I’ve been a little under the weather lately, to be quite honest. It’s flu season, and on a college campus that kind of stuff spreads pretty quickly. Everyone’s coughing or sneezing or chugging DayQuil. The flu can kind of get to your brain, too, and mash things up a little. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s what.
So when I read USC head coach Lane Kiffin recently admitted to ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski that the 2012 football season debacle was his fault, I thought I was delirious. Kiffin, who never admits to having done anything wrong, would now come out and take blame. My flu must have reached a climax: It was playing tricks on me with regard to my university and its head football coach. I figured that when my sickness passed, the story wouldn’t exist and that it had been a figment of my imagination.
Well, I’m feeling better now, and it’s still here on ESPN.com. Kiffin actually held himself accountable.
Kiffin told Wojciechowski, “You got to blame somebody, so you’re going to blame the head coach — and you should. I blame myself for this.”
Is this the turning of a corner? Is this Lane Kiffin 2.0, reborn as a new man as suggested yesterday by fellow columnist Nick Selbe?
Though I do believe Kiffin probably does feel a little bad for the travesty that was USC football this past season, I struggle to actually believe that Kiffin is turning over a new leaf here. Call me a cynic, but talk is cheap.
Nothing in this interview really leads me to think that he actually takes the blame for this. Kiffin tells Wojciechowski about the gaffes he made this year, including the deflated ball and the jersey-changing scandal with Cody Kessler. Wojciechowski notes that Kiffin, “[Has] no anger in his voice. He speaks about the incidents as if they were clinical studies.” That’s the Kiffin we all know.
If Kiffin were really sincere, maybe he’d show some emotion. If I had gone 7-6 with the most talented team in the country, I’d be pretty upset with myself as a coach. But again, it’s a stone-faced and monotone Kiffin that we get. College football is a game of emotion; you have to show some on occasion, even when you’re the figure at the center of the controversy. And again, it’s severely lacking.
People were taken aback by this article, including Wojciechowski, because Kiffin admitted to mistakes. But until there’s action, I’m calling this a bluff.
To truly show that he’s truly learned from his mistakes, the first thing that has to be done is a complete makeover. Kiffin must look in the mirror and take initiative. If he really wants to turn this ship around, he’d hire an offensive coordinator and actually coach this team.
After the Sun Bowl, the ESPN article reported that Kiffin “‘lost the locker room.” It’s not hard to see why. He usually has his head buried in his play-calling chart, more concerned with what play to run on second-and-7 than about motivating his team as the game takes place just a few yards away from him.
Step one, Lane, is to coach. Let someone else handle the play calling. Lead these young men. Because unless you do, no one else is going to. Players take on the identity of their coach, and if they see you acting nonchalantly about everything on the field, they’re going to act the exact same way.
Hiring a new defensive coordinator was a step, and these “admissions” sound really nice. But, until a change occurs in the way that Kiffin actually coaches and handles himself, I’m not buying any of it. I’m not saying that Kiffin can’t change, and that he isn’t going to make these changes (though, knowing his track record, it seems doubtful). The bottom line is that to acknowledge faults is one thing, but to actually alter the way you handle things is another.
He has step one down, but I don’t see step two happening. A tiger doesn’t change its stripes. Coaches tend not to change regardless of circumstance. So if fans are looking for a completely transformed Lane Kiffin, they probably aren’t going to find one. The only way to see such a change would be to imagine it in delirium. Maybe we should all get the flu.
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