Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin have more in common than an agent, it would appear. The former USC coach joined Alabama’s bowl preparation as a consultant/observer at Saban’s behest in December. Now, Kiffin has been hired as Alabama offensive coordinator, replacing Doug Nussmeier who left for Michigan. We now know what Paul Finebaum will be discussing for the next eight months.
Kiffin does have many strong points as a coordinator. USC went 23-3 with him running the offense under Pete Carroll. With Matt Leinart as a senior, the Trojans were nation’s most productive unit in 2005. Though, it’s not clear how to split the credit between Kiffin and then QB coach Steve Sarkisian. With him calling plays as head coach, USC had Top 10 yards/play offenses in 2011 and 2012. It’s possible the scholarship restrictions hampered his ability to experiment.
Not that Alabama needs much help in this area, but Kiffin has been a phenomenal recruiter. He reeled in three-straight No. 1 classes as recruiting coordinator for USC under Carroll. He was at or near the top of recruiting rankings every year as USC head coach.
Kiffin has also been maligned, often with good reason. His arrogance, petulance and immaturity were never whitewashed by success on the field. His brief Tennessee tenure was a blight. He deserves particular blame for the way things snowballed toward the end of his USC tenure. He mishandled the quarterback transition once Matt Barkley got hurt. Noteworthy: Alabama’s biggest question heading into 2014 is replacing a star senior quarterback.
Given his track record with assistant hires, Saban deserves the benefit of the doubt. Kiffin won’t be dealing with the media. He won’t be setting the internal tone. His job will be calling plays and grooming the next Alabama quarterback. That may better fit his skill-set as a coach. Wisdom may come with age and embarrassment. Kiffin, though it feels as though he has been around forever, is only 38.
It’s hard to top having a BCS Championship crumble on this play against your biggest rival, spending a week in limbo over Nick Saban taking the Texas job, getting pasted by Bob Stoops in the Sugar Bowl and hiring Lane Kiffin for an interesting six weeks to be an Alabama fan.
Setting the over/under for boilerplate Kiffin redemption column at Week 3.5.