Note: I hastily posted this as a comment to this DawgSports article (There Simply is No Basis for Believing Kiffin Will Succeed). I must have been typing unusually fast in my haste, because a lot of words came out. And I hate it when words go unread. So I decided to plagiarize myself....if that is even possible (I did edit out a typo and a sentence I didn't like).
I met a very interesting person today. A time traveler. He had traveled all the way to December 2012, and was an avid college football fan. At first he seemed quite reasonable. He intelligently articulated clearly defined parameters for "success" vs. "failure" and then engagingly asked me whether I thought Lane Kiffin would be a success or a failure in his coaching stint at UT. Before I could answer, though, this time-traveling stranger got very hostile. He pulled out a loaded gun, pointed it right at my temple, and repeated the question. Answer correctly, I live. Answer incorrectly, I die. Oh yeah, and he gave me three seconds to answer. I chose success. I felt like it gave me the best chance of, you know, not dying.
Proceeding to the non-fiction Aisle:
Okay, so that story was fictional and we’ll never know whether I lived happily ever after or whether the janitor had to stay late and bring an extra mop. But the choice I gave in the story is the choice I would give if faced with that scenario in real life.
Why? Well here goes…..
We don’t know much about Lane Kiffin, but we know a little. Enough, I think, for this young attorney to reasonably infer that Kiffin is more likely to succeed as a coach than fail.
We know that Kiffin had great success as an offensive coordinator at USC. This is fact. It is not open for debate. But you, and every other Kiffin contrarian, and every other Kiffin’s contrarian’s cousin can barely contain yourselves right now. You are dying to toss out two counterpoints. Likely something along the lines of:
(a) We really don’t know what Kiffin’s role in that offense was. Was he only co-coordinator, remember? It isn’t clear whether he was calling the plays, running the practices, or doing any of that other important stuff.
(b) My brother’s six year old kid could have had success with an offense featuring Bush and Leinart.
My response to point (a) is that I don’t really know either. But it is much more reasonable to assume that Kiffin did something and wasn’t just Sarkisian’s sidekick. Carroll gave Kiffin the title for a reason, and it wasn’t just to help keep him around as long as possible (a la what UT is currently doing with Orgeron) because Kiffin was not yet a household name and — absent that title — his value on the coaching market would not have been off the charts.
My response to point (b) is that it is possible to not have success with an offense that includes two first round draft picks at the skill positions. Just ask Mark Richt.
Kiffin has a year and a quarter of NFL experience. And not just as a position coach or a coordinator, but as a head coach. The head coach being the main guy: running the practices, delegating to assistants, being the final decisionmaker….and all the rest of it. Sure, he didn’t have great success in the NFL. But he was not exactly dealt pocket aces either. The Raiders were 2-14 in 2006. In 2007, with Kiffin, they were 4-12. They were 1-4 when he got fired the next year. They ended up at 5-11….winning at roughly the same clip with Kiffin as without him. Did he turn the franchise around? No, he did not. But he did get two more wins in his first year than they got the previous year….the team did improve.
And on top of all that, how many examples of coaches failing in the pro’s but winning in college do we have to see before we all come to the collective conclusion that success at the NFL level is in no way relevant to success at the collegiate level. There are several examples that I won’t list because you already know them.
Probably because he did not have resounding success with the Raiders, and left under extremely weird circumstances, Kiffin has done everything in his power to ensure that the Vols become a successful program. He has put himself in a position to succeed. He brought in a legendary defensive coordinator. He brought in the best recruiter in the business. He brought in a stable of other very good assistant coaches — who may not be household names like the elder Kiffin and Orgeron — but who are, by all accounts, very good coaches.
He showed right at the outset that he does have some recruiting chops. If it is impossible to fail running an offense with Reggie Bush (but, of course, not Knowshon Moreno) as your tailback, well then it will be pretty darn tough to fail running an offense with Bryce Brown at the same position.
So, is he a great X’s and O’s coach? Honestly, I really don’t know. But for a guy who has had a had in a great offense before, has had experience running the show at the pro level, and who has enough sense to surround himself with the best coaches in the business….I think it is fair to say he isn’t stupid. Yeah, he pops off. But that doesn’t make him stupid. Heck, my moniker is kidbourbon, but that doesn't mean I swill Jim Beam all day.
In view of the above, I respectfully conclude that Kiffin will succeed as the head coach of the University of Tennessee Volunteers. And let the record show that I would stake my life on that (if forced to).
P.S. -- Joel: are there any recommended guidelines for inclusion vs. exclusion of "The Jump" in a fanpost? I didn't use "The Jump" because I figured any who is reading this has already clicked on one link...why make them click on another. But to the extent that you ever want to bump a fanpost of mine to the main page, feel free to use full discretion in inserting "The Jump." My brother is a journalist, and so I have been well-informed on the importance of page aesthetics.
[Note by Joel, 06/10/09 3:25 PM EDT ] No real rule. Guideline is about 300 words before the jump -- something like that. Enjoyed the post.