Lane Kiffin and Tennessee - Right Program, Right Fit?

A popular discussion that follows football prospects is whether or not they will fit a system. Whether or not they are truly a great talent or the system they play in just puts them in a place to succeed. We often wonder why such highly drafted players go to places and fade into relative obscurity while some players who had the same or less impressive measurables go to places and become perennial pro-bowlers. The point is the right situation has a huge impact on a player’s success.


Can a similar concept be used when we talk about coaches?




One point I found interesting that was noted back in December was that Lane Kiffin had zero interest in toning his coaching muscles at a mid major or DII school. However, he knew that if he wanted to be a head coach at a top level program he likely had to have “Head Coach” somewhere on his resume. This made his brief tenure with the Raiders crucial.


Lane Kiffin said on day one that his philosophy is to out-work your opponent. Based on that, I’m going to assume that Lane Kiffin isn’t going to blow our minds with brilliant offensive game plans or schemes. What will dictate his success is the players he brings in and how hard they condition and execute.


In theory this system shouldn’t work to great lengths at a mid major or some other lower tier program. I don’t mean that it can’t be successful; I just believe that it’s a philosophy that probably won’t succeed to the point that would get a coach noticed by the big boys. Why? At that level, it’s very difficult to recruit on an echelon that brings you a substantial advantage against your peers. No, recruiting isn’t everything. But in a system that relies heavily on conditioning and execution, it’s a very big thing. Point being, this system wouldn’t allow you to win big just anywhere. I think Lane Kiffin understood that in order to win big with this approach, you need to find the right program.


Having that said, Tennessee is the kind of place where you can make that kind of a system work. It has the name recognition, exposure, facilities, fan base, and most importantly the budget to bring in top talent both on the field and on the coaching staff. If you put the right people in the right places with the right preparation you can have big success.


Often times I think we undervalue the impact that being at the right program has on a coach’s success. What I mean by that is that there are very few coaches who can win big anywhere they go. Urban Meyer is a name that comes to mind based on his resume, but then again Steve Spurrier had that same perception at one point as well. Urban Meyer could very well go to Notre Dame and have a slew of 7-5 seasons (this scenario is on my Christmas wish list).


Based on what we’ve seen from Lane Kiffin’s recipe for winning, it doesn’t seem like a philosophy that would lead to great success in the NFL.  The league is set up with a draft and salary cap rules that try to give the less successful franchises a chance to catch up. I think it’s safe to say that Al Davis showed poor judgment in hiring Kiffin two years ago. I think it’s also safe to say that without said poor judgment Lane Kiffin doesn’t get hired at Tennessee. However, one thing we know about Lane Kiffin is that he has a way of working the system, and he worked the system to a point that landed him a high profile job in a high profile league where his approach has the potential to bring big success. Let’s hope its the right place for him to succeed.

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