Guerry Clegg commentary: Nick Saban's hiring of Lane Kiffin curious

sports@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 11, 2014 

USC Kiffin Football

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

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

MARK J. TERRILL — AP

Curious.

Smart? Possibly. Logical? Maybe. Risky? Certainly.

Which is why the best description for Nick Saban's hire of Lane Kiffin as his offensive coordinator at Alabama is just plain curious.

Kiffin's resume certainly measures up to anyone who would have been available. He was a head coach in the NFL before he turned 32.

He has been a head coach of two of the top college programs in the country in Tennessee and Southern Cal. Before all of that, he coordinated one of the most balanced and explosive offenses in the game at USC.

Still …

Lane Kiffin working for Nick Saban?

The man who is a walking distraction hired by the coach who is the ultimate control freak among the fraternity of control freaks. Saban forbids his assistants from speaking to the media.

It's really not going to make a difference who administers the offense. Alabama will remain committed to the power running game. That has been good enough to win four national championships for Saban, one at LSU and three with the Crimson Tide.

When Jim McElwain left as Alabama's offensive coordinator to become head coach at Colorado State, he promised the fans they would see a more aggressive passing attack than what he ran with the Crimson Tide.

McElwain's replacement, Doug Nussmeier, came to Alabama with a similar background of an open passing attack. But Alabama's offense didn't change. And it's not going to change as long as Saban is the head coach.

So if it doesn't really matter who calls the plays, why take on Kiffin and all of his baggage? Let him rehabilitate his career somewhere else.

Why not hire someone like Derek Dooley? He worked for Saban for two years with the Miami Dolphins before going to Louisiana Tech as head coach. Dooley is now coaching wide receivers with the Dallas Cowboys.

If not Dooley, then certainly there has to be someone else out there who can recruit, call running plays on first-and-10 and find a way to get the ball to Amari Cooper in space six or seven times a game.

Someone, that is, who didn't make a complete fool of himself publicly accusing Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation, never mind that A) Kiffin committed a recruiting violation in the process by identifying the player and B) actually being wrong about Meyer committing a violation.

Surely, Saban could have found someone else equally qualified who wasn't labeled "a flat-out liar," as the late Al Davis did when the fired Kiffin.

There's plenty of evidence to support Davis. Kiffin lied about little things, such as naming his son Knox after Knoxville. After leaving Tennessee, Kiffin said he and his wife had chosen that name before he had ever been hired by the Volunteers. He lied about big things, such as saying he did not vote his Southern Cal Trojans No. 1 on his preseason ballot in 2012.

Kiffin had backup quarterback Cody Kessler switch from No. 6 to 35, which just happened to be the number of punter Kyle Negrete, who just happened to the holder for field goals and extra points. And he just happened to have the Trojans line up for a two-point conversion with Kessler as the quarterback.

So, while it could never be proved that Kiffin knew that a student manager had deflected some football to make them easier to throw and catch, it's a bit of a stretch to believe given Kiffin's pattern of lying and deceit.

There had to be someone else available who didn't tell a recruit, as Kiffin allegedly told Alshon Jeffery, that he would end up "pumping gas" if he signed with someone other than Tennessee. Jeffery became an All-American at South Carolina and is half way through a $4.5 million contract with the Chicago Bears, of which $2.3 million is guaranteed.

Oh, and let's not forget about the NCAA citing Tennessee for failure to monitor a program called Orange Pride. Female Tennessee students -- who just happened to be darn cute -- were dispatched to high school games to strike up friendships with players the Volunteers just happened to be recruiting.

It's easy to look at Saban's success and determine that he knows what he's doing. But that doesn't mean Saban is incapable of making a mistake. Saban has just taken an unnecessary gamble hiring the second most despicable coach in college football. The only one worse was unavailable. Louisville just rehired Bobby Petrino.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent columnist. He can be reached at sports@ledger-enquirer.com.

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