Doc Five: Coaches who could probably use a big season – No. 1, Lane Kiffin
This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.
COACHES WHO COULD PROBABLY USE A BIG SEASON
NO. 1, LANE KIFFIN
This will go against what we have been saying about Lane Kiffin in this space for a while, but perhaps he gets a harder time than he should.
There are good reasons that he's No. 1 on this list, and we'll get to them. But Kiffin, who is still just 37 years old, didn't rise through the coaching ranks by accident. There are some positives on his resume.
He grew up as the son of a defensive coaching legend, Monte Kiffin. When he was given play-calling duties as offensive coordinator at USC, the program was great and his offenses were unstoppable. Credit previous coordinator Norm Chow for getting the ball rolling or the incredible talent USC had at the time if you want, but Kiffin did do a fine job there. He was a heck of a recruiter too.
Kiffin's time as head coach of the Oakland Raiders was horrible, but that franchise has been a complete mess for years. Kiffin didn't want to draft epic bust JaMarcus Russell. He wasn't given good personnel to work with. Even though he wasn't very good with the Raiders (sending out Sebastian Janikowski for a 76-yard field goal attempt remains one of the weirdest/funniest things ever), his 5-15 record wasn't all his fault. Nobody has been successful with the Raiders lately.
Tennessee still isn't happy with Kiffin resigning after one mediocre year, but the fact is this: The Volunteers have had one winning season over the last five years, and Kiffin was the coach of that team. Tough to blame him for everything.
USC was in pretty significant NCAA trouble when Kiffin arrived. Yet, his first two Trojans teams went 8-5 and 10-2. And then USC was the preseason No. 1 team last year. And if you stop the story there, Kiffin's legacy would be much different.
"To be handed down what they said could be a death penalty, could take USC 10 years to come back from, then to have this recognition and be preseason No. 1 is very exciting for our fans because a lot people thought two years ago that this would not be possible for USC," coach Lane Kiffin told the AP before last season.
One bad season, and that has changed. Some of that is because USC's 2012 season was historically bad, but some is because Kiffin is good at rubbing people the wrong way.
Raiders owner Al Davis ripped Kiffin for being immature, a liar and making excuses when he fired him. Three years after Kiffin left Tennessee, the Knoxville News rehashed Kiffin's departure and called it the lowest point of this era for UT football. That was after three losing seasons with another coach, but Tennessee is still mad about Kiffin. When you think of coaches who left their jobs under the worst possible terms, two of the top few on the list would be Kiffin at Oakland, and Kiffin at Tennessee.
We all know what happened at USC in 2012. There was lying about poll votes and chicanery by student managers and weird media feuds and classless actions at a bowl game and fights in the locker room. Oh, and Matt Barkley saying there wasn't much leadership and the play-calling was stale. And losses. More losses than any preseason No. 1 has had before. It was bad on and off the field.
Athletic director Pat Haden stood by his coach that went 10-2 the year before, and he was criticized for that. With that kind of heat on Kiffin, it would be surprising if the coach could survive another bad season, especially if the football program continues to represent the school as poorly as it did last year.
That's why Kiffin needs a big year as much as any coach. If this year is another fiasco, it will mean that he had three head coaching jobs, in Oakland, Tennessee and USC, and all ended in spectacular failure. His career record as a NFL and college head coach is 37-34 without a playoff win or a bowl win. It's hard to believe him landing at another good job right away if this season turns out poorly.
Kiffin might get more criticism than he deserves, but he has brought a lot upon himself as well. His time to prove the positives outweigh the negatives might be right now.
Previously on the "Doc Five"
5. Steve Spurrier
4. Gary Pinkel
3. Kirk Ferentz
2. Mack Brown
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