Lane Kiffin is on his final leg at USC. The oft-maligned head coach in Los Angeles has managed to take a preseason favorite from top team in the country to unranked in one season, kicking the Trojans out of contention for a BCS title game before USC met up with fellow frontrunner Oregon on November 3.
Kiffin has been criticized for a lot, from his skeevy plans to his team’s performance on the field. Included in that list is his team’s perennial underachieving on the offensive side of the ball, in which three Heisman contenders (QB Matt Barkley and wide-outs Robert Woods and Marqise Lee), a top-tier offensive line and a one-two punch in the backfield have managed to consistently falter behind Lane Kiffin’s shaky play-calling.
Kiffin, as you know, calls plays for these Trojans, acting as both the head coach and offensive coordinator. One of the suggestions fans and pundits have brought forth, aside from his resignation, is the relinquishing of play-calling duties to an offensive coordinator.
Of course, Kiffin has a bit too much pride to just let anyone call plays for his squad. On the shortlist, off the top of any Trojan fan’s head, is Norm Chow and Steve Sarkisian, both of whom have previous ties to Lane Kiffin while Kiffin was an assistant coach under Pete Carroll.
But what about Jeff Tedford, the current head coach of the California Bears? What if Cal swallows the poison pill and buys out Tedford’s enormous contract?
We know this is a little odd to digest, because it’s not as if Kiffin’s going to hire a playmaker in the midst of a season (albeit a now meaningless one, by USC standards) and so no one has given it much thought.
But it fits. In his time as both a coordinator and head coach, Tedford has been known to wrench out first-round quarterbacks. At Fresno State, Tedford managed to develop talent such as Trent Dilfer and David Carr; while at Oregon, Tedford groomed Akili Smith and Joey Harrington; while at Cal, Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers flourished under Tedford’s tutelage.
USC has a slew of young quarterbacks at their disposal, from redshirt freshman Max Wittek to 2013 commit Max Browne. The Trojans have historically done well in churning out solid quarterbacks and sending them high in NFL drafts, but under Lane Kiffin, Matt Barkley may not even go in the first round after faltering mightily in his final season.
Meanwhile, Jeff Tedford won’t likely earn a head coaching gig at a major conference immediately, and if he wants to stay in the coaching carousel, running an offense that features weapons such as Marqise Lee, Nelson Agholor and possibly Robert Woods and Silas Redd would undoubtedly catapult him at the top of everyone’s wishlist. Tedford runs a pro-style offense, too, which fits the philosophy that USC has undertaken on that side of the ball for the past decade.
And consider that Tedford and Kiffin have worked together in the past, with Jeff Tedford coaching Kiffin, Fresno State’s back-up quarterback in the mid-90s, and Kiffin working as a student assistant under Tedford. Tedford was once Kiffin’s mentor, so it isn’t as if Kiffin will have to work with someone new and unfamiliar.
And considering the success Tedford has had with his offenses at Cal, prior to 2009, USC’s offense could find itself incredibly potent in 2013 with the ex-Cal coach at the helm of the offense.
It’ll take an incredible amount of courage for Kiffin to give up play-calling, something he’s done his whole life, it seems, but if there’s anyone worth the risk, it’s an ex-mentor who became the winningest coach in Cal history and has a reputation for grooming quarterbacks. And the idea is a crazy one.
But with Kiffin’s job on the line, is any idea worth scoffing at?