10 Possible Replacements for Lane Kiffin at USC
10 Possible USC Trojans Replacements for Lane Kiffin
After another demoralizing loss for the USC Trojans, this time around that included a 28-point 3rd quarter by the Arizona State Sun Devils in their 62-41 blowout win, Athletic Director Pat Haden had finally had enough and fired head coach Lane Kiffin. In essence, Kiffin had been a dead man walking for weeks if not months, and his firing was seen more as a foregone conclusion and a matter of time than something he would have been able to do anything at all to prevent.
With Kiffin's firing, one of the premier jobs in college football will open up after the 2013 season, and there are plenty of rising stars in the coaching ranks whose names will rise to the surface as likely replacements for the Trojans. Long-time assistant Ed Orgeron will sub in for Kiffin in the interim, but there's little assumption he's in for the long haul.
There are plenty of guys that will be mentioned in the USC search, and certainly many of them are more likely candidates than others who may be a huge reach. Ultimately, though, that's what a job of this caliber does: it brings out guys from the woodwork who you never would have expected.
Check out the 10 slides to follow for who we see as ten possible replacements for Lane Kiffin at USC.. some are a reach, others, hardly.
Jon Gruden - Former NFL HC
It's always fun when considering possible replacement coaches for high-profile programs to consider the biggest stretch candidate and the least likely, first. This guy is definitely current ESPN football analyst and former NFL head coach with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jon Gruden.
The 50-year old Gruden has a lifetime 95-81 NFL head coaching record, winning a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2003. He has college coaching experience as well at the outset of his career in the late 80s with Pacific, Southeast Missouri, and his alma mater Tennessee, before starting with his NFL career in the early 90s.
Gruden's name always comes up as a possibility in big-time NFL or college coaching openings and to this point he's been forthright with his desire to stay in the booth rather on the sidelines, but an opportunity like the one provided at USC to bring a program back to prominence may be a challenge that intrigues him enough to consider coaching again.
Kevin Sumlin - Texas A&M HC
Another long-shot for USC Athletic Director Pat Haden would be current Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin walked into a great situation in College Station which has been tempered with some drama, but great moments from Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel. Sumlin re-tooled and re-built the Houston Cougars program from one of their tougher stretches and has become universally respected among coaches in the Big 12 and those in the Lone Star State as one of the game's best recruiters and brightest young minds.
With Manziel's certain departure to the NFL following the 2013 season, a job as attractive as USC could be the only thing to lure Kevin Sumlin away from College Station, but the timing could be just right. Sumlin has no aversion to the spotlight, and that spotlight would certainly be brighter in Los Angeles than College Station, but is it possible it could be just the job he's been waiting for? In a word, yes.
Pat Fitzgerald - Northwestern HC
For seven seasons, Pat Fitzgerald bided his time as a linebackers coach at Maryland, Colorado, Idaho and Northwestern, just waiting for a bigger opportunity. In 2006, he got that opportunity to take over as head coach of the Northwestern Wildcats, and has taken full advantage of it. Since 2006, the Wildcats are 53-39 overall, and off to a school best 4-0 start in 2013 to piggy-back on an outstanding 10-3 finish in 2012.
With 53 wins, Fitzgerald is the winningest coach in Northwestern history and has the Wildcats in position to challenge for a Big 10 title as the season progresses, and perhaps even make an appearance in a BCS bowl for the first-time in school history.
Taking on a job of the caliber of USC would be a giant leap for Fitzgerald -- and you can bet Northwestern would match any offer given to him -- but there's no doubt he'd be up for the task. His name is mentioned more and more often among the game's new rising stars, and it's highly likely that this will be the profile of at least some of the candidates to be in the mix.
Kirby Smart - Alabama DC
Alabama Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is perhaps the biggest anomaly in the entire coaching profession, collegiate or professional. As one of college football's highest paid assistant coaches, Smart is constantly mentioned as a candidate for first-tier jobs away from Alabama but seems to show little interest in leaving Tuscaloosa. While it's hard to blame him, could the bright lights of Los Angeles finally be enough to raise his interest?
If so, you can bet his arrival on the USC campus would mean a sea change in philosophy for the Trojans, and maybe that's just what's needed. Going defense-first and more hard-nosed could be a positive shift for a USC team that is loaded with offensive talent, but has sputtered over the past few seasons.
