On Kiffin: You Don't Have to 'Get It'

Recently Senator Blutarsky at Get the Picture and Brian at MGoBlog have said that they "don't get" what Lane Kiffin is doing... or maybe, more accurately, they don't get why Vol fans haven't collectively bound and gagged Kiffin and shoved him in the luggage compartment of the next Greyhound bound for Tacoma. I'll quote from the posts that I'm talking about below, but first let me mention that they bother me because they raise legitimate doubts about what in the world Kiffin is actually doing. Also because they are written by bloggers I respect, rather than the drive-by criticism we see coming from the MSM and faux bloggers yesi'mlookingatyouchrislow.

First, Get the Picture asked

What is it about the Tennessee program that requires its head coach to behave in the way that Kiffin has in order to succeed? Or is this simply an exercise in after the fact justification?

I mean, is this really what Mike Hamilton had in mind when he made the hire?...

If he wins (games, not recruiting rankings), no doubt Vol fans will be thrilled, but what will they be left with if he doesn't grab a few titles?...

If this is such a great approach to resurrecting a national powerhouse, how come the first guy to think of it is a 33-year old whose prior stop as a head coach was a miserable failure?

I'll address a couple of those points in a sec, but first, Brian responded to the final question by saying

True cleverness-see OBC-is apparent. Even if this supposed gambit works in the short run, in the long run Tennessee is going to be seriously hampered by their head coach's lack of intelligence. When the biggest accomplishment you can point to is locking down your hot wife, you have issues.

My retort is that Spurrier's cleverness is/was only apparent because he won games, something Kiffin hasn't had a chance to do yet. A comparison to the OBC is apt only because both Spurrier and Kiffin have a knack for spouting off. Though, if you notice, Spurrier only does so after the fact; I can't think of a single time Spurrier has run his mouth before putting a beatdown on someone, and "you can't spell Citrus..." only has punch if you're going to New Orleans on the regular. So, yeah, the preemptive bravado coming from Kiffin is something new. Does it mean Kiffin is less intelligent, less clever than Spurrier and others? Maybe, but I'm not sure that conclusion can be drawn yet, just as I can't claim Kiffin as a genius, either. At this point I believe the most that can be said is Kiffin shows extreme lack of judgement at worst and gross audacity at best, and we'll have to see how it all works out in a few years.

As to how it will all work out, of course I, like you, have no idea. Kiffin's recruiting machine seems to give Tennessee the chance to succeed but it's no guarantee. Kiffin could sabotage the whole thing with his tomfoolery, and if he does, what we'll be left with (to answer GtP's question) is a few dismal records in the media guide and another coaching search, probably preceded by a new athletic director. We've seen several of our SEC brethren go through the same and live, so that too shall pass if the need arises.

To answer another of GtP's questions: yes, this is what Mike Hamilton expected when he hired Kiffin. The specifics of Pahokee or the spate of secondary infractions, no. But to the extent that Kiffin is pretty much the polar oppisite of Fulmer, I think this is exactly what Hamilton wanted.

Here's the thing: I have no idea if Kiffin will succeed or fail, and that's what makes it fun. Tennessee football hasn't been particularly fun in the past several years. I don't mean the actual games, those are always fun, but the general aura around Vol football had been kind of a downer of late: the forecast for what turned out to be the final Fulmer years was mostly cloudy with a chance of Atlanta. And there's something comforting in meeting expectations, no matter how mediocre those expectations are. But what we're seeing now is that the unknown is exciting, maybe a little scary, possibly even embarrassing at times, but fun.

So you don't "get" what's going on in Knoxville? I don't either necessarily, and I don't really feel the need to. I'm just watching, with more interest than any other time in recent years, and waiting for what's next.

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