Who Has the Brighter Future: USC's Lane Kiffin or Florida State's Jimbo Fisher?
Following an intriguing offseason that featured job openings for head coaching programs at major college programs, two of the coaches that received the most hype—USC's Lane Kiffin and Florida State's Jimbo Fisher—made their debuts for their respective programs.
Both started off with wins and both gave an impressive display of offense.
And that's where the similarities end. In fact, Kiffin and Fisher couldn't be more different. Fisher had been groomed for the head coaching job for years and Kiffin was ridiculed for "abandoning" Tennessee.
Fisher is taking over a team on the rise, one that could vault into the top 15 with a win over Oklahoma on Saturday. Kiffin is taking over a train wreck that has suffered numerous transfers and is beginning a two-year bowl ban.
In other words, you have the answer to the headline.
But there's much more to each program's story than meets the eye.
Florida State and USC have essentially switched places in the matter of a year. For the past few years, the Seminoles have been mediocre at best. Seasons filled with high expectations were ruined in the early going and legendary coach Bobby Bowden was eventually "forced out."
USC, on the other hand, is coming off its glory days under Pete Carroll. The Trojans were perennial National Championship contenders throughout the decade, winning the BCS Championship in 2004 and an AP National Championship in 2003. USC won or shared seven consecutive Pac-10 titles from 2002-2008 and has had two Heisman winners—Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush—in that time span.
But, the tide has turned.
Florida State is a legit ACC title contender and could reach a BCS bowl. USC can't play in any bowl game until 2012 because of players receiving benefits, which led to former coach Pete Carroll bolting to the NFL and Reggie Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy reportedly being revoked.
Put simply, Florida State has a chance to be a special team in the coming years. USC, however, is a mere fragment of the storied program it was just a year ago.
So from a resources standpoint, Jimbo Fisher is in far better position to have a better career—or at least start of his career—than Lane Kiffin.
And from a moral standpoint, Fisher is light years ahead of Kiffin.
Kiffin has been an embarrassment at every stop on his coaching career and has gotten more by achieving less than any coach in the country.
He started his career with the Oakland Raiders, finishing a dismal 5-15 before jumping to Tennessee. After leading the Volunteers to a 7-6 record, he left for USC, and the coveted Trojans head coaching position was handed over to a coach with a 12-21 head coaching record.
But it's more than the fact that Kiffin isn't qualified. Everywhere he's been, he's managed to upset somebody. He got on Urban Meyer's bad side by placing Tennessee flyers in Gainesville and received numerous recruiting violations from the NCAA. To Kiffin, the violations and the relationships with other coaches were a joke.
With that kind of attitude, his underwhelming record is no surprise. And unless he decides to clean up his act, expect him to bring mediocrity with him to Southern Cal.
Unlike Kiffin, Fisher has earned respect throughout the ACC and college football.
He has been mentored by Bobby Bowden for years and is comfortable with the Florida State program. And unlike Kiffin, he understands how to win over fans.
More importantly, however, he knows how to win.
Fisher led a very successful offense at Florida State during his stint as that unit's coordinator, but also understands that defense—something FSU has lacked in recent years—is also important for success.
Although it's hard to tell much from a game against Samford, Fisher's squad looked excellent in a 59-6 rout. Quarterback Christian Ponder was outstanding and the defense was more solid than it has been in quite some time.
We'll find out more when the Seminoles travel to Norman this week, but Fisher seems to be on the road to success.
He's inherited a solid program. Kiffin has inherited a disaster. And if recent history means anything, Jimbo Fisher should have a much better career than Lane Kiffin.
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