Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recapping the Year: Coaches on the Hotseat

Lane Kiffin, USC Trojans
Status: Canned after 5 games

I was right and then some! Kiffin only coached the first five games of the season, compiling a 3-2 record but losing at home to Washington State (which had to have been a first in more than a decade) and surrendering 62 points to Arizona State. The team was simply a disaster as there was almost no consistency in those first five games. They could only muster 7 and 17 points against Washington State and Utah State, respectively, while only giving up 10 and 14. But then they have a game like Arizona State where they score 41 and give up 62. Kiffin was pulled off of the bus at LAX after the loss to Arizona State and was replaced by interim coach Ed Ogeron, who promptly finished the season 7-2, including a dominating bowl victory over Fresno State.

Kiffin has now landed at Alabama to be the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Here is where I would like to introduce my theory on Lane Kiffin, or as I call him, Bane Kiffin. I see Kiffin as this Bane (Batman reference for the uninitiated) like figure who is sent by the NCAA to destroy programs that have become too powerful. Tennessee was his training grounds, but his first target was USC which had to be destroyed for how good they had been over the last decade and for their rampant NCAA violations. Kiffin continued year after year to get only marginal play out of some of the best players in the country. After doing what was in his powers to drag that team down, he has now been sent to Alabama. If Alabama misses out on making the playoffs this year, I'm submitting this idea to every major journalist.

As for USC, they have gone on and hired Steve Sarkisian away from Washington after not being convinced that Ogeron was the man to lead them moving forward. I have some mixed feeling about this hire. First, I believe that Sark is a much better head coach than Kiffin is. He showed that when he took over an awful program at Washington and got them back to respectable status in only a few years. However, this seems like another desperate grasp by USC to cling on to any memory of the Pete Carroll Years. Sarkisian has already gotten off to a hot start, pulling in a tremendous recruiting class with little time to work with. However, Kiffin was also able to have the same success on the recruiting trail but never put it all together. I still think that Sark will have much more success than Kiffin did at USC however.

Mack Brown, Texas Longhorns
Status: Fired after the season

He couldn't do enough to save his job this season. I thought Brown was going to be fired after the first three games when they dropped to BYU and Ole Miss in absolutely embarrassing fashion, giving up 445 rushing yards to BYU and 275 to Ole Miss. Brown was able to turn things around for the middle portion of the season, including a huge victory over an Oklahoma squad that was ranked 12th at the time. But two regular season losses to Big 12 opponents at the end of the season really ruined their chances of playing in a major bowl game. They had a chance to go to the Fiesta Bowl in the last game of the season playing at Baylor, but couldn't muster the offense to keep up with Baylor. The same script played out when they went up against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl, where they lost 30-7. They were outclassed in all phases.

The sad thing is that Brown was fired amid rumors that Nick Saban could leave Alabama to come coach the Longhorns. I never believed that Saban would want to leave Alabama, but the Texas Athletic Department apparently thought they had enough to make a serious offer. Saban, of course, stayed at Alabama and Texas was left without a coach. They went through a series potential head coaches, ranging from UCLA's Jim Mora Jr. to Jon Gruden. They finally landed on former Louisville head coach and Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, much to the ire of many boosters and alumni. I think that Strong has a good resume and was a good choice for Texas. He was the defensive coordinator for Urban Meyer during their title runs, and defense has been a key weakness for the Longhorns recently. Strong has a good opportunity in front of him since Texas has the best high school athletes in the country. If he can keep tier one players in state and supplement them with tier two and three players from Louisiana, Florida, and California, Texas could be back on top in only a few years.

Les Miles, LSU Tigers
Status: Still There

I'll admit that this was a bit of a stretch, but when you're talking about rabid SEC fans was it really that unrealistic? Les Miles showed a lot of flexibility and versatility this year with the offense and the defense switching roles. While the defense was normally what won LSU games, this year they were often shredded by opponents. And the LSU offense, which was run-heavy and could become stagnant, lit up scoreboards in multiple games. LSU lost to the three teams I predicted they could lose to (Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia) but overcame some adversity when their quarterback Zach Mettenberger went down. Mettenberger drastically improved last year under Cam Cameron, a former NFL offensive coordinator. They had only an average outing against Iowa in their bowl game, but next year they should be more ready to challenge for the SEC West again.

Bo Pelini, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Status: Inconceivably Still coaching at Nebraska

I have no idea how Pelini has managed to keep his job at Nebraska. He must have pictures of Nebraska's AD doing some really perverted shit. I don't know how this team continues to only lose four games every year. Its like divine order. They got smoked at home by Iowa in the last game of the year, and then beat a ranked Georgia team (albeit without Murray) in their bowl game to finish at 9-4. Its really not his fault considering injuries forced him to dig down to his third string quarterback for more than a third of the season. Yet it just seemed like he wanted to get fired at parts of the season. At the beginning of the season, audio tapes of him leaked that called out Huskers fans for being a bunch of fair weathered fans and telling them they don't deserve a winning team. In the game against Iowa, with the team needing something to happen to comeback against the Hawkeyes, he ran a fake punt from inside their own 30 yard line. It was stunning really. He even challenged the athletic director to fire him after that loss. HOW THE FUCK IS HE STILL COACHING THERE?! It seriously defies all logic. I thought for sure that the decision to fire him would have been made after that. I do understand that the Georgia game might have been somewhat redeeming, but this is just another year of mediocrity from a once great program. Pelini hasn't been able to take his to anything really significant since his time began in Lincoln. Next year could be the real make or break year for him.

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