Jeff Fisher - St. Louis Rams HC
Culver City, California native Jeff Fisher has carved out a very successful NFL career, and with the successful offenses that have operated under him during his coaching tenure, his name is always a part of first-tier coaching conversations. Fisher's St. Louis Rams have struggled mightily so far in 2013 and is far from a perfect situation for the former Tennessee Titans head coach who took the team to a Super Bowl in 1999 and stayed there until 2010 before taking a brief hiatus away.
The St. Louis job was the best available for Fisher when he returned to the game in 2012, but you have to figure he'd be more than happy to entertain trying out the college level at this point in his career and escape a St. Louis team that doesn't promise to be competitive anytime soon.
James Franklin - Vanderbilt HC
Vanderbilt Commodores head coach James Franklin is quickly establishing a reputation as a great young collegiate coach who isn't the slightest bit afraid to mix it up with the big boys in the SEC on the recruiting turf and get creative to help the Vandy program improve. Vandy finished 9-4 in 2012 and is off to a rough 3-2 start so far in 2013, but there's little doubt about Franklin's ability to scheme offensively and put together a solid defensive unit to boot.
The 2012 team's nine wins was only the third time in the history of the Vanderbilt program that the team had reached this landmark. Much like Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Franklin is setting a new standard at Vanderbilt and in doing so is opening the eyes of Athletic Directors across the country, and I'm sure you can include Pat Haden in that group.
Hiring Franklin might be a calculated risk for Haden, but one that could reap huge rewards because of his high energy level, personability and ability to get the best out of his players.
Greg Roman - San Francisco 49ers OC
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman has an intimate familiarity with the Pac-12 and recruiting the state of California that makes him a natural fit for USC. Currently working under Jim Harbaugh, for whom he also worked during Harbaugh's tenure at Stanford, Roman was a finalist for the Penn State job currently occupied by Bill O'Brien, following the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky scandal that rocked the Nittany Lions program.
Roman's name immediately popped up on social media as a potential replacement for Kiffin when the announcement was made, especially among those who follow the USC Trojans program both as traditional beat writers and as part of the independent media.
Roman's name recognition and brand may not be nearly as sexy as some of the other candidates which you'll see here shortly, but I can promise you, his fit could be better than any of them, and this next move for USC has to be about fit.
Chris Petersen - Boise State HC
Chris Petersen is a meme in and of himself. Every single time a job is rumored to soon be available in the college coaching ranks, his name is mentioned as a punchline, but in equal parts seriousness. Petersen has been named a candidate for just about every opening you can imagine over the course of the past few seasons, but has maintained steadfast in his loyalty to the Boise State Broncos, regardless.
Many among the college football media have wondered if there is a job that could lure Petersen out of Boise, and one that has been mentioned in the past is USC. After all, the Broncos' current recruiting base is largely in California, and you have to wonder if Petersen isn't ready to return to his home state (he's a native of Fresno and played at UC-Davis in the mid-1980s).
The Vegas odds on Petersen getting the USC job are high, and it certainly appears more possible than any other program he's been linked to previously. I'm sure Twitter will be happy to oblige the rumor going forward.
Steve Sarkisian - Washington HC
Washington Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian is the first of two coaches with USC ties that are the most obvious choices to replace Lane Kiffin. Sarkisian coached at USC off and on from 2003-2009 in different capacities under Pete Carroll before moving on to take over the Washington job in 2010. Sarkisian's Huskies are off to a 4-0 start in 2013, and have a solid shot at competing for a Pac 12 crown and an outside chance at the BCS this season.
According to many, Sarkisian begrudgingly left USC to begin with, largely because of Carroll's departure to the Seattle Seahawks, and has stayed in good graces with the school's athletic administration throughout in the possibility that the head coaching job opened up there again down the road. He's a natural choice, one that is only topped by one other former USC stalwart.
Jack Del Rio - Denver Broncos DC
Jack Del Rio will more than likely be the next head coach of the USC Trojans. There are many reasons for this, including Del Rio's days as an All-American linebacker for the Trojans in the mid-80s, his All-Pro NFL career, and his success as an NFL positional coach and head coach. Del Rio's teams in Jacksonville finished 68-71 overall during his nine year tenure there, but there were two playoff teams that highlighted the best of his defense-first coaching philosophy which has him as an integral part of the current Denver Broncos squad as Defensive Coordinator.
While USC isn't traditionally among the higher-paying head coaching jobs in collegiate football, you can rest assured the Trojans will be willing to make Jack Del Rio a healthy offer which will be difficult for him to refuse given the separation between an NFL defensive coordinator's salary and what Pat Haden potentially could offer. It's our bet that Jack Del Rio is walking the sidelines for the Trojans starting with spring practice in 2014. It just makes too much sense to not happen.