Lane Kiffin has made a habit of exiting stage left. Will he do it again?
Kiffin, still just 36-years old, has been the head coach of the Oakland Raiders (2007-08), Tennessee Volunteers (2009) and USC Trojans (2010-Present).
His tenures with the Raiders and Vols both ended on sour notes, with Kiffin filing a grievance against the Raiders for what he thought was an unfair firing after a back-and-forth saga with owner Al Davis.
That led him to Tennessee, where he took over for longtime coach Phil Fulmer and proclaimed he would be in Knoxville “for a long time.” He won seven games in one season with the Vols before bolting. Let’s just say that Tennessee fans didn’t take that well.
Sportsrubbish.com practically published a video diary of YouTube clips that showed fan reaction after Kiffin announced he was leaving. To sum it up, Vols fans burned lots of stuff, destroyed things, generally rioted and, in one fan’s case, urinated on all Kiffin memorabilia before burning it and threatening the coach.
While we don’t support any of that behavior, it’s clear that Kiffin left Tennessee high and dry. The school thought that it was getting its coach of the present and future when the young Kiffin replaced Fulmer, who had been there from 1992-2008.
Well, Kiffin took the opportunity to take over the Trojans, one of college football’s hallowed programs – even more so than Tennessee – which doubles as the designated football team for the NFL-less fans in Los Angeles.
“I really believe the only place I would have left (Tennessee) to go was … Southern California,” Kiffin said of moving from the SEC to then-Pac-10, according to ESPN.com.
But if USC wins the national title in 2012, which it has the chance to do with Heisman Trophy frontrunner and prospective No. 1 overall pick Matt Barkley coming back for his final season, will Kiffin jump at a shot to clean up unfinished business in the NFL?
Kiffin certainly could be a sought-after coach at the next level. He has the pedigree; his father and current USC defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, was a longtime NFL assistant coach – and was the architect of a talented defense that helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win Super Bowl XXXVII. Kiffin and his dad are now a package deal that would be attractive to anyone.
And then, there’s the money. Kiffin reportedly makes $4 million a season in L.A. Former USC head coach Pete Carroll makes almost $7 million per year as head coach and executive VP of the Seahawks. And you know NFL teams would open their checkbooks for a coach that has had such extensive experience at a young age. After an average start at 8-5 in the his first year with the Trojans, Kiffin won 10 games in his second year – both campaigns with USC playing on NCAA probation.
Kiffin has done quite a job so far and certainly is a rising coaching star, one who figures to get plenty of press in the Los Angeles market and as the coach of Barkley – who looks to be the 2012 version of Andrew Luck, both in talent and exposure.
Remember that Luck’s first college coach, Jim Harbaugh, led Stanford to new heights on the quarterback’s coattails and now has moved on to the NFL, where he had an incredible first season with the San Francisco 49ers – who he led to the NFC Championship Game after a dormant period in the franchise’s history.
It’s not like there won’t be opportunities for Kiffin to do the same; the Minnesota Vikings are in rebuilding mode, coming off a 3-13 season, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope for an immediate turnaround under coach Leslie Frazier as they wait for QB Christian Ponder to develop.
To make things more interesting, there have been rumors that the Vikes won’t remain in Minnesota and could pack up and move to L.A. to fill the aforementioned NFL void. If they also were to earn next April’s No. 1 overall pick after another poor season, that could mean Kiffin could eventually be back in L.A. with Barkley.
There are a lot of variables, including the movement of a franchise – always something that’s up in the air until the last minute – and the progression of Ponder, who likely wouldn’t be coming off a great season in 2012 if the Vikes were to have the worst record in the league.
Then, there’s the possibility of taking over at spots like nearby Arizona, where Ken Whisenhunt’s teams have struggled to just 13 combined wins in the last two seasons, or San Diego, which nearly pushed out Norv Turner after another disappointing campaign in 2011.
If Kiffin were to take over the talented Chargers, it would be reminiscent of when he jumped at the chance to coach the always talent-rich Trojans.
And he would remain in Southern California, the only place to where he said he would go after leaving Tennessee. Could it happen?