Some folks are surprised that Lane Kiffin, famous princeling, is stooping so low as to grace Florida Atlantic of Conference USA with his presence. (His five previous stops: USC, the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee, USC again and Alabama.) But here we note what Houston booster/regent Tilman Fertitta said of Kiffin, whom the Cougars spurned as head coach: “(He) was not a safe hire.”
Kiffin’s career record as head coach is 40-36. He has talked a great game and delivered next to nothing. Maybe he’d have done well had he stayed at Tennessee for more than 13 games, but he skipped K-town for the bright lights of L.A., where not four years later he was fired on the tarmac of LAX and had to find a ride home.
As an offensive coordinator, Kiffin has done nicely at Alabama. But that’s as offensive coordinator, not as head coach. (Bama has one of those, thanks very much.) Forget about being the next Nick Saban. Nothing Kiffin has done as a head coach makes you think he’s the next Gary Barnett.
As a head coach, the only thing Kiffin has done without fail is tick people off. (Ergo, twice fired.) For all who believe L’il Kiffy has Grown Up while working in the court of the crimson king, my response would be: How can we know? Saban muzzles his assistants. His offensive coordinator could well be the same brat he was at Knoxville, but in Tuscaloosa he had no microphone.
How could Kirby Smart walk into a Power Five job when Kiffin couldn’t? Because Smart — apologies in advance — hadn’t proved himself to be a smart aleck. Because Smart appeared nothing if not solid. Kiffin has a track record of flightiness. He talks the talk, but let’s recall how his USC team that began the 2012 season ranked No. 1 finished: It lost to 6-7 Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
If you’re a Power Five athletic director, you want no part of Kiffin just yet. (Houston isn’t quite Power Five, but it balked, too.) You have to see if he has indeed matured before you’d assume that risk. You have to see if he can coach a team, as opposed to an offense.
That’s what Kiffin has to gain at Florida Atlantic — credibility. He looked good working under Saban, but who looks bad when the team never loses? Jimbo Fisher was Saban’s offensive coordinator and has won a national championship at Florida State. Jim McElwain was Saban’s O.C. and has won consecutive SEC East titles at Florida. At FAU of C-USA, Kiffin needs to prove he can do something on his own. Because he hasn’t yet.