Kiffin watch: it’s getting personal now.

Man, Kyle King certainly stuck a stick in the hornets’ nest with this post, didn’t he?  In addition to the fast and fierce response he got from Urnge Nation in the comments to it, he also inspired this shot in return at Rocky Top Talk.

With regard to the latter, I’m not really interested in getting into a point-by-point critique (besides, cocknfire’s already done a good job with that at Team Speed Kills), although I am highly amused by this defense of Junior’s record in Oakland:

… Sure, he didn’t have great success in the NFL. But he was not exactly dealt pocket aces either. The Raiders were 2-14 in 2006. In 2007, with Kiffin, they were 4-12. They were 1-4 when he got fired the next year. They ended up at 5-11….winning at roughly the same clip with Kiffin as without him. Did he turn the franchise around? No, he did not. But he did get two more wins in his first year than they got the previous year….the team did improve.

If that’s the performance level they’re looking for in Knoxville these days, I’m down with that.

But I digress.  What’s become more and more striking to me as we watch things unfold is that Junior has been quite successful at one thing so far as the head coach of the Tennessee football program.  He’s a relentless self-promoter who’s managed to make the Tennessee story all about himself.

Don’t believe me?  Look at what Kiffin sells to recruits – he and his coaching staff as a pipeline to the pros.  Look at how he turned the emphasis in the athletic facilities from Vol history to players now in the NFL that he and his staff coached at their prior stops.  Even the now notorious secondary recruiting snafus are all painted as part and parcel of the Laner’s persona, rather than a reflection of the program as a whole (if you think I’m wrong about that, compare the reaction to UT’s recent violations with that to Auburn’s “Big Cat” whoop-de-do).

As I said, it’s all about Lane Kiffin.

And we’ve all – defenders, mockers, media alike – bought into it.   It’s rather stunning when you think about it.  It’s not like UT is some fly-by-night directional school now trying to make a name for itself.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Historically speaking, it’s arguably the second most-storied program in the conference.  Yet the Vol faithful have been quick to embrace the new narrative, even if, as Holly pointed out over and over in the comments to Kyle’s post, nobody has the first clue where things are headed.

And let’s not forget that all this attention is being garnered by a guy whose resume is, to be charitable about it, kind of thin at this point in time.  A guy whose notoriety is as much about whom he’s related to and whom he’s married to as what he’s accomplished with a head set on.  That’s good marketing in my book.  At least it is for the Laner, anyway.

The catch to elevating the personality above the program is that the normal bonds of loyalty between coach and program that we fans take for granted really don’t exist.

Vince Dooley had a famous explanation for his reluctance to throw the football.  “Three things can happen when you pass,” he’d say, “and two of ’em are bad.”  That’s the way I see the future for Junior and Tennessee – either he flops and gets canned, he succeeds and leaves for greener pastures or he succeeds and stays for the long haul.  Knowing what you do about him right now, how would you rank the probabilities?


UPDATE: You really ought to read this David Hale post, if for no other reason than that he manages to tie Cheers to Junior’s recruiting.


Filed under Don't Mess With Lane Kiffin, The Blogosphere

14 responses to “Kiffin watch: it’s getting personal now.

  1. godawg

    I’ll go out on a limb and take option numero uno…


  2. Bulldog Bry

    After the ESPN/recruit-on-tv debacle, I became convinced that Kiffin is a genius. No one (save smart people like you and Kyle) has talked about his failures as a coach. We’re only talking about taped booster meetings, elevator rendezvous, and twitter. Thus he has succeeded in putting off defeat at least until the fall.

    And TSK is right, USC’s offense under Kiffin had WAY more playmakers than our offense last year.


  3. The Realist

    I believe I identified the common threads in the comments from the Urnge that attempt to explain why Kiffin will eventually be a success at Tennessee:

    1) Kiffin can recruit. His staff will be a pipeline into the NFL, and recruits will flock to that.
    2) Kiffin was successful at USC, and no one can succeed in Oakland.
    3) Monte Kiffin
    4) Layla Kiffin
    5) Did I mention he can recruit? If he can’t win, we’ll have a full cupboard for the next guy.

