As opinions continue to fly over BJ Coleman's decision to transfer and what the future of the program looks like with Jonathan Crompton at the helm, it's helpful to remember that while Lane Kiffin may not have much experience as a head coach, this is not his first quarterback controversy.
At the start of his brief stint in Oakland with the Raiders, Kiffin inherited a situation that included number one overall pick JaMarcus Russell and his holdout, the proven veteran recovering from injury in Daunte Culpepper, and a relative unknown in Josh McCown. Russell's holdout carried into the opening week of the 2007 season, leaving Kiffin and the Raiders with Culpepper and McCown to begin the season.
Fans, of course, wanted to see Culpepper because they actually knew who he was, and were picturing his mammoth seasons in Minnesota coming to life again in Oakland, even though Daunte had never shown anything with the Raiders.
But Kiffin elected to go with McCown in the 2007 opener. This was met right away with booing and chants for Daunte from the Raider faithful, in Kiffin's first game. How did Lane respond?
"Fans have the right to their opinions," Kiffin said. "After (McCown's) third touchdown in a row they weren't chanting for Daunte anymore."
It's clear that Kiffin isn't making decisions with fan perception in mind. No matter which side of the Crompton/Coleman debate you fell on, I think it's clear that Kiffin isn't afraid to make unpopular choices. McCown went 30 of 40 for 313 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs in that opener.
But it's also clear that Kiffin isn't blind and unafraid to change his mind: in Week 2 of the 2007 season, McCown went 8 of 16 for 73 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs. The following week, a banged up McCown was pulled for Culpepper. When the two finished with similar stats, Culpepper got the start in Week 4. And back and forth we would go from there.
In the 16 regular season games of 2007, Culpepper led the team in passing seven times, McCown seven times, and JaMarcus Russell twice in the last two weeks of the season. The Raiders went 4-12, and their quarterbacks had some great days (Culpepper's 344 yards against his old team at Minnesota) and some downright lousy ones (four times the Raiders failed to pass for more than 100 yards). But I don't think Kiffin left any options on the table.
From the beginning at Tennessee, I think Kiffin has been handling the quarterback situation as it works best for the program. I have to believe Jonathan Crompton is the presumed starter on September 5 because he truly is the best option. But based on Kiffin's track record, don't think that Crompton's job is safe all year just for recruiting's sake. And don't think that fan pressure will make Kiffin play Nick Stephens more. This guy is going to do what he wants to do...and in the case of quarterback controversies, it's one of the few places where we can say he's seen this all before.