You have heard several coaches mindlessly utter it in the past.
“We are focused on [enter this week’s opponent here], not any other team further down our schedule”
It has become quite the cliché.
In an interview with ESPN College Football Live earlier this week, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh spat out a version of the above statement and pointed out various key reasons why the Cardinal need to focus on the Oregon State Beavers.
When the question about Stanford’s overly ambitious November schedule was lobbed towards Harbaugh, a little part of me wanted to see him slam down a Lane Kiffin type answer.
Something like, “Yeah we are focused on Oregon State, but we also have another Oregon team on our radar.”
While Harbaugh has too much class to make a thoughtless statement like that, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that these two coaches actually are following similar coaching paths.
Both Harbaugh and Kiffin have been saddled with the task of rising once highly regarded BCS programs out from the ashes.
Although it is hard to properly compare the two programs since Harbaugh has had a two-year head start and is already reaping benefits from his recruiting classes, the immediate buzz that these two well-known names ignited just by joining their organizations is undeniable.
Oddly enough, both coaches can thank Al Davis for extending the coaching branch that helped bolster their resumes.
Harbaugh was an offensive assistant coach and a quarterback coach for the Oakland Raiders from 2002-2003. This NFL coaching experience allowed him to land his first head-coaching job at the University of San Diego (Div I FCS).
Harbaugh completely turned around the losing nature of that program and went on to win two conference championships with the Toreros.
His success in San Diego grabbed the attention of many in his hometown of Palo Alto and it eventually would open the door to a coveted head coach position within a BCS conference.
While Harbaugh’s name was well known thanks to years of NFL service, Kiffin owes Al Davis for unveiling his name to the entire world overnight. One minute Lane was just one of the many hands in Pete Carroll’s coaching pot, the next minute he is the youngest head coach ever to put on NFL headsets.
As we all know, this marriage would not last that long but without that “I do”, Lane Kiffin would probably still be a few years from being a head coach, let alone one that could immediately bring in top recruits.
Kiffin’s departure from Oakland was hardly quiet and he would bring that noise with him all the way to Knoxville.
Love him or hate him, the Cirque de Kiffin has definitely put Tennessee back on the radar, even with the casual college football fan. Kiffin’s boisterous approach to revamping his Vols is certainly getting attention but how it all unfolds over the next few years will give us a better picture of whether or not he is truly head coaching material.
Meanwhile, Harbaugh has been gaining national interest the old fashion way…by winning games. But controversy isn’t exactly a word missing from Harbaugh’s dictionary.
Harbaugh ruffled a few feathers his first few months at Stanford in an interview saying “Pete Carroll’s only got one more year…I heard it [from] inside his staff”. This created a media storm and would get Carroll to rebut with “If he's going to make statements like that, he ought to get his information right”.
Definitely a catfight compared to the Kiffin/Meyer spouts, but it was the most the Pac-10 pot had been stirred in years. Harbaugh would eventually get the last laugh, beating USC in an epic upset that few will forget.
If this slight stir of the pot could produce that kind of outcome, perhaps Harbaugh should bring out his inner Kiffin more often and keep grabbing for that ladle as they roll into November.
With the talent that Stanford has parading on the field this year, the drop off in running back talent they will have next year, and the possibility that an NFL suitor might snatch up Harbaugh in the near future, a little “confidence talk” now could be a better time than any.