    To these I say:
    1) So far, he can recruit. But, recruits are not dumb. If Kiffin falls flat on his face, I find it unlikely that he’ll haul in top 5 classes year after year. He’ll have to show that he has staying power, and winning the recruiting national championship each year isn’t much to hang your hat on. Plus, how long will Monte stick around?

    2) Kiffin was co-offensive coordinator with Steve Sarkisian after Norm Chow left for less green pastures. HP (If I recall correctly) says that Kiffin was roundly despised at USC (I can’t imagine why). If you can identify what Kiffin did at USC that can’t be credited to a large extent to either Chow or Sarkisian, then I’ll buy that he was a success at USC. Otherwise, no dice. Plus, Bill Callahan took Oakland to a Super Bowl in 2002. He was offensive coordinator in 2001 for the Tuck Rule Game in the AFC Championship. He flopped a big floppy flop at Nebraska.

    3) One, he is old. Two, he invented a defense decades ago, which was really only a tweak of a defense that has existed since Monte’s good friend Moses parted the Sea. He’s not some young, hip innovator that is constantly creating new, exciting schemes. Three, he is accustomed to having a virtually unlimited amount of time to meet, gameplan, scheme, teach, whatever with his professional players. Now, he has 20 hours a week. Is that enough time to incorporate his genius into his players?

    4) Enough already. Seriously. If you are that hard up to look at someone remotely attractive, then use the intertubes for what they were invented for… free porn.

    5) This is the saddest commentary of them all. I understand why Tennessee fans believe Kiffin will succeed. Being a fan means hopeless devotion and eternal optimism during good times, bad times, and uncertain times. I would characterize these times as uncertain times for Tennessee. But, optimism should still spring eternal for the Urnge, and fans of other teams should browbeat them for it… that’s what rivalry is about. So, I understand irrational optimism. I still believe WillieMart will coach ’em up, and Joe Cox will use his super ginger powers to beat Florida. Being a fan sometimes requires you to completely ignore the facts in front of your face in the spirit of undying devotion. I say all of that to say this…

    If there is even one shred of an ounce of a whisper of a thought in your mind that Kiffin will “leave the cupboard full,” then you have already admitted defeat. You are not only conceding that what everyone is saying could be right, you have already rationalized to yourself his failure and firing, and have preempted the eventual collapse with your own spin… just in case. It’s like signing a prenup. If you believe it is reasonably possible that it may all go horribly wrong, then you have one foot out the door before you even really get started.


  4. Left to Right

    Great posts by the Senator and The Realist.


  5. Turd Ferguson

    I can’t even believe that there’s actually a debate about this. There are absolutely no good reasons for believing that Kiffin will be successful. That’s not to say that he won’t; just that there aren’t any reasons (so far) to believe that he will.

    His success at USC — assuming it’s even legitimate to attribute it to him — is irrelevant. The Pac-10 isn’t the SEC, and Tennessee fans should know better.

    And recruiting involves an entirely different skill set than coaching. A good recruiter is just a good salesperson. But there isn’t any reason to think that even the best salesperson will know how to handle gameday in Gainesville (or even gameday in Knoxville, for that matter). The inference there is just stupid.

    Being a head football coach in the SEC is too unique an animal to be making any hopeful inferences at all regarding a new coach’s future success. I don’t care if it’s Bill Belichick, the default “best guess” in this league must always be that a new head coach will fail. And if he succeeds, be pleasantly surprised.


  6. Dog in Fla

    Global War on Lane (GWOL) Crisis of the Day (COD) Piece (extended version), 11 June 2009.

    Zero Eleven O’Clock or so, Department of Fatherland Security meeting, Bunker, Green Zone, Knoxville:

    Monte MIA lately so Lane honchoing the daily Department of Fatherland Security briefings. Lane asks Coach O if he wouldn’t mind taking a muster of assistant coach troopers.

    Ordinarily, O would have bit Lane’s arm off if Lane ever had the gonads to think Lane was higher on the food chain than O, but O happily goes along, takes muster, thinking that he is next in line to be the head coach after Lane beats out Urban for the Notre Dame job next year.

