Lane Kiffin just gave Scott Woodward an afternoon's worth of reasons to break the bank for him
On Saturday afternoon, Lane Kiffin set out to win a football game and avenge a devastating 2020 loss to LSU. By virtue of doing that, Kiffin could also perhaps dazzle a certain Arch Manning, who was at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium — in front of the stadium’s 6th-largest crowd ever on a picture-perfect fall day in Oxford — to visit Ole Miss and to watch uncle Eli Manning get his No. 10 jersey retired. With “Manning” painted into both Ole Miss end zones, Kiffin couldn’t have sent a louder message to the ultimate legacy recruit unless he had the guy’s last name on his game day attire.
Oh, that’s right. Kiffin did that. With “Manning 10” on the front of his sweatshirt, “Eli Manning Day” might as well have been “Arch Manning Day.” Come to Ole Miss, become a star and this is the kind of impact you can have. Time will tell if Kiffin’s plan to impress Manning worked to perfection.
And if Kiffin’s day didn’t also impress Scott Woodward, well, that’d be a stunner.
Don’t get it twisted. Kiffin likely wasn’t concerned with the LSU athletic director, who is expected to break the bank to fill his vacancy at head coach.
But imagine being Woodward and not wanting to write Kiffin a blank check after Saturday afternoon.
In Year 2, Kiffin has Ole Miss on the brink of a top-10 ranking. He’s got arguably the best player in America in Matt Corral. Kiffin inherited a program who went 4-8 before he arrived. Contrary to what a misinformed Michael Wilbon suggested, Kiffin has done nothing but bring positive attention to Ole Miss.
Ah, my bad. There was that time a few weeks ago when Kiffin promised a popcorn-worthy performance and his offense couldn’t hang with Alabama in Tuscaloosa … and then he proceeded to make popcorn joke after popcorn joke to poke fun at himself.
Even when Kiffin loses, he wins. Saturday against LSU wasn’t a loss, and it wasn’t particularly close to being one, either.
Woodward had to see the balance, the versatility and the creativity of the Ole Miss offense. Kiffin’s spread concepts with Jeff Lebby’s up-tempo Baylor concepts have proven to be a perfect marriage. By the way, that offensive explosion happened even though Kiffin didn’t need to overhaul the offensive personnel. He just had to coach them up. Corral had to learn how to understand reads, and he needed to learn how to avoid grenade games like the 5-interception performance he had last year against LSU in that aforementioned loss.
Of little significance on Saturday was the fact that Corral was without 2 of his top targets. Braylon Sanders and Jonathan Mingo were both out again, yet Corral still got the Ole Miss offense rolling.
There’s no doubt that Kiffin could flip whatever situation he inherits at LSU. That’s not to take anything away from Corral, who has essentially turned into the perfect Kiffin quarterback with his confidence and toughness.
(By the way, if you were wondering why we didn’t see blistering numbers on Saturday, Corral was clearly still banged up from carrying the ball 30 times last week in a gutsy win at Tennessee.)
Think about it, though. Ole Miss came into the year ranked No. 27 in the 247sports talent composite while LSU was No. 5. Everything on Saturday suggested it was the opposite. That’s development. That’s scheme. That’s coaching.
And obviously, we already saw what it looked like when Kiffin had elite talent to work with. At least on the offensive side. From 2014-16, Alabama won 3 consecutive SEC titles with his revamped offensive philosophy.
LSU doesn’t necessarily need to modernize. It does, however, need someone like Kiffin who can change the narrative in a hurry. That’s exactly what he did in Oxford.
For all we know, Kiffin is going to be at Ole Miss for the rest of his career. He’s clearly in his element. There’s no walking on egg shells. Lane can be Lane. If he were to leave Ole Miss, he’d leave behind a devastated fanbase.
Consider that all the more reason why Woodward should give him Jimbo Fisher-type money. He absolutely could, too. A $17 million buyout to Ed Orgeron won’t change that, nor would whatever buyout Ole Miss would be owed (it was reportedly $5 million before he got his extension at the end of the 2020 season).
Because of state law in Mississippi, Kiffin’s Ole Miss contract cannot be longer than 4 years. That limits what Ole Miss can offer. Of course, one would expect athletic director Keith Campbell to offer a rich extension to Kiffin, who *only* made $5 million in 2021. Woodward just fired a head coach who earned $9 million. Would Woodward double that? He should.
Assuming Woodward doesn’t have his heart fixated on some Fisher reunion, this should come down to what Kiffin wants. If LSU is indeed too good of an opportunity to turn down — no other school in America won 3 national titles with 3 different coaches in the 21st century — then Saturday’s game will be as bittersweet as they come for Ole Miss. Not only did the program beat LSU for the first time in 6 years, it also had Arch Manning Day.
Oh, that’s right. Eli* Manning day.
Woodward watched exactly what happens when a struggling SEC program gets the right person to run the show. For a minute, that was Orgeron. Perhaps soon, that’ll be Kiffin.
He certainly aced whatever eye test Saturday was.