How much longer will Lane Kiffin stay at Alabama?
Lane Kiffin seems to have grown up. After all, as Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy would say, “He’s 40. He’s a man.”
Despite his toxic past at Tennessee and Southern Cal, the fair-haired coaching prodigy is rehabilitating his image at Alabama with help from Nick Saban.
Kiffin will be a head coach again on the major college or NFL level. The only question is when?
The best guess is he’ll work for Saban one more year — especially if he stays in college coaching. He recently indicated he likely would return for another season. Most of the top college jobs are gone. An NFL coach at 32 with two later upper-tier college jobs, Kiffin won’t take a position outside the Power 5 conferences.
And he won’t take a job where he doesn’t have the resources to win big.
There will be open positions in the NFL. But if the NFL was where Kiffin wanted to be, he would have taken an offer to be offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers at the end of last season.
For the most part, Kiffin has refined his image in Tuscaloosa. He’s shown he can survive in a tightly structured environment, working for Saban, a disciplinarian.
Has Kiffin become a miniature Saban? No. But some of Saban’s caution and self discipline has bound to have rubbed off.
Kiffin has a lot to offer as a head coach at a major program.
He’s shown adaptability, albeit with a richly talented roster. He helped transform four-year backup Blake Sims into a solid quarterback last year, deploying an uptempo pace to complement his strengths.
This season, he’s focused the offense around RB Derrick Henry running behind a stellar offensive line led by All-American center Ryan Kelly.
Under Kiffin’s tutelage, Jacob Coker, another first-year starter at quarterback, has been unspectacular, but steady. He’s made the required throws and he hasn’t made big mistakes — the main requirements for a team with the Crimson Tide’s overall talent.
Kiffin’s offense has been balanced this season, amassing more than 2,700 yards in rushing and passing. Last season, the Tide rolled up almost 5,800 yards with more emphasis on the passing game.
Kiffin offers two especially valuable benefits to schools in need of a head coach: visibility and recruiting prowess. He’s also recognized as an innovative play caller.
With Kiffin in charge, media will converge wherever he is, looking for quips and gaffes. The coach makes waves and generates interest and attention.
His image and name recognition have helped him become one of the nation’s top recruiters. He displayed those skills at Tennessee and Southern Cal, though he didn’t stay around long enough to take advantage of them.
As Kiffin has realized, his successful stint working for Saban has made him a much more attractive head coaching candidate for a top college program.
A national championship this season would further bolster his resume.
Kiffin won’t remain an assistant much longer. But if he stays in college football, he’s probably got one more year at Alabama.