Kiffin to USC is an eggshell hire
Mike Riley declined USC’s offer to become their next head coach. Instead, he used the university’s interest to secure an extension for himself. Jeff Fisher had no interest in the job, and Jack Del Rio had fifteen million reasons not to accept. With candidates thinning and the clock ticking, finally there was acceptance. The Trojans dug deep into their bag and pulled the name Lane Kiffin, and an old face from championships past suddenly became the new face of leadership.
His hiring draws approval from many of those supporting USC, but it’s not likely in celebration of the man, as much as it’s the package he brings. Kiffin alone wouldn’t arouse the interest of anyone but Al Davis. Throw in Monte Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, and the possibility of also adding Norm Chow, and suddenly the contents of the gift box offers more excitement than the person that delivered it.
Coach Kiffin is still awaiting judgment, but as a recruiter, he’s already proven himself at USC. Ed Orgeron also played a major role in compiling the earliest rosters of the Trojan dynasty. Norm Chow is an offensive icon with a name alone that will lure talent to positions under his watch. Monte Kiffin established himself as one of the NFL’s best defensive coordinators, before stepping down to work with his son at Tennessee.
The hiring of Lane Kiffin brings anticipation and excitement to this city, but it also comes with a new layer of eggshells for the program to walk upon:
1. USC is a program already awaiting the results of an NCAA investigation that could possibly impose sanctions against the program for past sins. Lane Kiffin is a coach that entered the Tennessee program last year, and trumpeted his arrival to the SEC with one violation after another. Even with those violations being minor, the same would appear major for an institution that can ill afford infractions of any kind.
2. Kiffin is the traveling man, so nothing is guaranteed. This becomes his third job in three years, after leaving Pete Carroll’s staff to accept the head coaching job with the Raiders, and then accepting the same position for the University of Tennessee. A year ago, he was introduced and made promises to the Vols. One year later, he’s coming west with new promises to make. It is not my belief that he would leave USC for another college gig, but if another Al Davis comes calling, the U-Haul will be back on the NFL road again.
I can’t remember the last time a “fourth choice” hire was met with so much approval. Pete Carroll’s hiring wasn’t greeted the same. But it could be that familiarity linked with success grants acceptance, as it did with the second session of John Robinson. Nonetheless, for a hiring so great, and most logical, we still have to ask ourselves why Lane Kiffin wasn’t the primary target to begin with. Did USC hesitate for the same reasons that we now proceed with caution?