Lane Monte Kiffin, born May 9, 1975, is an American football coach who is currently the head coach of the Florida Atlantic University Owls.
I wrote the post, The Kiffin Hire: I Like It!, almost three years ago. From both a writing and a prophetic perspective, it may be my best work ever.
I liked the Kiffin hire when it happened. I liked the hire when Kiffin turned a former running back recruit (Blake Sims) in to a quarterback and installed an offense around his talents and abilities. I liked the hire when Kiffin took Jake Coker, who is currently a “free agent”, and revamped the offense to match his talents and abilities on the way to a national championship. I have to admire the hire when Kiffin took an 18-year old freshman (Jalen Hurts) and installed an offense around his talents and abilities and inexperience – an offense that will be playing for the national championship tomorrow night.
The statistics, and there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, are not really as impressive as some would have you believe. Compared to the three years previous, points per game during Kiffin’s three years increased slightly to 37.5 from 37.23. Yards per game increased to 460.9 from 443, while average touchdowns per year actually dipped a little, to 58.3 from 58.6. Without dispute, the three years with Kiffin as OC have produced a 40-3 record, three straight SEC championships, and one national championship with another in the balance.
Kiffin accomplished what Nick Saban wanted him – needed him – to accomplish, and that was to change the offensive mindset, the offensive identity, of The University of Alabama.
As long as Nick Saban is the head coach, Alabama will try to win games with a stifling defense. Saban recognized, however, that times were changing and offenses were changing with them. As much as he likes to “run the d@#% ball!”, Saban likes to get the best of the best recruits. Those recruits like to run deep routes and catch homerun balls. They like the opportunity to make a play, not just block for a run play off tackle. Alabama’s “grind it out” persona didn’t really resonate with today’s high school athletes who have grown up in offenses that attempt to get the ball to skill players in space. I think Saban realized that when he decided to hire Lane Kiffin.
The story goes that, as Saban flew from Miami to Tuscaloosa, he turned to then Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore and asked, “what do you think you’ve got with me as a coach?” “The best football coach in the country,” Moore answered. “No,” Saban returned, “but you got the best recruiter that ever lived.”
Though many may disagree, and there have certainly been times that he has tried to prove me wrong, I think that Lane Kiffin is one of the premiere offensive minds of our generation. He may not call a perfect game, but (when focused) he can scheme up a near perfect game plan. The kind of game plan star recruits like to watch and in which they like to picture themselves starring.
Make no mistake, Lane Kiffin was not coming back for a fourth season under Nick Saban. Not by design. Not by choice. Not by default. I think Saban was as tired of giving the @$$-chewings as Lane Kiffin was tired of receiving them. Their oil-and-water relationship, as beneficial as it was to both of them, was over.
I liked the Kiffin hire when it happened. I like it now. I liked it when he signaled a touchdown before the quarterback ever threw the ball. I liked it when he trailed Derrick Henry down the sideline, stiff-arming the ghosts beside him, and maybe some of the ones behind him also.
Good luck, Coach.
PHOTO: Wilfredo Lee/AP