When college football villain Lane Kiffin was hired as Alabama's offensive coordinator many wondered if Nick Saban had lost his mind. Far from it. Saban had found someone with a fresh perspective to come in and open up the Crimson Tide's offense for him. In fact, Kiffin-to-Tuscaloosa has worked out about as well as possible. Bama's offense has excelled and Saban has his team in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Kiffin has benefited from the experience as well. It's clear the man is pretty darn good at running an offense, calling plays and quarterback-whispering. (Especially when he's got a talented roster rather than one gutted by NCAA penalties.) Kiffin has also been helped by Saban's "no talk" policy for his assistants. On the three or four occasions the offensive coordinator has spoken he's been funny and engaging. He handled today's media fest at the Sugar Bowl quite well. But he still hasn't been given enough on-air time to really put his foot in his mouth. That's a plus.
But while Kiffin's reputation has been rehabbed to an extent, he said this morning that he's in no hurry to find another head coaching job:
"No it's not like one of those things I have to go prove because they were wrong or they shouldn't have fired me or any of that stuff. You can't control that so I don't sit around and think about that head job or when I'm going to get it or if I should. I can't control that. All I can control is focusing on today and the players and the offense. That's all that we've done."
There are two other things have aided Kiffin since his last go-round in the SEC back in 2009 — he's been humbled and he's matured. Kiffin won't turn 40 until the middle of next season. But already he's coached and been fired in the NFL, coached and been fired at Southern California, and made himself one of the most hated men in the history of SEC football. First it was everyone outside of Tennessee who hated his brash talk, but Volunteer fans came around once he'd dumped them after a lone season in Knoxville.
Losing jobs and becoming a detested figure can humble a man. And time will mature one. For an example of Kiffin's new-found perspective, consider these comments from today's media session:
“(Saban and I) may not have the same personality, but we do have the same beliefs when it comes to coaching. One of the many stupid things I said when I took a shot at Urban (Meyer back when Kiffin was at Tennessee) was at the SEC Championship game on ESPN I said, ‘Well, Florida has better players, but Alabama has better coaches.’
Well, it wasn’t very smart to say. But what I was trying to say was that my respect for watching Saban’s teams and programs over the years is unbelievable and I do totally believe in a lot of the exact same things that he’s always been about.”
That's a far cry from the cocky nitwit who repeatedly shot from the lip back in '09.
There were a lot of questions asked when Saban hired him, but Kiffin's arrival at Alabama has helped the Crimson Tide program and it's certainly helped the young coach start to clear his name in college football circles. For that reason, his return to the Bama sideline next season is probably the smartest move he could ever make.