USC Football: Lane Kiffin Needs to Hire an Offensive Coordinator

Amy LamareSenior Analyst IOctober 29, 2012

PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 09:  USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin speaks with side judge Mike Weseloh during their loss to the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The puns are going to get tired fast, but here goes—Lane Kiffin’s Offensive Play Calling Is Simply Offensive.

Look, I love my alma mater. The University of Southern California has a place very near and dear to my heart. Like many of my fellow Trojans, it is a big part of my identity, especially since I live and work in Los Angeles.  That said, I have to tell it like it is, and I am certainly not going to make any new friends in USC’s SID office with my opinions. 

OK, that disclaimer aside, Lane Kiffin is overloaded and unable to focus on the task at hand. That is my opinion. He needs an offensive coordinator who knows how to call decent plays, make in-game adjustments and make half-time adjustments, and who is mature and can deal with Kiffin’s ego.

Speaking of Kiffin’s ego—if he could get out of its way once in awhile, USC might be sitting at 7-1 or even 8-0 right now. But no, he makes a game plan and sticks to it, even when it is clear to the entire freaking world that it is not working, and the Trojans are going to lose the game.

What is that, exactly? Oh right, his immaturity—which is almost the same thing as his ego and his petulance.  After all, this is the man who has thrown multiple fits in front of the media this year, banned a beat reporter and made a return to the Kiffin he was prior to USC (out of control, opinionated, counter-productive).

USC entered the season with the heaviest of expectations on the program. That is a lot of pressure for Kiffin—a man not known for being savvy with the media or having grace under pressure—to handle.  Clearly his game-planning and play-calling have suffered as a result. How else do you explain, for instance, the decision to throw downfield with 16 seconds left in the Arizona game, resulting in an incompletion rather than spike the ball to preserve some time on the clock? Had Matt Barkley spiked the ball, the chances that the Trojans would have been able to advance enough to bring in Andre Heidari for the tying field goal are great.

The fact is, under the pressure of the expectations levied on USC and Kiffin this year, Kiffin has regressed as a play-caller. Do a quick Google search or call, text and email your Trojan fan friends –they will all tell you the same thing. There have been some ridiculously boneheaded calls this season that have resulted in two losses.

Take a look at the fourth quarters played at Stanford and at Arizona this season. They bear remarkable similarities to each other. USC was dismantled, made one-dimensional and ineffectual, and Kiffin was unable or unwilling to stop it.

Unacceptable! That one word has been a rallying cry for Trojan fans of late.  When you have the levels of talent that Kiffin has in Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, Marquise Lee, et al there is simply no room for bad play-calling, bad decisions, denying those players their opportunity to shine or going to them play after play—it’s a tricky balance to maintain, but one that a truly great offensive mind should have no problem with. After all, these kids are all looking to make a career out of football. So far this year, Kiffin’s play-calling has made Barkley look like a UNLV QB, not an elite USC QB.

When you remove Woods and Lee from the equation, the offense sputters. There don’t seem to be too many plays that go deeper than the same five or six (I am generalizing; this is not an exact number) that Kiffin runs again and again and again. No wonder opposing defenses have such an easy time stopping USC. And for the love of Tommy Trojan, if I see one more bubble screen I might completely lose my mind.

When the offense sputters, it hurts the defense—and by the way, Monte’s schemes are a whole ‘nother bucket of worms that we will deal with another day.

Versus Arizona, the defense was on the field for 94 plays because the Trojan offense could not sustain their drives or control the ball.  USC had 15 offensive drives on Saturday—10 ended in a turnover, punt, turnover on downs or end of half and six of the drives were three plays or fewer. That is despicable. That is unacceptable.

Either Lane Kiffin is so overloaded he can’t properly focus on an effective game plan, or he is way more limited at play-calling than even his biggest detractors previously assumed.

Something has to change. Bring in a dedicated offensive coordinator with a proven track record running sophisticated, dynamic, pro-style offenses.  The bottom line is that all the penalties and lack of offensive production are directly Lane Kiffin’s fault. He is the architect of this Trojan offense, and he is accountable for its ineffectualness.

With an offensive coordinator—that isn’t Lane Kiffin—the issues with the offense and the obscene amount of penalties could be fixed. 

One thing is for sure—the offense isn’t working as it is now—and it needs to get on track soon. Oregon, ASU, UCLA and Notre Dame loom on the horizon. I just don’t think, at this point, that Kiffin is capable of putting together a winning game plan for those four teams and this talented crop of Trojan players deserve better than that.