Kiffin should foster pleasant environment
When USC coach Lane Kiffin peers across the field to the opposite sideline Saturday afternoon when the Trojans take on Arizona, he just might be able to learn something from his opponents.
Who should he be looking at? He should be looking at Wildcats coach Mike Stoops.
Now, you might wonder what Kiffin might be able to glean from looking at a coach with a 41-48 career record who lives in the shadow of his much more accomplished brother, Bob. Well, he can learn how to be a little more animated.
Few coaches are more stoic and composed on the sideline than Kiffin, who rarely flashes the slightest bit of emotion. He doesnât yell. He doesnât jump. He doesnât throw his headset. Heâs cool and heâs collected. Heâs kind of boring.
Even fewer coaches are more excitable than the red-faced, bulged-eyed Stoops, whose gaze of anger will burn through your TV screen. He yells, he screams. He rants, he raves.
Perhaps neither extreme is the appropriate on-field demeanor, but Kiffin could stand to take some of Stoopsâ manifest passion and inject it into his routine.
Kiffinâs hesitancy to be demonstrative on the field is understandable. As he continues to flee from his checkered past, he likely wants to do his best to divert attention from himself. After all, the easiest (and often most hilarious) way for a coach to attract eyeballs is to throw a temper tantrum on national television.
Though Kiffinâs antics and behavior might not direct the focus at himself, his gameplan can â as seen in the loss to Arizona State, where he called running plays on three third-and-long scenarios, jeopardizing each of those drives.
But during the last two seasons, Kiffin has been excessively docile, passing over the necessary threshold of caution and coming up dull. Dullness doesnât seem like the right persona for a coach striving to improve his team.
When Pete Carroll was still at USC, part of the reason he was such a great recruiter was he fostered an on- and off-field environment few could resist. He would cheer on the field, high-five his players, jump on the sidelines and was always smiling. The emotional involvement of the head coach better motivates players to play well, and Carroll was great at displaying that investment.
Kiffin is certainly invested in winning, just as any coach getting paid his salary would be, but the true effect isnât in the fact that he cares; itâs in how his caring manifests itself.
During games, Kiffin remains stone-faced and calculated, showing almost no reaction to the most exciting plays. The most excitement youâll see on the field these days is a handful of players on the bench waving their arms on third down in hopes of getting the crowd to support a defensive stop â and most of the time, itâs just a small portion of the student section who obliges.
When redshirt sophomore cornerback Torin Harris returned the block field-goal attempt to seal the Utah win, not only did Kiffin show no signs of celebration, but he also shepherded his players off the field when they started to celebrate the win.
He has to let his players have some fun out there.
Moreover, a stern (while not overbearing) coach seems more likely to promote discipline and limit errors and poor decision-making by the team. Kiffin has done well to make over the program off the field, instituting strict penalties for unacceptable behavior and awarding patches for academically excellent players. But he doesnât seem to value accountability to the same degree on the field.
If Kiffin were to scold and yell at players who make mistakes or commit penalties, it might dissuade players from making further errors. It certainly canât be any less helpful than the silent smirk of disappointment he typically sports when players jog off the field after a miscue.
Stoops is always in playersâ faces, causing them to have night terrors on a regular basis. Kiffin doesnât need to get on that level, but some vocal encouragement and hype would be appropriate to get the team in the right frame of mind.
So when sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey gets beat by receiver Juron Criner this Saturday, or senior tailback Marc Tyler fumbles the ball or junior safety T.J. McDonald puts on his Taylor Mays hat and puts a late licking on a poor Wildcats runner, Kiffin should be in their ears.
And when junior quarterback Matt Barkley throws a 55-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Robert Woods, he should congratulate them â loudly.
Itâs time he made Trojans football fun and exciting again.
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