Joe Medley commentary: Why Lane Kiffin, Alabama could be good mix

January 9, 2014 

USC Kiffin Football

25. Lane Kiffin, Southern Cal (fired this season)

According to USA Today, Kiffin's total salary is $2,594,091.


It's Lane Kiffin's first media availability as Alabama's offensive coordinator, and he raises eyebrows.

The one-time mouth of the South says he looks forward to "singing 'Yea, Alabama!' all night long" after the Crimson Tide beats rival Auburn.

Then he tells all uncommitted recruits on Alabama's wish list they'll be "pumping gas" if they sign anywhere besides Alabama.

Can you imagine it?

Me neither.

If Kiffin ends up replacing Doug Nussmeier, who took the same job at Michigan, then Kiffin's well-earned reputation for public brashness won't be an issue at Alabama.

The maligned former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and universities of Tennessee and Southern Cal won't engender an airport firing with this employer.

At Alabama, the only issue for a Kiffin tenure as one of Nick Saban's coordinators would be whether the boss' offense meets the boss' specs. There's every reason to think Kiffin could achieve that.

There's no reason to think Kiffin would add to his list of not-so-great hits, which he compiled as a head coach. There wouldn't be much chance, considering how little Saban's coordinators talk to media.

But it's fun to ponder the possibilities of a Saban-Kiffin partnership, now that it appears at least possible. News of Nussmeier accepting the Michigan job broke Wednesday night, and Kiffin is reportedly set to interview for replace him at Alabama.

Kiffin re-entered the sphere of crimson intrigue in December, when Saban invited him to put eyes on Alabama's offense. Saban called it a routine consultation, but there were already whispers that Saban and Nussmeier were ready to part ways.

Kiffin coming in at that time awoke the college football world to the thought of him working for Saban, and it seemed like an odd mix.

Who can forget when then-Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin hired top recruiter Lance Thompson away from Saban then boasted that Tennessee would run Saban out of the talent-rich Memphis market?

Kiffin wouldn't get much chance to boast as one of Saban's coordinators. They typically talk to media twice a year -- during team Fan/Media Day activities in early August and during mandatory coordinator press conferences associated with postseason games.

Saban's coordinators don't go off script in ways that wouldn't please the boss.

Too, Kiffin wants rehabilitate his career. Having Saban -- and, by extension, the Bill Belichick coaching tree -- in his corner puts him on a fast track.

Not even Kiffin would screw that up.

Alabama and Saban would offer Kiffin the chance to put the focus back on his Xs-and-Os brain, and he can offer Alabama something that way.

His NFL background, which includes a stay as an offensive quality control assistant for Jacksonville in 2000, means that Saban could continue to sell his program as NFL prep for offensive recruits.

As USC's offensive coordinator from 2005-06, he replaced Norm Chow and improved Chow's product. The 2005 Trojans broke school records, averaging 49.1 points and 579 yards per game. They became the first team in NCAA history to have a 3,000 yard passer (Matt Leinart), two 1,000 yard rushers (Reggie Bush and LenDale White) and a 1,000 yard receiver (Dwayne Jarrett).

Alabama's offense wasn't bad in Nussmeier's two seasons. The Tide averaged 38.2 points in 2013 and 38.7 while winning a national championship in 2012.

If Kiffin becomes Alabama's offensive coordinator, he'll get the chance to improve something good. He won't have the chance or motivation to do much else.

-- Joe Medley is a sports columnist for the Anniston Star. He can be reached at

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