USC Football: Here's Why Lane Kiffin Won't Give Up Play-Calling Entirely
A real simple answer that comes in three parts. For starters, Kiffin won't give up that duty because it is his job that is ultimately on the line. Secondly, he didn't exactly tank in 2012, like folks want to believe he did.
Third, did we mention that it is his job at stake?
Even after Lane Kiffin promoted Clay Helton to the offensive coordinator spot, there was never any true indication as to who would call the plays. As the Orange County Register reported following USC's first spring practice, that issue is still not resolved:
Kiffin, who has called plays throughout his three-year run as coach, said he hadn't decided who will handle those duties in the fall. Helton, well aware of the criticism Kiffin has faced, in some circles, for his play-calling, smiled and laughed loudly when asked if he would like to call plays in 2013.
"We're very fortunate here to have several very good offensive coaches and a tremendous play-caller who has won a lot of games here, in Lane Kiffin," Helton said. "So we'll focus on spring now and we'll worry about that when we get to fall."
Helton appears to understand that he likely might not end up with the play-calling duties and it is clear that Coach Kiffin is not ready to relinquish his role.
Yes, the calls for Kiffin to give up the playsheet have come from far and wide. The Notre Dame game stood out as most folks' "final straw" with Kiffin as the guy running the USC offense.
Let's pump our brakes. Like him or not, Lane Kiffin is not some slappy off-the-street guy with no understanding or ability to run an offense. He's a guy that has a plan, sticks to that plan and works to put his players in position to be successful. Kiffin, in what might be his final year, giving up the play-calling duties is not akin to Dabo Swinney at Clemson trying to keep his head above water by hiring Chad Morris.
Dabo is a guy that needed a savior after meddling in the play-calling of Billy Napier. Lane Kiffin is a guy that not only ran the show at USC in 2005 and 2006, but also got an abysmal Tennessee team to a bowl game in 2009. This is the same guy who called the plays that got USC to 10-2 and set them up to be a preseason favorite in so many people's minds.
The guy didn't lose that ability. The game didn't get too big for him. He isn't incompetent in that regard, where football is concerned. No, the issue for the 7-6 Trojans were their legitimate deficiencies as a team.
Obviously, we've talked about their defensive woes and how flat-out terrible that side of the ball was. On the offense, the Trojans were far from terrible. This is a team that boasted a top 15 passer, a top-two wide receiver and, save for Stanford and Notre Dame, put up some good numbers.
However, they lacked physical ability on the offensive side of the ball, most notably at the point of attack. This was an offensive line that excelled at pass blocking, but was unable to move bodies at the line of scrimmage and open holes for Silas Redd or Curtis McNeal.
In other words, their run game was very opportunistic. That was not because Kiffin was a bad play-caller, but rather because the team only allowed for that sort of rushing attack. A play-caller is only as good as what his pieces allow him to do, and the run heavy game was not something the Trojans were capable of employing in 2012.
As for the game that sunk Kiffin in many folks' eyes, Notre Dame?
One, hats off to the Fighting Irish defense for punching the Trojans in the mouth and taking the physical fight to a team that was reeling. Two, and call me old school, if you can't punch it in from 1st-and-goal on the one, then perhaps you don't deserve the points.
Ultimately, what folks were mad about was an off-balanced, rushed throw from a backup quarterback to a fullback who was certainly open. If you want to get mad at Kiffin, be mad that he didn't kick the field goal or do a better job managing the clock, not at his faith in his team's ability to pick up a yard to get within a score of the Fighting Irish.
But, as we've seen time and again with this era at USC, blaming Kiffin for everything wrong in Troy is the easy thing to do. Whether you think he should or not, do not be surprised if Kiffin does not give up the play-calling duties.
After all, it is his neck on the line and if things go down in flames in 2013, don't expect him to just watch it happen as someone else pulls the trigger.
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