Alabama Football: Lane Kiffin has fan support to succeed Nick Saban

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

Of all the career rebuilds Nick Saban has done for out-of-favor coaches, Lane Kiffin’s rebuild might be the most successful. The former Alabama football offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach has delivered in two head coaching opportunities since leaving Tuscaloosa.

Like many episodes in Kiffin’s coaching career, Kiffin’s leaving Tuscaloosa episode is tainted. For years, rumors have persisted Kiffin was shown the door because of non-football, character issues.  Publically, both men said the transition came because Kiffin could not coach the Tide (in a National Championship game) while also beginning work for Florida Atlantic.

After the Crimson Tide’s win over Washington in a CFB Playoff semi-final, Nick Saban said,

"We appreciate all that Lane has done for our football program over the last three years. We sat down following the Washington game and talked about the time demands of managing both jobs, and we recognized that it is best for our players, and for Lane, that we allow him to turn his full attention to his new head coaching role at FAU."

Kiffin has consistently professed appreciation for his Alabama football opportunity and praised Saban as the game’s GOAT. There is no doubt the two men respect each other for their football minds. And equally true is Lane Kiffin learned much from Nick Saban.

The rumors about Kiffin’s non-football activities will not be repeated in this post. What can be said is Nick Saban had little choice but to fire Kiffin. Maybe it was as Saban said, best for Lane and the Alabama football team. And maybe, as rumors claim, powerful individuals as high as the university’s Board of Trustees, perhaps reinforced by Terry Saban, influenced Nick’s decision. The truth may never be known.

Whatever happened in the past, today Lane Kiffin is a highly valued college football head coach. The success Kiffin had at FAU, and his current success at Ole Miss leads to Lane’s name being included often when a top team needs a new coach. Auburn faithful are lusting after Kiffin now. Lane, though, is too smart for a dive into the Auburn mess.

Lane Kiffin and Alabama Football

Kiffin can patiently wait in Oxford until he gets an offer he can’t refuse. That offer might be succeeding Nick Saban at Alabama. Not soon, of course, and maybe the Crimson Tide will have no opening for several years. But if Alabama had a head coach opening today, Lane Kiffin might be the top choice of Alabama fans.

Several days ago, following Lane’s roasting of Jimbo Fisher, many Alabama fans were relishing the thought of Kiffin someday being the Crimson Tide head coach. In a Twitter poll, conducted by Bama Hammer, we asked if Kiffin would be the top choice to someday replace Nick Saban. Over 60% of the responses were yes. A follow-up review of multiple Crimson Tide message boards suggested the 60% number might be low. If we had updated the poll on Sunday, after the Tide’s loss to LSU, the yes percentage might have been even higher.

Even if the not-Kiffin numbers are lower than 40%, they include considerable never-Kiffin sentiments. In no attempt to reconcile the strong differences of opinion, two points warrant consideration. Alabama has dealt with character issues among its coaches during its history. Sometimes they were fired. Purportedly, at other times they were not. Job performance can outweigh personal failings. Also, Lane Kiffin is believed to have changed from when he was in Tuscaloosa.

Not worthy of debate is the fact Lane Kiffin changed Alabama football for the better. Maybe he cost the Crimson Tide one National Championship, but his impact led to two more. Without Steve Sarkisian, Bryce Young would not be the Crimson Tide QB – and without Lane Kiffin, Sark probably would have never been given a chance by Nick Saban.

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The next guy, after Nick Saban, will be under incredible pressure. Lane Kiffin has considerable experience dealing with pressure situations.