After play-calling Alabama to victory in 26 straight games, Lane Kiffin is out as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator.
“I think Saban just reached his limit with Lane Kiffin,” Tuscaloosa News Alabama beat writer Aaron Suttles said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’ll look back on this some day and be amazed they made it work for three years. I don’t necessarily think it was contentious, but I just think it was a relationship that was no longer beneficial to both parties, and they decided just to move on.”
Alabama released a statement Monday saying that the decision was “mutual.” Suttles couldn’t help but roll his eyes at that.
“If it’s your buddy who’s dating that really attractive girl and all of a sudden they’re not dating anymore and he tells you it was a mutual decision, it was not mutual,” he said. “The attractive girl broke up with your buddy, and he’s just trying to save face.”
Either way, it’s surprising that Saban gave Kiffin the boot on the eve of the national championship. Steve Sarkisian will replace Kiffin, but it’s difficult to imagine a more high-stakes debut for an assistant coach.
“I think you have to give Nick Saban credit because Lane is a very strong personality and Nick was not intimidated to bring him in at all,” Suttles said. “I do think it benefitted both parties that Nick Saban has the rule that assistant coaches don’t speak because when Lane Kiffin speaks, he usually says something (where) he’s putting his foot in his mouth or he’s ticking off people inside that building. So that aspect of it worked pretty well, keeping him quiet. And I think Nick Saban realized that Lane set program records. Lane produced the Offensive Player of the Year in the SEC three times, he had a Heisman finalist, he had a Heisman Trophy winner – listen, Lane Kiffin, as a play-caller, was brilliant, was great. No issues whatsoever. The issues came in when he was trying to balance the two jobs and obviously he was distracted.”
No. 1 Alabama (14-0) beat No. 4 Washington (12-2), 24-7, in the Peach Bowl on Saturday, but Kiffin’s play-calling had little to do with it. Jalen Hurts threw 14 times for 57 yards (4.1 yards per attempt) and ran 19 times for 50 yards (2.6 yards per carry), as Bo Scarbrough received just 19 of Alabama’s 50 carries.
Scarbrough finished with 180 rushing yards (9.5 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.
“I’ve watched that game against Washington – and credit Washington,” Suttles said. “Great defense, great game plan, but I couldn’t figure out what Alabama was trying to do. There was a point in that game where Bo Scarbrough had 12 rushes and he was averaging nine yards a carry, and a true freshman had 15 carries. Jalen Hurts was out-rushing a guy who’s 6-2, 230 pounds, who’s averaging nine yards a carry.”
In any event, Kiffin, who has a history of ignominious exits, will take over as head coach of Florida Atlantic. It seems like a slam-dunk hire for the Owls, who have finished 3-9 in three straight seasons, but let’s see what happens.
“I’ll say this: I think (Kiffin is) a brilliant offensive coordinator, (but) I don’t think he’s meant to be a head coach,” Suttles said. “He’s almost like the celebrity (who’s) famous for being famous. He’s a great offensive mind, but the celebrity that comes with it is what gets him in trouble. And listen, guys, he’s got to mature a little bit. When I look at him, I think he’s a better fit for the NFL. I think he needs to be off a college campus trying to run every aspect of a program; he needs to be an assistant coach in the NFL where he can just call plays. But he wants to be a head coach. I don’t think he’s cut out to be that, but we’ll see what happens in Boca Raton.”
Asked if Kiffin is well-liked, Suttles responded, “yes and no.”
“I think he’s engaging, absolutely,” Suttles said. “But there are times when he needs to be told how special he is, how pretty he is, and that wears on people.”