If nothing else, USC head coach Lane Kiffin provides for some solid sound bites. He didn’t disappoint on Wednesday.
Quoted in an ESPN L.A. article, Kiffin discussed quarterback Matt Barkley’s draft status. Barkley took a tumble down the draft boards this season, and it’s possible he falls out of the first round. Kiffin said Barkley is a great player and emphasized it with the following:
“If Matt Barkley had the defense that Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer had, Matt Barkley would have won the Heisman Trophy just like they did,” Kiffin said. “He would have had the winning records they had.”
Here we go again.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The Trojans’ defense was not very good this season. It took a lot of blame for the team’s 7-6 record and deservedly so. Giving up 62 points to Oregon? Not going to get it done. Ever. Unless you’re West Virginia playing against Baylor.
Players who were expected to play big roles didn’t come through on defense. And Lane’s dad ended up resigning because of it. A team that gives up 24.3 points per game is not going to win many national titles, even if the team was ranked No. 1 in nearly all the preseason polls. And as far as Heismans are concerned? They always go to teams that win around 10 games. That’s why Marqise Lee didn’t get an invite to New York this year. Lane is not wrong in his analysis.
But it sure doesn’t mean it was the right thing to say.
In making the aforementioned comments, Kiffin is once again shedding blame for a disastrous season. For someone who recently accepted responsibility for the entire season in another ESPN interview, this seems like a giant step backwards The defense wasn’t great, but the offense wasn’t setting the world on fire, either.
Plays were predictable. There were too many bubble screens. They didn’t run the ball enough. First and second down were gimmes which led to third and long frequently. They turned the ball over. The list goes on and on.
Matt Barkley’s numbers suffered because of playcalling and a lack of efficiency from the offensive coordinator. Who was that again? Ah, yes. The head coach himself.
Kiffin is a good offensive coordinator in general. But the offense he led didn’t really hold up its end of the bargain. That’s fine. Teams don’t always play the way we expect them to. But to not accept that blame and to put it on the defense? That seems irresponsible.
Oh, and about that defense: As head coach, Kiffin has to take some responsibility too. A coach oversees the entire operation: He can’t just pick and choose what he wants to take credit for. And in calling out his defense from this past season, he’s burning bridges. There are at least seven starters returning from the 2012 squad. How are they going to feel about supposedly being the reason Barkley is falling down draft boards? Probably not the best way to handle the situation, all things considered.
I support Barkley. I always have and always will. I love what he’s done for this university, especially in the wake of crippling sanctions. I think he has the chance to be an NFL starter. But he had a tough 2012 season. It’s a fact. There’s no way around it. Kiffin needs to acknowledge it. It’s OK if Barkley struggled. Players struggle all the time.
But to blame your defense for being the reason he took such a tumble? It’s in poor taste. Kiffin has a team to command in 2013 — a potentially excellent team at that. He cannot play favorites because he wants to see Barkley succeed. You win as a team and you certainly lose as a team. And he has to coach — he’s not Barkley’s public relations manager.
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