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Why Lane Kiffin Should Not Be Fired...Yet

Jordan Gary |
September 10, 2013 | 11:17 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Kiffin may not be out the door just yet, but he certainly has a lot of people to answer to in upcoming games (modenadude/Creative Commons)
Kiffin may not be out the door just yet, but he certainly has a lot of people to answer to in upcoming games (modenadude/Creative Commons)

In any situation where things go wrong, people are quick to jump to conclusions. They absolutely love finding a scapegoat to blame instead of taking the time to really look at the problem and realize that so many more people are at fault than just the one. USC fans are no different than the general masses, especially after Saturday’s loss to Washington State. 

There is no denying that loss stung.

There is a different air in the Coliseum this year. It lacks the excitement and joy that usually come with Trojan games. Lane Kiffin even noted that playing there is essentially like playing away games with the way the season has been going. As I sat in the sundeck Saturday night, I was able to see the stark contrast between the barren regular sections and the filled-to-capacity student section. It seemed somewhat promising at first; at least the students were still there to support their team, even if the regular fans had given up on us this season. Then around five minutes into the game, it all started to go downhill.

“FIRE KIFFIN” rang loudly throughout the Coliseum for all of South Central to hear that night. Every time the chants started, band director Dr. Arthur Bartner scrambled hastily to get the band playing so it would die down. It didn’t die down. I sat two rows away from the “best marching band in the universe” and I could still distinctly hear all of the frustration behind every person shouting for Kiffin’s departure. It was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. I watched and listened in pure awe as the stadium came alive for the first time all night, and for all the wrong reasons. 

As I sat in my seat Saturday night, I wasn’t sure what to think. I was already heartbroken and hopeless about this season, and we had only played two games. I had never thought Kiffin should be fired, even though some fans have been calling for it since last season. In that moment, though, I began to question everything. Should he be fired? There’s no way an entire stadium full of people as confident as these could be wrong.

SEE MORE: With Starter Named, No Excuses For Kiffin, USC Offense

Then I thought about all the yelling I had been doing during the game. I yelled at Kessler for being terrible. I yelled at Wittek for being worse. I yelled at the entire offense for not bothering to show up to the game. I yelled at defense for missing tackles even though they were the only bastion of hope throughout the entire game. And yes, I eventually yelled at Kiffin for bubble screen after bubble screen when it clearly was not working. 

I realized that there were clearly more people at fault in that game than just Kiffin. If Kiffin was going to be fired, then the entire offense should be fired. Unfortunately, you can’t fire college players. And Pat Haden has made it exponentially clear that he will not be firing Kiffin, despite all of the “Fire Lane” signs plastered around LA on Monday. 

Kiffin shouldn’t be fired though, at least not yet.

USC started this season ranked in the AP Top 25. How? I don't know, but ranked nonetheless. USC is no longer ranked, and deservedly so.

There is no doubt play calling needs to be improved. Kiffin used to take chances and wouldn’t cause me to groan loudly when he went for it on 4th down. He earned many fun, though slightly inappropriate, monikers for that. Now all I hear is “Lame Kiffin” everywhere I turn. If for no other reason, I would love to see something other than a bubble screen, so I can hear anything besides than the most unoriginal nickname ever. However, that is not the Trojans' only problem.

After the season ends, all bets are off on whether Kiffin will stay or go. (Matthew Woo/Neon Tommy)
After the season ends, all bets are off on whether Kiffin will stay or go. (Matthew Woo/Neon Tommy)
USC’s defense held the Cougars to 12 first downs and forced three turnovers. You cannot blame the entirety of the offense’s inability to convert those opportunities into successful plays on Kiffin. The offense had opportunities that they did not take advantage of and, with the lack of skill shown on the field, I’m led to believe that, even with better play calling, the Trojans would still not be the team they used to be. There could have been some great plays if Kessler could throw down the field or Wittek had enough confidence in himself to use the talent he possesses. Kiffin is working with what he has, which is increasingly lackluster as each game passes. 

Marqise Lee does not look like the player he used to look like either. He says "I’m doing the same thing I did my freshman year and my sophomore year. But when they always got help over the top, this is gonna happen." Lee’s lousy performance cannot be completely blamed on him, as it is difficult to be amazing when you don’t have an amazing quarterback throwing you the ball. However, it’s hard to believe he’s the same player when you used to see the kid that made plays out of thin air and found openings where none existed, and now you see the kid that slips and fumbles the ball while running down the field.

SEE MORE: Lane Kiffin Names Cody Kessler USC Starting Quarterback

I will concede that Kiffin could take more risks. Those risks could very well instill enough confidence in the players that aren’t spectacular, to draw out a performance that is worthy of what the star players like Lee and others actually deserve. Picking Kessler as the official starting quarterback on Monday might also have instilled enough confidence in him to make him start performing better, even if only slightly so.

I will also concede that Kessler was the safer choice in QB, though that should be no surprise to anyone. Wittek definitely has more power in his arm and the potential for more, which could be amazing for the Trojans in some upcoming games, but just having a set QB might allow Kiffin to make better calls since he knows exactly what he is forced to work with, and that player will have more confidence to take risks himself.

Kiffin also is a great recruiter. Max Browne, the number one pro-style quarterback prospect coming out of high school in 2013, is still working to compete for the starting job in the 2014 season. After a less than enthralling 2012 season, Kiffin also managed to obtain the number 14 recruiting class in 2013. That’s with scholarship sanctions. Even if it is worse than recent years, it is not worse by much, and still very good for the season the Trojans just had.

I don’t see Kiffin getting fired before 2014. There is no way USC wants to spend the kind of money it would take to void his contract and find an entirely new coach. Furthermore, taking out a head coach and replacing him with someone entirely new is only going to take more time for adjustment than USC cant spare, and will only end up irreparably damaging the season. There is no denying an offensive coordinator would also do wonders for this team, but for now, Kiffin wants to control his own destiny, so he shall. Kiffin should in no way be fired before the season is over. After that though, who knows?

Maybe fire lanes really will make more sense to Los Angeles residents.



Reach Staff Writer Jordan Gary here or on Twitter.



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