Chance to build legacy outside Saban’s shadow can draw Kiffin to LSU

17 September 2016: Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin during the Alabama Crimson Tide 48-43 win over the Ole Miss Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire)
Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire

When news broke that Ed Orgeron was shedding the interim label to become the permanent head coach of the LSU Tigers, it was only a matter of time before rumors surfaced of a possible reunion with good friend and Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin.

Orgeron’s introductory press conference, regardless of intention, did little to quell these flames.

“We are going to look at recruiting the best offensive coordinator in football and bring him to LSU,” Orgeron revealed almost immediately. 

Kiffin, who is credited with modernizing the Crimson Tide offense, is certainly in that discussion after last season’s national title and a flawless 12-0 run in 2016.

Orgeron followed up that remark by emphasizing the need to employ a spread offense run by a dual-threat quarterback — quite similar to the system Kiffin has put in place at Alabama.

Naturally, as offensive coordinator talk progressed, the conversation turned to his old pal and two-time boss.

“Coach, you have a personal relationship with Lane Kiffin, and he is someone that has been identified (as a potential candidate),” a reporter remarked. “Is he somebody that you would like to pursue, and is that the type of coordinator you are looking for?”

To no one’s surprise, the gravelly-voiced Cajun did not tip his hand.

“All I’m going to say is I’m going to try to go out and get the best coordinator in football,” Orgeron replied.  

He may not have spelled it out, but yes, Lane Kiffin is absolutely on Coach O’s radar. Given their personal history, it would not be a surprise if Kiffin is the leading candidate, despite being engulfed in a hunt for back-to-back national championships.

It is obvious that Kiffin to LSU would be a win for the Tigers. What remains unclear is whether the move would make sense for an offensive coordinator in a position most coaches could only dream of.

At Alabama, Kiffin has the stability of knowing he has the perfect quarterback for his offense in true freshman Heisman Trophy candidate Jalen Hurts, as well as the evident benefits that go along with coaching under Nick Saban, the undisputed greatest coach of his generation. If he maintains the status quo, Kiffin will have landed a solid head coaching job within a few years, just as former Saban coordinators and current SEC head coaches Kirby Smart and Jim McElwain did before him.

Outside of these factors, however, it is not as though Kiffin has some tremendous emotional attachment to Alabama. This, combined with a unique opportunity at LSU, makes the move from Tuscaloosa to Baton Rouge a very real possibility.

Kiffin’s ambition has been a story line of his career ever since jumping ship from Tennessee to USC in 2010, only one year into his first collegiate head coaching job. As a result, his public perception has been largely negative since. Kiffin was once a rising star in the coaching ranks after leading USC to a 23-3 record as offensive coordinator in 2005 and 2006, but a pair of underwhelming head coaching stints with the Trojans and Oakland Raiders, along with his unceremonious exit from Tennessee, altered this narrative.

Becoming LSU’s next offensive coordinator could change all of that.

The theme of the LSU football program in recent memory has been championship-level defense that is hindered by inept offensive play. The offense certainly showed a spark following Orgeron’s appointment as interim head coach four games into the season, but there were also glaring shortcomings in losses to Alabama and Florida that illustrated the need for an elite offensive coordinator.

Jim McElwain and his offensive coordinator at Florida, Doug Nussmeier, are former Alabama offensive coordinators who won national titles under Nick Saban. Will Lane Kiffin want to leave Alabama in order to make a bigger name for himself? (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)

Jim McElwain and his offensive coordinator at Florida, Doug Nussmeier, are former Alabama offensive coordinators who won national titles under Nick Saban. Will Lane Kiffin want to leave Alabama in order to make a bigger name for himself? (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)

Simply put, success at LSU would do more to elevate Kiffin’s place in college football lore than remaining at Alabama.

With the Crimson Tide, Kiffin is not viewed as having accomplished anything more groundbreaking than what McElwain and Doug Nussmeier, fellow national title-winning Alabama offensive coordinators, have done. It is a fact of life when coaching from Saban’s shadow.

At LSU, Kiffin has the chance to not only become a beloved figure among a fan base that has been tortured by futility on offense, but also prove that he is a true offensive mastermind and not just the latest quality coordinator to become a beneficiary of Alabama dominance.

Kiffin finds himself in the enviable position of having no poor options. LSU presents a new challenge with an old friend, while Alabama provides security — and with either, a pay raise is assuredly on the way.

If personal legacy is weighing heavily on Kiffin’s mind, though, the Tigers are the obvious choice.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Timothyf7

    Dec 2, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    He would be a fool to make a lateral move. A HC job will be open for him.

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