Lane Kiffin Replaces the Legend Pete Carroll: The Moves Behind the Rise

Jon Sarver@https://twitter.com/sarvercgCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 13:  New head coach of the USC Trojans Lane Kiffin speaks to the media during a press conference at Heritage Hall January 13, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Frank Sinatra did it his way.  So, it seems, has Lane Kiffin.

Most USC fans understood when Steve Sarkisian turned down the Raider job because, "Gee, it was wacky Al Davis!" 

And so, most USC fans felt Davis' pick of Lane Kiffin was out of desperation.  That feeling turned out to look at the time to pretty accurate.  Kiffin lasted a tumultuous year and a half with Oakland and was run out of Oakland with "cause." 

"Cause" AL is clueless!

With Al Davis we will never be sure what that "cause" is because Davis has turned nearly certifiable over the last several years.

Your humble correspondent was once run out of Raider land...

I had a run in with Al during the strike season many years ago.  I can remember going to the Raiders' training facility in Los Angeles and trying to take some pictures for a slide show I was producing. 

Old Al was scared to death that I was an opposing time photographer trying to get an edge against him and had me run off the premises.  I simply decided to buy a ticket to a strike game at the L.A. Coliseum and take the pictures there.  Count the score Jon 1 and Al ZERO!

So, when Lane Kiffin was run out of Oakland my first thought was good move for Lane.  He might get a college gig and do alright for himself.  But for me, the jury was still out.

Was this guy getting his coaching gigs because Pete and Monte were best friends? In Oakland?

Then the big surprise.  Kiffin leverages the Raider job to land the Tennessee position. How did that happen?  If you can coach for AL then you can replace Phil Fulmer was the reality of that situation.  How, I don't really know!

How about Tennessee?

Tennessee is  a great school with a storied tradition with 104,000-fan sellouts and a storied line of coaches from Bill Battle to Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer.

The Vols  pulled the shocker and rescued Kiffin from the embarrassment of being on a long list of ex-Raider drop outs!

Add to the fact he's was in a terrific conference and you've got to think, either this guy is a great coach or Tennessee was really impressed with Monte and Ed Orgeron!

Now a year later after the shocking exit of Pete Carroll (you didn't think he would leave now and neither did I) USC rips the heart out of Tennessee and hires Kiffin on the run.

I say run, because with his 12-21 overall record that is exactly what he did, right out of Knoxville.  But, upon further review, once he made his decision to go he understood he was not going to be sitting by the campfire singing songs any time soon.

Tennessee is into loyalty and Kiffin is into advancement.  Not a match made in heaven!

There was a gathering mob outside his office trying to figure out how to lynch the guy.  However, if you watched his final presser in Knoxville you saw Kiffin being Kiffin despite the media clamoring to set the ground rules for his farewell fireside chat.

It's kind of like a Kiffin offense.  Be sneaky and then "go for the jugular" and get out of dodge as quick as possible.

You strike quick! You strike decisive and you move on!

In my many years as a college football fan I've never seen anything like it.  When was the last time you've seen a guy get three high profile jobs that quick?

Uh, never!

In my view, at 34 it is absolutely put-up or shut-up for Lane Kiffin.  Frankly, I don't think that is unfair in the least!

He could have grown into the job at Knoxville and had far less pressure to win big than he has at USC.

He walked into like "cool hand Luke" and now he will be put to the test.  Quick!

With the 2010 USC Schedule I have predicted that he should go 12-2 or 13-1 with a stacked USC roster. 

With Monte Kiffin as the Assistant Head Coach and Ed Orgeron as the Defensive Coordinator the sagging 2009 defense should get an extreme makeover.

In my view Lane Kiffin has a zero tolerance level from fans for anything but a Pac-10 Championship and a return to the Rose Bowl. 

In 1977 John Robinson took it to the next level in a hurry after John McKay, because he inherited great players. 

The same should be expected of Lane Kiffin.

Now, while it's easy to cast doubt on Kiffin (you and I have!), it is also hard to ignore who he has surrounded himself with.  When push comes to shove that is a sign of a great leader.

Ed Orgeron said recently, "He's changed a lot. In the year since he started at Tennessee, you can see the difference. Even in the three months since we've been here at USC, you can see it."

Yep, someone needs to tell ED it has only been two months.  But time flies when you are having fun, eh?

It's a fact that Orgeron has liked the kid forever! he offered Kiffin the offensive coordinator spot at Ole Miss and has stated that he may still be coach if Kiffin took the job.  It's funny how things turn out sometime.

Were any strings pulled to get the kid to USC?

Maybe Garrett was desperate!

However, Kiffin was cool, calm and unruffled as he left the Vols for USC even if his opening press conference at Heritage Hall was ragged to say the least.  Thank you T.J. Simers and the bitter L.A. Times press corps.

However, it should be noted,  the Volunteer fan base is still upset about every move he has made.

What he has done right, with the notable exception of recruiting a junior high student, is not fight Al Davis, not insult the Alabama or Florida fan base.

He's avoided trading barbs with Rick Neuheisel, who is busy managing is NCAA basketball tournament pool this time of year, anyway!

Ed Orgeron even was proud of him for that. "It's USC! You don't have to do any of that here."

I haven't agreed with everything old Uncle Ed has done in the past, but I agree with that one!

We are SC!  Enough said!

Coach Kiffin has brought in a great coaching staff.  His 13 years of coaching experience ties him with James Gregg as the lowest on the staff he has assembled.  WOW!

Face it, when the kid can pull that one off, it has to give the USC base warm feelings!

He pulled off an amazing recruiting class and took the heat off of Mike Garrett for the moment anyway.  It has me wondering how bad those sanctions will really be!  Stay tuned!

Many people feel that Kiffin's first staff is noticeably better than Carroll's ninth staff.  Did I just say that? 

Brian Grummel from AOL's Fanhouse said this, "[Kiffin's hiring] is a more serious stab at assembling a coaching staff than latter day efforts made by Carroll.

"The upgrades on defense are significant," Grummel continued, even after conceding that "Carroll was a defensive mastermind."

Did he just knock Carroll?

Grummel closes his argument with this: "The offensive staff and approach remain a question mark until some games are played but Kiffin's ambition and amazing talent at his disposal should lead to an improvement."

Grummel? Orgeron? They both think Kiffin is the new young coaching stud?

The next thing we are going to hear is that Pete Carroll thinks he was a great choice! 

Wait a minute, Pete Carroll did say that Lane Kiffin was a great hire!

Kiffin's problem during his first stint at USC is a followed the legend Norm Chow as offensive coordinator.  To be fair, he did a pretty good job in replacing our "dearly departed" and now "wayward" Bruin friend.

After lamenting that he'd still be the Old Miss coach if Kiffin were on board, Orgeron said in closing, "Lane's so smart, so good on game day, the way he calls a game. I'm not sure people understand how well he does that."

Well, the analysis of his hiring is over by this writer.  The jury is out, but now it is time to get to work.

Let's see if Lane Kiffin has the right stuff! 

Spring practice is right around the corner.  I can say one thing for sure: the hiring of Lane Kiffin has made for a very interesting Trojan offseason.

Who knew saying goodbye to Pete Carroll could be so much fun?

About the writer: Jon Sarver is the co-founder of Fanrevolt.net , a site that is committed to Dumping the BCS and demanding a college football playoff.  Check it out if you are tired of the current BCS system and want a change now!


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