Grading Lane kiffin
Few people have been under the microscope more than Lane Kiffin at USC. Judgment was passed before he ever coached a game in Southern California, and continued on a week-by-week basis as the season rolled along. Unlike other first year coaches, such as Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, Kiffin’s every move is monitored and every word dissected.
These actions come with the territory, not only triggered by the rich history and football tradition, but also ignited by a looming shadow of a predecessor that spent more time winning than not. Slipping tiny feet into large shoes will never allow for a secure fit. And pacing the sidelines is even more difficult, when the content of the new footwear is packed with conference championships, national titles, and stiff-arming statues.
As we move into November, with Kiffin having 8 games under his belt, what would be a fair grade? Among the criticism for his management of the first half of the season, I’ve heard that “USC is regretting the hire and wishing Pete Carroll never left”.—-Really?
I’ll admit that the majority of “shouldn’t have hired him” talk comes from the Southeast region of the country, where the loose lipped Kiffin created many enemies. But I think somewhere in their bias opinions, the Kiffin and Carroll comparisons are clouded.
Here are the facts. The Trojans are 0-3 is revenge matches this year. Lane Kiffin’s team has been defeated by the same three opponents that beat Carroll a year ago—and Arizona, the fourth, is still to come. Carroll’s Trojans were 6-2 and nationally ranked after eight games played in 2009, before going 3-2 down the stretch.
Kiffin is 5-3 in his new leadership role, with five games remaining on the slate. Operating with a program sanctioned, distracted, and thin, he still finds himself positioned to equal or better Carroll’s exit year win total (9) by season’s end.
So what is my current grade for Kiffin and his first year staff? I check the box and give them a “B”, taking into consideration the adversity faced from day one, and the willingness of those remaining on the roster to fight through and not pack it in. After setting a goal of “13-0”, the Trojans could just have easily given up on the remaining games once that goal was no longer attainable. Coaching college football is more than X’s and O’s. It also requires teaching and motivating young men, encouraging them to fight on, despite the presence of an NCAA box stacked before them.
After 8 games, there is no quit.
After 8 games, there is promise, growth, and hope.