Why Lane Kiffin was right to take the Florida Atlantic job
If it was anyone else, the former NFL, SEC, and Pac-12 head coach who has spent the last few years innovating and morphing Alabama’s offense into a spread-option outfit that Nick Saban would hate to defend would have been able to pick his next job from a bountiful pile of top-flight offers.
But it’s Lane Kiffin, so Oregon, Texas, and Baylor didn't call, and Houston balked.
The market just reacts a bit differently when they’re dealing with Lane.
Kiffin went to Alabama to reform his image and to work his way back to being a head coach again.
And he did just that — he’s a head coach again. Though it’s hard to imagine he thought the process would go like this.
Landing a top-flight head coaching job in college football is hard — really hard. So Kiffin is going to the bottom of the FBS rung — Florida Atlantic.
It could prove to be the best move of his career.
Even though it has to be a tough pill to swallow for Kiffin — he could have been the first, true $2 million coordinator in college football had he jumped to LSU; instead he’ll make half of that in Boca Raton — it’s the right decision for his career if he wants to be a major program head coach again.
Kiffin and FAU are entering this marriage with no misconceptions. The school needs a game-changing head coach — one who will bring it regional and national attention and that can push what Charlie Partridge had built to the next level in an area that's preposterously ripe with talent and in a conference that’s up for grabs (you see, FAU has a lot going for it) — and Kiffin needs a stepping stone — an opportunity to win again as a head coach so that he can get back to the level of USC and Tennessee.
Both parties would be fine with the marriage being a short one — that means that everything went to plan and the program is in a much better place than it currently is. Thanks for everything, no hard feelings — here's a few names for you on my way out the door.
In the meantime, Kiffin inherits a team that was built to succeed in 2017 — Partridge, who was fired after three years in Boca Raton, had been gearing up for a breakout in his fourth year and was blindsided when he was fired.
And in a wide-open Conference USA, where the perennial power Marshall is trending down and Western Kentucky is looking for a new coach, there’s little reason to think that conference championships are off the table in Kiffin’s first year.
It might come across as obvious, but if there’s anything that major program athletic directors want, it’s a head coach with a recent record of winning. Even then, landing the big-time job is hard in this current college football environment — what more did P.J. Fleck have to do at Western Michigan to warrant a move to a bigger job?
Kiffin is 41, and in his time as a coach, he’s experienced more — good and bad — than most head coaches will in an entire career. He’s on his second or third chapter, and he’s young enough to where that’s not a problem in the least bit — most coaches have to wait until their Kiffin’s age (or older) to get their first shot at a job like FAU.
So while it’s not the place Kiffin wanted to be when he envisioned his future after taking the Alabama job — he fairly, but incorrectly thought he could jump right back into a big-time job — the new FAU coach couldn’t have landed in a better situation to springboard himself into a big-time job. And this time, that springboard will actually work.