In the last couple of weeks, two pieces have been written about how now, finally, it is okay to like the University of Southern California head coach Lane Kiffin. One, from CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel, was a manifesto proving that the third-year Trojans head man is, simply put, not the jerk you think he is. Another, from OC Register columnist Jeff Miller, talks about watching Kiffin fail time and again to live up to that jerk reputation that everyone expected him to embody.
As Lane Kiffin sets up to captain one of the most popular ships in the nation toward a BCS Championship, the media is giving everyone the green light. It is okay, folks. It is okay to like Lane Kiffin.
I guess, on some level at least, I should be happy. I've been a Kiffin fan from day one in Knoxville, and it is nice to see more people, fans and media included, giving the young head coach some praise.
Except, I'm not. It seems as though one of the more intriguing, lesser-known truths of college football is now being exposed thanks to USC sitting atop many a preseason rankings; Lane Kiffin can coach. Up until now there were a couple ways to dismiss Lane Kiffin; he was born on third base, he just has his dad on staff and of course, the ever popular, he's a jerk.
The fact that people watched what he did in 2009 with that woeful Tennessee team and still believed he couldn't coach was a sad ordeal. The man got Jonathan Crompton drafted into the NFL and came within a heroic field-goal block of beating Alabama. And yet, because people didn't like him getting the job or his personality, they said he couldn't lead. Then, when he left Tennessee in a lurch for USC, the personality hurt him again as he mishandled the transition.
People expected him to be their whipping boy out West, the butt of all the jokes, the king of moral victories, a stop-gap before the Trojans hired their next "real" coach. What they didn't realize is my guy, the Laner, can coach. Sure, he was born with a few advantages, but that is a haterific way of pretending that he can't do his job. His X's and O's are great. His recruiting pitch is among the nation's best. His teams and his players, they like to get on the field with him as their leader.
If you like coaches who can coach, it shouldn't have taken until now for you to like Lane Kiffin. The way he forces the oppositions hand, playing chess while defensive coordinators play checkers, has been beautiful. Kiffin manipulates the opponent's practice time, calling plays that force a defensive coordinator to come up with a plan for alignment and coverage—only to have Kiffin line up in the same formations and do the total opposite of what he's shown. The young head coach makes the opposition practice for plays he has no intention of running, as he creates new looks to get his guys open and in the end zone.
So ultimately, perhaps I am happy. Welcome to the treat that your hate has blinded you from for the last few seasons. Now that you got the green light from the media, you too can enjoy the beautiful orchestra Lane Kiffin conducts on Saturdays, as I have for the last few years. You're right on time too, because he's got a team you'll be seeing plenty of.