    O has not yet realized that when Ole Miss fired Cutcliffe and replaced him with O, as soon as Lane and Hamilton are out the door, O will be gone too and whoever the new UT AD is will hire Cutcliffe away from Duke. That seems to be obvious to everyone but O. But why think about things that are going to happen in the future, carpe per diem.

    O reports all present and accounted for except for Monte who is still AWOL.

    Lane calls meeting to order, lifts front leg, points and stares at AD Mike Hamilton. Hamilton wonders whether Lane has some medical problem he didn’t disclose on his job app that might give Hamilton a chance to ditch Lane for failure to disclose. Lane holds point, drops it and then intros Hamilton to assistant coach troopers.

    Back when Monte was in charge, Hamilton tried to get an invite from Monte but could get no closer to the daily Department of Fatherland Security briefings other than to stand outside the bunker with his ear to the heavily armored hatch trying without success to listen to what was going on inside.

    Most of assistant coach troopers had not even met the AD before and, at best, were disinterested in what he was about to try to say to them.

    Hamilton, desperately seeking Monte, asks for location of Monte. Lane shrugs and replies, “Who knows, I’m in charge now.” Hamilton quivers, reminds self to get Tennessee National Guard to increase BOLO efforts for Monte.

    Lane tosses mic to Hamilton, who fumbles, then picks it up and asks the assistant coach troopers,

    “Do any of you guys know how to use the ethernet?”

    No hands raised and blank looks.

    Hamilton tells the troopers that all, he, they and Lane, in the Green Zone are under daily all-out whitering disinformation and propaganda attacks from enemy correspondents like this guy who claims to be a Senator, TK King and other pains in the ass.

    Hamilton, who has long known that he will be first to walk the plank if this show flops, has been under increasingly heavy fire for not hiring Spurrier, a Johnson City boy, or Little Chuckie, both of whom are experienced battle hardened entertainers in their own right.

    Hamilton, however, jumped the gun, hired Milli Vanilli instead, keeps getting letters from Al Davis and keeps being pointed and stared at by Head Coach Pat Summit.

    Hamilton tells the troopers that they need to increase rehearsals. If not, all are going down. A couple of the troopers who are listening, look up and feign attention.

    Lane grabs the mic from Hamilton and tells him that he thought Hamilton was only going to give a presentation on how not to get caught doing more than one Secondary Violation a day, not on how to do entertainment.

    Lane goes on to say to Hamilton and the assistant coach troopers that Lane knows just a little about entertainment, primary violations, secondary violations and warfare just having had combat tours of duty in inner city LA and Oakland. Lane’s even had hand-to-hand with the old pirate, Al “Just Win Baby!” Davis, and fought him to a draw.

    Lane’s got some ribbons, damn it! Those who misunderestimate Lane are going to be sorry, that you are either with Lane or against Lane and God help you if you are against Lane because you’re going to need x-ray vision through the walls of Neyland because you’ll be in section 37 sea watching the games from the Tennessee River.

    Lane, a quick learner, picked up on speaking in the third and in the paranoia from Urban.

    Lane tells Hamilton to keep on going with the line that no matter what happens, it’s all part of the master plan and as long as the enemy correspondents spell Lane’s name right and put all the double consonants and vowels in the right place in spelling Tennessee, we’ve got them right where we want them.

    Lane tells troopers to knock off for the rest of the day, reminds them that tomorrow is Casual Friday and asks Layla Two for his plastic bottle of spray tan. Lane is feeling so pumped after taking command and control of the Department of Fatherland Security meeting that he thinks he’ll call a booster meeting and wants to look all bronzey for the Vol fans.

    Hamilton depressed, puts on combat gear, climbs ladder back out of bunker, gets on Schwin and pedals off in a zig-zag pattern trying to avoid the routine daily incoming rocket and mortar fire inside the Green Zone.


