Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why I Like Lane Kiffin

If you don't live in the Bay Area, you might not have heard of Lane Kiffin until this year. He was of course the doomed head coach of the Raiders for a season and a half. Why doomed? Back in 2007 Kiffin was co-offensive coordinator of the USC Trojans. The Raiders wanted to hire USC's other co-offensive coordinator (and now Trojan killer) Steve Sarkisian as their head coach. When Sarkisian turned them down, the Raiders inexplicably hired Kiffin (who was on no one's radar as a possible NFL head coach) figuring one USC co-offensive coordinator was as good as any other.

Some say Kiffin new he'd get fired quickly and just took the job to increase his exposure. In any case, once Al Davis realized his bone-headed mistake, he got his team of lawyers involved to build an insubordination case so they could fire Kiffin without paying out his full contract.

With that done, Kiffin took the job at Tennessee. And here's why I like him: While he couldn't beat the Gators (which I suspect he knew), he purposefully went out and made them beatable.

Everyone had pretty much penned Florida into the National Championship Game. They were the big unbeatable juggernaut. Kiffin mouthed off over the summer, accusing Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation and pledging to sing "Rocky Top" after the Vols beat the Gators in the Swamp. Why did he do this? The more he talked, the bigger underdog Tennessee became. The Gators were supposed to be mad and stomp them into the marshy swamp grass.

The brilliance of that, of course, was that Kiffin didn't have to win the game. As a 30 point underdog all he had to do was stay close, and he did. They lost, but they played well enough to "win". They made Florida look vulnerable. Suddenly they become human. Then Urban Meyer started making excuses about how his team had the flu, which just gave Kiffin more fuel. When asked if he was worried about his team getting the flu, Kiffin said "I don’t know. I guess we’ll wait and after we’re not excited about a performance, we’ll tell you everybody was sick."

The once invincible Gators are now the butt of a joke. Now teams that go into the Swamp or host the Gators in their own houses aren't going to be as intimidated. They're going to be more relaxed and more determined. They're going to believe they have a chance to beat Florida, and now one of them has a much better chance of doing just that.

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