The most shocking part of USC’s decision to hire Lane Kiffin as its next football coach is the level of shock exhibited by everyone else.
It seemed as if the whole college football world — fans, media members and other coaches — recoiled in horror as the news broke. But there was at least one individual who sat in his chair and nodded with approval.
That would be me.
The Kiffin hire — and everything that comes with it — is exactly what USC needs to continue the legacy that Pete Carroll built.
Yes, he essentially treated Tennessee like a one-night stand, departing in the morning with nothing more than a heartless goodbye kiss.
His farewell press conference was indeed a bizarre scene. Kiffin spoke as if a judge had just asked him if he understood the charges, not like a coach who was about to accept his dream job.
But that’s the nature of the business these days. Don’t blame the man, blame the machine.
And sure, he committed a few secondary recruiting violations. But what’s a few recruiting violations among friends? None of them were egregious mistakes.
Hiring Kiffin provides the Trojans with a perfect mix. He is enough of a link to the Carroll era to instill continued confidence in the program from the start, but he’s still his own coach with the drive to succeed.
He knows the landscape well, having been a part of Carroll’s stay at USC. He has run up and down Howard Jones Field, walked out in front of a packed Coliseum crowd and spent some time in Heritage Hall.
Kiffin brings with him the mentality necessary to succeed at an elite program.
He is young and charismatic, making him the perfect choice to connect with current players and recruit new ones.
What recruit wouldn’t want a passionate head coach? What mother and father wouldn’t want their son to play for a family man who emphasized the importance on Wednesday of bringing his wife and children home?
Kiffin has the swagger to coach the Trojans. He is very confident but straddles the line between confidence and cockiness.
Sometimes, he crosses it.
People might be offended by his antics. They might not have liked his comments about University of Florida coach Urban Meyer and the Gators or the assertions he made while coaching Tennessee.
But that confidence is required to coach at a top school. Let me remind you that Carroll carried himself with extreme confidence, and it rubbed off on his team too. Sometimes, he too conveyed cockiness.
It worked for him and the Trojans. Why can’t it work for Kiffin?
He also brings with him a couple of coaches who will do wonders for USC.
His father, Monte Kiffin, is the proud papa of the highly successful “Tampa 2” defense. He is one of the foremost defensive minds in the game of football today and an invaluable asset to the Trojans.
He also brings Ed Orgeron, the man who helped Carroll build his dynasty at USC, back to Los Angeles. Orgeron is an excellent recruiter with previous head coaching experience — and he is intimately familiar with the workings of the USC football program.
Yes, there are questions surrounding Kiffin’s on-field experience as a head coach. He has won only 12 games in his head coaching career, not exactly an earth-shattering total.
But look a little bit deeper inside the numbers.
In Oakland, he did more with less talent than people realize. He coached a team with a washed-up Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown and JaMarcus Russell. They’re not Rich Gannon and Darrell Lamonica.
The fact that he won five games for Al Davis and didn’t punch anyone in the process is a miracle in and of itself.
At Tennessee, he took over a 5-7 team that lost by an average of two touchdowns in its seven defeats.
Last year, the Volunteers went 7-5 during the regular season and made an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, albeit a loss to No. 11 Virginia Tech.
But in one year, Kiffin succeeded in putting the Vols back on the right track.
Here, he doesn’t have to do that. Last season was a down year for the Trojans, but they can’t be counted out in 2010.
When Carroll had the program rolling, he never rebuilt — he merely reloaded.
By hiring Kiffin, the Trojans simply put more bullets in the chamber to fire off another title.
“Thrilla on Manilla Paper” runs every other Friday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org.