever it wanted on the offensive side of the ball with and without its starting quarterback. (He left the game in the second half with an injury.) In fact, Kiffin’s defense gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns on two possessions that took less than two-and-a-half minutes each. Talk about a way to finish off an opponent you should be killing at that point.
Of course USC’s defense couldn’t be up to the challenge, with both Kiffins’ coaching style right now. As the regular season gets underway, they actually have a moratorium on tackling in practice. That’s right. No tackling in practice. Did they tackle well against Hawaii? Hell, no. Most coaches believe you play the way you practice, and it was easy to see in that game. No tackling in practice, no tackling in the game. I bet the Trojans are good at attending bikini pool parties and movie premieres.
Perhaps what killed me most in that game was the way Lane Kiffin handled the pre-halftime on-the-field interview by the ESPN reporter. “What did Hawaii learn about you in the first half?” was the general question to Lane as he walked into the locker room, visibly irritated. Why was Hawaii so successful against USC?
“They learned nothing!” He said. “Nothing.”
Now any coach with an inch of class in his soul would have said something like, “You gotta give a lot of credit to that offense, they are getting behind our defenders and they are playing to win. We need to tackle better and come out better in the second half. Hawaii is a good football team and we need to play harder if we are going to win.”
Instead, Kiffin acted as if Hawaii was some terrible, no-name team and that they don’t deserve an inch of credit.
I want to give Hawaii credit for blowing up USC’s secondary. Hawaii may be a mediocre team but they were able to uncover a serious weakness in USC’s defense and every opponent that USC will face this season is licking their chops right now. Hawaii’s offense was very effective against USC’s defense. Hawaii’s defense just couldn’t match USC’s offense. Put a team that has a better defense against USC and they are toast this season. This may not happen next weekend, when USC takes on Virginia. But the following weekend, when the Trojans face Minnesota, USC will fall and fall big.
USC may be good this year because they really have nothing to play for. I believe, though, that the Trojans’ fall from grace will stem from one thing: The hiring of Lane Kiffin as its head coach.
He couldn’t hack it in Oakland. In fact, he was a terrible coach in Oakland. What makes you think he can hack it at USC? Believe me, the head honchos at USC are already scratching their heads.