Thoughts On USC Firing Coach Lane Kiffin

Lane Kiffin GraffitiLast weekend, University of Southern California Athletic Director Pat Haden fired head football coach Lane Kiffin.   There's been a ton of press and public reaction.  From what I could see over the past few years, it seems like it was the right action to take, but I also think that coach Kiffin is not getting the most objective treatment possible by the public.  Maybe that's just part of what comes with being a highly paid coach in a high-profile role.

Here's what I wrote about it to a couple of buddies of mine.  I'd love to hear your own thoughts about the situation.

I've been thinking about this off and on during the day.  I have three basic questions about Coach Kiffin being fired:

1) Why?

2) Why so suddenly?  (middle of the night, at LAX when the team's charter plane landed, unceremoniously)

3) Why now?

I think the record itself isn't so bad, especially considering the depleted player roster Kiffin has to deal with because of the NCAA sanctions.  I think it's more the slope of the curve that looks bad: he's now lost 7 of his last 11 games, and the games he's lost this season are especially bad.

But it started last year.  He had a team that was incredibly talented, and could clearly win (10-2 the previous season, with no hope of a bowl game).  But he blew it toward the end of the season, and in fact never really had a good defense.  Then the team gets to a bowl with a not-very-good opponent (GA Tech?!) and *loses*, 21-7.  With a team that has the Biletnikoff Award winner, you gotta be a pretty bad coach not to win that game by scoring fewer than 10 points.  To me, that speaks to his inability to motivate the young men.

Okay, so he gets rid of his dad.  Tough, but smart move.  He hires a new defensive coordinator, who by all accounts is doing great with the team the 1st 4 games of this year (#4 ranked defense until Saturday's debacle).  But the team comes out flat the first few games, so flat that they lose to WSU, in a low scoring game.  And 'SC's got offensive weapons galore.  Again, I think that speaks to his inability to motivate.

Plus, last year's bush league shenanigans that he pulled are just not classy.  I hate to say that, but I think it's true.  Win or not, he was embarrassing himself and the program with some of the little goofy things he was doing.

But, the defense was looking great this year, and maybe the offense was going to get better.

We come into Saturday's game and the defense just gave up in the 2nd half, from what I'm hearing. The offense actually did pretty well, scored some points in the game.  But the defense was just too good to let anybody hang 62 on 'em.  Again, I think that speaks to the coach's inability to motivate the players, because the talent is there and the defensive coaching had proven to be there.

I think that was the last straw for AD Haden: he can live with fewer wins from a depleted roster because that's the hand they were dealt; he couldn't control that.  But I think AD Haden thinks the coach *can* control morale, spirit, motivation, and Coach Kiffin was clearly not getting that done.  The team could lose but play hard.  With the talent 'SC had, it should still win by playing hard.  But the team wasn't playing motivated or with confidence.  You gotta get rid of the coach.

So, why fire him so suddenly?

My thinking is that AD Haden must've seen this morale problem, Saturday's game being the final straw showing him that the team is in emotional meltdown, and he had to stop it before really bad things started happening, like key players asking to transfer mid-season because they're so miserable.  Also, this doesn't play well to high school recruits, and we're in the high season of recruiting, inviting kids to games and such.  Every week that existing players and recruits see this kind of non-USC attitude is cancerous.  Haden had to stop it as soon as possible.

Why fire him now?

I think for the reasons above, plus if Haden figured he was probably going to fire Kiffin at the end of the season, he might as well do it now and get in front of the line for new coaching talent.  I think USC now has a lot more runway to have quiet talks with a bunch of coaches the school might want to recruit.  Plenty of time to narrow down a long list to a nice, juicy short list of candidates.  And then the coach could be hired immediately after the season, hit the ground running on closing new recruits, and have a good setup for next season.

That's my thinking.

This really is a sad season for 'SC football, but if it was gonna go sour, at least the AD is taking care of the situation decisively.  I appreciate that he put full support behind the coach as long as he decided the coach was the coach.  Once he decided otherwise, he acted quickly.  Good for him.  That gives me hope.

This was all damage done by the a-hole previous AD, Mike Garrett.  That man single-handedly did more damage to the school than anybody else I can think of.  That includes OJ.

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