This year the rumors were hotter than ever that Lane Kiffin would get a prized coaching job. And even hotter that they would be in Houston, following Tom Herman’s decision to go to Texas to be the new head coach.

It looked a slam-dunk. The good people at USA Today reported so. And then suddenly, there was a U-Turn in the Houston ranks, who instead decided on former UH offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to be the head coach.

The school’s logic? Houston’s board of regents chairman Tilman Fertitta (great name, by the way sir) called into a radio station and said: ‘”Lane Kiffin did not show me anything that Major Applewhite did not show me. Sure, he’s been a head coach, and he’s been an OK head coach. But I can tell you this: It was not a safe hire.”

OK, so what did he mean by safe hire?

Was the term ‘safe hire’ about really being an ‘OK head coach’?  At Tennessee he moved the Vols from a 5-7 record to a 7-6 record, but his mouthing-off about Alabama and Florida didn’t help him when lost to them. And there seemed to be a bunch of hope. So when he left for SC, Kiffin was actually better than most people believe at USC – particularly after the postseason bans and loss of scholarship players in the 2010 season that dropped his would-be 85 scholarship players to just 71….and he came with an 8-5 record. The next season – with another bowl ban – USC had a 10-2 record. In 2012, he showed a lot of self-confidence — even voting the Trojans to No.1 in a preseason poll….and finished with an 8-5 record. In 2013, the most famous move for him was being fired at LAX after starting the season with a 4-7 record. And as an offensive coordinator at Alabama, he’s seen nothing but success, helping Nick Saban to a National Championship in 2015 (and probably in 2016, since the Crimson Tide looks unstoppable under his offensive tutelage) and back-to-back-to-back SEC Championships. Oh, and there’s been a Heisman Trophy thrown in there for Derrick Henry, too. But there is this fact: In two out of three of his head coaching jobs, Kiffin has been fired. And both of them have been unceremonious. Houston probably couldn’t face a controversy like that again.

….But he’s proved to be excellent offensive coordinator… As an offensive coordinator at Alabama, he’s seen nothing but success, helping Nick Saban to a National Championship in 2015 (and probably in 2016, since the Crimson Tide looks unstoppable under his offensive tutelage) and back-to-back-to-back SEC Championships. Oh, and there’s been a Heisman Trophy thrown in there for Derrick Henry, too.

Was the term ‘safe hire’ about loyalty? The University of Houston probably looked at Kiffin’s one-stop ‘drop’ of Tennessee (and the way he did it) and thought to themselves: ‘As soon as ‘bigger job’ comes up, he’ll walk. And we don’t want to be seen as a ‘feeder school’ to big-time programs.

But remember this… Kiffin was fired at the Oakland Raiders. And he was fired at the Trojans. He didn’t leave them.

Was the term ‘safe hire’ about his mouth and actions? OK, so here’s the problem that Houston probably thought about Lane Kiffin. While every time you’ve seen Kiffin on the sidelines next to Nick Saban, Saban’s been the one giving out the abuse (Kiffin’s taken it…much to my admiration, if I’m honest). But that hasn’t always been the case. He was called a ‘flat-out liar’ by Oakland’s ownership in 2008 because the rumors were floating about his considering college football roles…and then he denied it. That probably didn’t score any points with the Houston guys. Then, there was his arrival in Tennessee, when not only did he say in an overly-confident arrival that he would beat Florida and Alabama (he didn’t), but a few weeks after said that Urban Meyer – then the Florida coach – of cheating and NCAA violations. That probably didn’t go down well. Then he was rude about other SEC competitors.

Was the term ‘safe hire’ about his actions? And speaking of actions, there have been a bunch of accusations  – that we won’t print – about Lane Kiffin’s off-the-field behavior that certain boards of regents might be unhappy with. But then again, Major Applewhite didn’t exactly do himself any favors in that department, either.

So how will it play out? We don’t know. Kiffin’s obviously an offensive genius but he’s got the hirers really, really worried about his mouth, his history with ownership, leadership, and SEC and NCAA administrators when a head coach. Nick Saban has openly supported Lane Kiffin finding a head coaching job, and has said that he’s ‘ready again’ to take the job. That’s an excellent reference if you ask us. Florida Atlantic are said to be going for Kiffin, but the talks have stalled. How does this blog think things will go? Kiffin will stay for another year as OC of Alabama. And God Help Us All. 

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