OK Bama fans, lets dispense with the lowlights of Lane Kiffin's time in the SEC and get down to business. If you lost power after the Sugar Bowl and your power came back on this afternoon and were told that a former NFL and college head coach that was an outstanding play-caller and a great recruiter as well had just been named the new offensive coordinator at Alabama, most of you would be optimistic at a minimum. The fact that it is Lane Kiffin is missing the point. Coach Saban went out and found the best available man for the job. It just so happens that he was the head coach at Tennessee and doesn't always use a filter as thoughts move toward his tongue.
Here's the good news....Coach Kiffin will not seat in front of the microphone very often, and will not sit for an interview with the media more than three times in a season. He is an outstanding recruiter and he won't have to bend the rules to convince top players to come to Alabama. He could actually be an ideal OC because he has been through failures on offense that impacted the whole team. He can't possibly think he is a better coach than the Head Coach he is working for at Bama and almost certainly realizes that he can learn ideas and concepts from Nick Saban that can help him in his quest to re-join the ranks of head coaches.
When considering Kiffin's record as a Head Coach, he has had the misfortune of accepting positions in bad situations. With the Oakland Raiders, his owner was the ever-present Al Davis with his late 1960's offensive philosophy. As a rookie head coach, Kiffin was indecisive about play-calling and starting lineups. At Tennessee, Phil Fulmer had done a poor job recruiting and Kiffin was left with a decimated roster and a lack of talent that had to be shocking once the players actually got out on the football field. When he left Knoxville for Los Angeles, the USC program was under the black cloud of investigation and recruits were reluctant to sign with the Trojans. A coach without good players is like a great jockey atop a mule; no matter how well you guide the mule, the thoroughbreds will leave you in the dust.
Taking an alternative view of Kiffin, most of our cajun acquaintances are down to earth people with little time or appreciation for men that they perceive as disingenuous or incompetent. From this point forward, we will call this The Orgeron Test (TOT). Kiffin passes TOT, as Cajun Coach O worked with Kiffin at USC, took the Ole Miss Head Coaching position, then chose to join Kiffin in Knoxville and again in Los Angeles after leaving Oxford. To get a cajun man to stick with you like that, you must be pretty good at what you do. By the way, if you understand how Orgeron got the job at Ole Miss, please offer a detailed fan post. That had to have been one remarkable interview.
Don't be surprised if Mario Cristobal were to take a position on another staff as well. The O-Line underperformed all season and CMC may slip out the back door of the Mal Moore complex as a result. Failed 4th-and-1's in key situations in critical games are the O-Line coaches responsibility and when the O-Line Coach makes $ 475,000 a year there are very few second chances. CMC earned a nice check this year and Head Coaches across the country will be interested in having a coach from Saban's staff to help with the game plan.
There could be a third change on the Bama coaching staff, although Kevin Steele opting to turn down the DC job at Louisville was a bit of a surprise. Staff movement could take place during the next 3 weeks, although stability would certainly be preferred as National Signing Day closes in.
In spite of certain SEC West rival fan bases (LSU and Auburn) opinions of Nick Saban, he is highly respected in coaching circles and the opportunity to hire an assistant that has served on his staff is a coup. Even if Saban conducted a 'pocket firing' (Major Applewhite, Doug Nussmeier, Bo Davis), any coach who is capable of getting hired by Saban is bright enough to learn from a season or two under his tutelage. Saban's approach to organizational skills, the recruiting process, practice schedule outlines, attention to detail, strength and conditioning program and his approach to dealing with the players on a daily basis are just a few of the methods that can be learned during a year on the job with the master.
Saban understands the challenges that scouting a new offensive coordinator every couple of years creates. A defense that faces the same offensive coordinator several years in a row will begin to develop an understanding of underlying tendencies that a particular offensive play-caller may have, This can provide a DC some extra insight into what plays an OC may call in a particular situation. Changing play-callers every couple of years can be a good move as long as the next OC in line has different tendencies than his predecessor. This is probably the least challenging method of breaking tendencies available to the head coach.
Interestingly, the 2012 Tide benefited from a defensive coaches tendency. As Alabama took possession trailingLSU 17-14, a coach reminded Jim McElwain that LSU DC John Chavis had a tendency to play a 3-deep zone in must pass situations early in the possession, then bring pressure once the offense got closer to scoring position. On the first four plays, Bama QB McCarron targeted favorite receiver Kevin Norwood and completed the first 3. On the fifth play, McElwain called a screen pass to the left and the blitzing DB ran right by T.J. Yeldon as he turned to look for the screen pass that proved to be the winning touchdown of the game.
At this point it seems the hiring of Kiffin is imminent. The best thing from a fan standpoint is to support him and pull for his play-calling. He will surely make every effort to put his players in a position to win football games.