With Saturday’s loss to Auburn and Sunday’s fall out of the Top 25, Les Miles’ days in Baton Rouge are over, as the team made the decision to fire him on Sunday.
Almost immediately after Danny Etling’s game-winning touchdown pass was waived off by the officials, speculation began as to who would replace Miles longterm. Some of the names we have heard include Houston coach Tom Herman, former Baylor coach Art Briles, David Shaw of Stanford, and Alabama offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin, among others.
Many of the guys mentioned throughout the media are legitimate candidates. Tom Herman has built something special at Houston, but will likely look to move to a job with more prestige. Art Briles is a great coach and is available if a school will look over a pretty rough past. The defensive-minded David Shaw makes a lot of sense as a fit at LSU.
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I wouldn’t be surprised if any of these three guys find their way to Baton Rouge, but the one that is really interesting to me is Lane Kiffin.
I’ll recap Kiffin’s career briefly for those of you who don’t know the story. In the early part of his time coaching, he was a very successful coordinator and landed himself the Oakland Raiders’ head coaching job. After a short, unsuccessful stint in the NFL, Kiffin took the head job at Tennessee. After one successful season and a glimmer of hope for Volunteer fans, he bolted for USC and the glamour of LA.
Kiffin would coach the Trojans for the majority of three years, and things did not go nearly as well as he would have liked. His tenure at USC was a massive disappointment and ended with him being fired, and left, on the tarmac at the airport following an away game. Alabama head coach Nick Saban then brought him in to be his offensive coordinator, and Kiffin is now once again a highly sought-after head coach candidate.
As the OC for the Crimson Tide, Kiffin has given Alabama an explosive offense to perfectly compliment the team’s elite defense. Before he got to Tuscaloosa, the team asked the offense to simply manage the game make, minimize errors, and let the defense get the job done. Now, the Tide have an excellent offense, making them that much harder to stop.
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On the surface, a move to LSU makes quite a bit of sense for both sides.
For Kiffin, he would get another opportunity to coach a major college program and prove himself as a head coach. Many see him as your typical “top-level assistant coach who can’t get the job done as the head man,” and I’m sure he wants that label removed from his name. Kiffin would be given one of the nation’s top teams and a bottomless recruiting base, and would be guaranteed a meeting with Saban every year.
For LSU, the Tigers essentially get the exact opposite of Les Miles, which doesn’t seem like a bad thing at the moment. Kiffin is an offensive-minded coach and is one of the best there is at drawing up plays and making the correct call in timely spots. One of the biggest problems for LSU the last few seasons has been the inability to develop an offense to give their defense a chance to win games, and the argument is that Kiffin is a guy who could turn that around.
But I, for one, don’t think Lane Kiffin is the guy for the LSU Tigers. In fact, I think the decision might just move the program in the wrong direction. Allow me to explain.
As I said before, Kiffin’s track record as a head coach is underwhelming, to say the least. For as brilliant of an offensive mind as he is, the lack of success and constant job changing is astonishing. As an assistant he has always been regarded as one of the best there is, but when he is given full control things never seem to go well.
LSU needs a head coach who is a proven winner and inspires confidence in the fanbase. Herman is that. Shaw is that. Even Briles might be that. But Kiffin is a complete wildcard. Who knows? Maybe he’s finally put it all together and can be the coach everyone thought he could be when he was rising through the ranks. But there’s an even greater chance that he’s the same guy, and that he’d pick up where Miles left off-moving the team backward.
It’s also important to look at the longevity of each of Kiffin’s stops throughout his career. As a head coach, his longest stop as a coach at any level is two-and-a-half years, and he left his only successful head coaching gig after just one season. Whether it was a result of Kiffin quitting or a team letting him go, he can’t seem to stay in one spot for very long. The last thing we need is a coach coming here for two or three seasons, not winning anything meaningful, and moving on.
The LSU Tigers need to replace Les Miles with a proven winner. Miles has consistently gotten this program 10 or 11 wins a year, so if they move on from him, it needs to be for a guy who is a clear step up. Lane Kiffin is the furthest thing from that. He would be a huge risk, and if it were to backfire, it could lead to the program taking even more steps in the wrong direction.