Another cushy gig for Lane Kiffin has ended in disaster. Indeed, Nick Saban has decided to part ways with his offensive coordinator on the eve of a national championship rematch with No. 2 Clemson (13-1), this after Kiffin play-called the Tide to 26 straight wins.
Steve Sarkisian will take Kiffin’s place in Tampa on Jan. 9.
“It just never ends pretty with Lane,” Fox Sports analyst Petros Papadakis said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Him and Sark are pretty talented guys, X’s-and-O’s-wise. I’m not saying they can’t sit in a room and call plays and figure out personnel on that level and talk to your quarterback, whether in the booth or down on the field. They have a gift with that. You can probably say Charlie Weis had that gift for a long time in his career. Maybe he still has it. But to me, those guys were not – and are not – leaders of men, and both of them got too much too soon from Pete Carroll, who wanted to push Norm Chow out because frankly Pete wanted to be the only adult voice in the room. Kiffin and Sark never really developed their adult voice talking to kids, and I think that’s become blatantly obvious over the last few years.”
That is why Kiffin’s exits are often dramatic and unprofessional. Clay Helton, 44, and Kiffin, 41, are around the same age, but the maturity gap between the two is seismic. Could Kiffin have led the Trojans to nine straight wins, including a Rose Bowl victory over No. 5 Penn State, after a 1-3 start, as Helton did?
“The great thing that Clay Helton has going for him is that he’s an adult,” Papadakis said. “He’s going to make decisions that are probably indicative of an adult football coach with a lot of responsibility, and Lane and Sark didn’t have to make decisions like that consistently enough as head coaches and really even as assistants.”
Perhaps that is why Kiffin, who has coached storied programs and franchises, is heading to Boca Raton to take over a program that has finished 3-9 in each of the last three seasons.
“I’ve been to FAU,” Papadakis said. “That’s not the end of the football world, but you can see it from there. For Lane to take that job really speaks to how badly the thing with Saban needed to end. They all have the same agent – Jimmy Sexton – and that’s the reason that Lane and Sark and Saban were all in bed together in the first place. And really, those are great jobs for those guys because they don’t have to speak to the media. That’s when Lane really gets in trouble. That’s when Lane makes a fool of himself. He had to speak to the media this week. Of course he got in trouble. Every time Lane opens his mouth, something bad happens, which is why we’re all going to watch an incongruous amount of FAU football in 2017.”