Current USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin survived the offseason, but after a shocking loss at home to a still-not-great Washington State team, the question is not whether Kiffin will be fired, but when.
Last Saturday’s 10-7 loss was one of the low points of the last decade for the program, and the loud boos and “Fire Kiffin” chants heard in the stands during the game have continued in the media and across the internet this week. Even Kiffin apologists, who argued for giving him the benefit of the doubt based on his atypical 10-2 year in 2011, have little to say in his defense.
Through two games, this year’s USC team — particularly the offense — has been so abysmal that it was virtually unrecognizable. Against WSU, Kiffin, on the sidelines, looked not only defeated but utterly lost, as if someone had printed his game plan in Mandarin Chinese. His failure to name a starting quarterback until after the second game (and even now, who knows if it will stick?) and his head-scratchingly poor play calling have added to the case against the coach.
Kiffin is nearly three weeks into his fourth season at USC. So far, it’s the longest coaching stop of his career, but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be there much longer.
So just when will athletic director Pat Haden pull the plug?
Curious minds have speculated since last season’s epic flop, and after the embarrassing collapse in the loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl, few USC fans would have objected had Haden decided then to move in a different direction.
Anticipating the questions that would dominate the preseason, Haden announced his unwavering support for Kiffin before the year began, but after two games, it’s starting to look like the athletic director may have been a little overconfident.
Things would have to continue downhill fast for Haden to fire Kiffin midseason, but anyone who watched the first two games knows that’s entirely possible. Waiting until the end of the year might be neater, but the wheels might already be in motion at USC. Haden’s a smart guy. He has to know that if the Trojans don’t improve, it may be impossible to suffer through another three months of Kiffin.
The Trojans have a chance to get back on track this weekend at home against Boston College (2-0). The Eagles have struggled since the teams last met in the 2009 Emerald Bowl, but senior quarterback Chase Rettig is, finally, becoming a serviceable offensive leader for BC, and the Eagles have dangerous weapons in the run game as well. The Trojans defense kept USC in its last two games, but the opposing quarterbacks weren’t considerably better than USC’s. If the offense can’t find some production, the team is in major trouble when a potent offense comes to town.
The Trojans host Utah State in two weeks, and Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton will be the first of several excellent quarterbacks USC will face this year. A long shot Heisman contender, Keeton had more passing yards and touchdowns last weekend than both of USC’s quarterbacks have combined through two games.
If the Trojans continue playing as poorly as they have, they won’t be able to beat Utah State. And if Kiffin loses to the Aggies at home, expect USC to leave him behind — permanently — when they go on the road to Arizona State.