All he had to do was win games. He had the talent. He took the team to 10-2 in 2011 when they weren’t even postseason eligible. Presumably, he had the experience and the staff surrounding him to get the only job that matters to the USC faithful done: win.
But Lane Kiffin failed. He failed the Trojan team. He failed the seniors especially bad. He failed the students, alumni, employees, boosters and fans of USC.
He failed in such an epic fashion that the only emotion many USC fans can muster up today is shock.
Never in the wildest nightmares of the most cynical Trojan fans did they think this team that boasted Matt Barkley, TJ McDonald, Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and a host of other exceptionally talented athletes would lose five games, including dropping games to both UCLA and Notre Dame.
The NCAA may have taken away USC's seventh Heisman and its BCS trophy, but it is Lane Kiffin's coaching that took away two trophies more valuable to every Trojan—the Victory Bell and the Jeweled Shillelagh.
It is the first time in 17 seasons that the Trojans have lost to both the Bruins and the Irish. Lane Kiffin is the first USC coach since Paul Hackett, not exactly a revered figure in Trojan lore, to lose five or more games in two of his first three seasons.
Yet Lane Kiffin is setting himself up to go down as the most vilified, most hated, most disrespected coach in the entire 124-year history of the USC football program.
It doesn’t seem like there is a lot of hope for next season. Lane Kiffin has proven week in and week out to be incredibly bad at game management, in-game adjustments, play-calling and clock management. And yet USC cannot afford to let him go just yet.
Consider the limitations USC is under in scholarships for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. With just 75 scholarships, the Trojans need Lane Kiffin’s prowess in recruiting not just to attract top recruits to a program still in chaos, but to keep them committed. I don’t know how Lane does it, but he gets the 4- and 5-star athletes to drink the Trojan Kool-Aid.
Let’s be realistic—anyone who looked at how Matt Barkley, TJ McDonald, Robert Woods and a number of other players actually regressed in their skills this year would have serious doubts about committing to a USC team under Lane Kiffin’s charge.
However, Kiffin is magic with recruits, reminding me of Jerry McGuire in many ways; he is “king of the living room.” He goes into these high school athletes' homes and sells them (and their parents) a dream. The USC dream is a fantastic and worthy dream, but under Kiffin, it isn’t quite the same.
Secondly, who is USC going to get who is willing to come in and start off under sanctions? It pains me to say it—and trust me, I will continue to rant about how awful Kiffin is—but USC deserves an elite coach who is not hobbled by the draconian (and unfair) sanctions lobbed at the Trojan football program. For this reason, Kiffin should stay through at least the 2013 season, if not the 2014 season as well. I know—it is unfathomable, but realistically, logically, it is true.
I have to believe that Pat Haden has a short list. I would hope that in the immediate future, hiring a new defensive coordinator is at the top of that list.
My pick, if I were in charge of such things, would be Georgia DC Todd Grantham to come in and guide the USC defense. He is in his third season at Georgia and has brought the Bulldogs to 23rd nationally in total defense and 35th in scoring defense. UGA has allowed 22 points per game this season, has forced 26 takeaways and Grantham helped the Bulldogs move from 118th (out of 120 schools) nationally in 2009 to 18th nationally in 2010 (his first season) in turnover margin.
In 2011, UGA’s defense under Grantham ranked third nationally in total defense, seventh in pass defense and ninth in rush defense.
He has a great mix of pro and college experience and is good but not yet a superstar. He runs a 3-4 defense (which I personally prefer), and I think when coupled with a pro-style offense, it would create a winning mix for USC.
Now offensive coordinator, which is also needed, is a whole other hornet’s nest to be explored later.