  7. There’s one thing that I still don’t understand in all of this back-and-forth. People in the SEC talk trash about each other’s coaches all the time, and nobody takes it all that seriously. Urban Meyer is a thin-skinned wuss who coaches a bunch of thugs; Mark Richt can’t win a national title to save his life. Gene Chizik is a joke; Nick Saban is a sleaze who over-signs recruiting classes. Blah, blah, blah. Salient points occasionally get made in the midst of all this, but at the end of the day it’s just the “You suck”/”No, YOU suck” banter we football nuts have come to know and cherish.

    But — and maybe I’m biased, or I’ve just been paying too close attention — there’s a different tone from the Vol fans when they’re put in the position of coming up with a comeback or defending Kiffin. They’re taking this way seriously. When you talk about Kiffin, they take it personally, and not that they’re the first fan base in the SEC that’s ever done that, either, but . . . I mean, I love Mark Richt, but I don’t feel like my intelligence has been directly insulted when someone disparages him. I just respond “scoreboard, bitch” or, if I can’t do that, I just mutter “pretty tough talk, we’ll see how well you back it up in September” and leave it at that.

    No, we don’t know whether or not Kiffin will be a success, but when has that ever stopped CFB nuts from making predictions? It’s just that the rest of the conference’s doom-and-gloom predictions for the Kiffin Era seem to be soooo much more hurtful to the Vol fanbase than they would be for anyone else’s coach, and I can’t figure out why that is. I mean, Vol fans have been saying all along that we should be grateful for Kiffin because he’s given us something to blog about in an otherwise boring offseason . . . so we’re blogging about it, and they’re pissed. What’s the problem?


    • I agree.

      The strangest thing about that post at Rocky Top Talk was the author’s criticism in the comments of the guys at Team Speed Kills for repeatedly referring to Kiffin by nickname.

      Still, I can’t complain. From this blogger’s selfish standpoint, Junior’s been everything you could ask for.


      • And did you see TSK’s response? It actually included the phrase “I sincerely hope that I’ve not overly offended Tennessee fans with my commentary on Lane Kiffin . . . ”

        Jesus H. Christ, when was the last time any SEC fan felt the need to say something like that? When was the last time anyone cared?

        Everyone needs to un-bunch their g%$damn culottes and remember that this is the SEC. We’re not supposed to say nice things about each other’s coaches. And if you have a problem with that, GO PLAY INTRAMURALS, BROTHER!, or something.


        • The Realist

          Totally agree. I have to wonder if the national attention/criticism has something to do with it. It’s almost like they could handle SEC types giving them hell, but all of this national scrutiny by ESPN, etc. is more than they can handle… which is funny because Kiffin allegedly is orchestrating all of it, of which they approve.


        • Dog in Fla

          The unintended consequences delivered not only unto the Vol Nation, but unto us at Georgia also, for which we are eternally grateful,

          (at least until the time Lane beats us and then, of course, it will surely be not because of Lane but because the game day temperature was the same for both teams, Willie, injuries, loss of too many first round draft picks, redshirting this guy, not redshirting that guy, the lack of an effective pre-game blessing plan, unfair that Tennessee had a special teams or the fact that the game was not played in the neutral site of Jacksonville, Alabama)

          makes our vicious ad hominem virtual attacks on All Things Vol non-fallacious because those attacks go directly to the credibility of the brilliant ad hoc story strands coming each and every day from Lane and Hamilton in their never-ending story effort to weave what they call the basket of truth.

          Some mistakenly may be tempted to go so far as to call them false prophets. Untrue. They are entertainment. Some day that entertainment will end.


    • Will Q

      I agree as well. Hell, it wasn’t too long ago everyone was trash-talking about how Urban Meyer and his spread offense were going to be a huge failure in the SEC. I can’t really recall any Florida fans jumping to his defense, probably because they needed convincing as much as anyone else. And that was a coach with a proven track record.


  8. Left to Right

    One thought-maybe, maybe Kiffin’s assistants are good enough to bail him out. A head coach with good assistants doesn’t necessarily have to have much input as to what occurs on the field in order for the team to play competitive football (example: JoePa).

    If I were a Vol fan, I would rest my hopes on Kiffin’s assistants rendering him superfluous on game day.


    • Will Q

      You don’t even have to look past Fulmer to see that good assistants can bail out a mediocre head coach.