USF coaching search: Why Nick Saban thinks Lane Kiffin is ready to be a head coach again
And no less of an authority than Alabama coach Nick Saban believes Kiffin is "absolutely" ready for another head coaching shot.
"He wants to be a head coach," Saban said last week in Atlanta after beating the Gators to win the SEC title. "I want him to be a head coach. I want to help him get a head coaching job."
Kiffin has resurrected his career under Saban as the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator. He has helped ‘Bama win three consecutive SEC championships with three different quarterbacks with three varying skill sets.
With Blake Sims at quarterback, Kiffin ditched the pro-style system for more no-huddle looks in 2014. ‘Bama finished 12-2 and went to the College Football Playoff.
With Florida State transfer Jake Coker at quarterback, Kiffin used more play-action passes and pounded the ball with Heisman-winning running back Derrick Henry. ‘Bama finished 14-1 and won the national title.
Now with freshman Jalen Hurts at quarterback, Kiffin has let his dual-threat talent run. ‘Bama is 13-0, No. 1 in the country and headed for a Dec. 31 national semifinal at the Peach Bowl. Oh, and he just helped the Tide up 54 points on Florida's elite defense.
"A lot of guys are committed to a system, and then they need to have the players that can fit into that system to make that system work," Saban said last week. "But I think it's a true sign of a really good coach who can take the players that he has and adapt the system to make it work for them."
Kiffin has ties to Tampa Bay; his father, Monte, was the Bucs' defensive coordinator on their Super Bowl run.
Kiffin's second act at ‘Bama has been necessary because of how his first head coaching jobs flamed out. He was 5-15 with the Oakland Raiders. He talked a good game at Tennessee, saying in his introductory news conference that he looked forward to "singing Rocky Top all night long after we beat Florida next year." He lost, 23-13, and left the Vols for USC, where he went 28-15 and was famously fired at the airport.
But Saban believes Kiffin is ready for another chance. Kiffin has reportedly been in the mix at Houston, and I expect his name to pop up some more in the USF search.
"I think he's proven, when he was a head coach, he had a reasonably good amount of success, much more than I think he gets credit for..." Saban said. "He's done a phenomenal job in the three years that he's been with us relative to taking the players that we had and actually molding a system, especially for the quarterback to be successful in. And I think those are signs of tremendous maturity as a coach who is not just committed to a system, but is committed to doing the things that he has to do to help players be successful."