Last Saturday night in Los Angeles, Lane Kiffin’s career continued its slow and schadenfreude-laced unraveling. Several times throughout USC’s plodding 10-7 loss to Mike Leach’s Washington State team, the Trojans’ own fanbase fell into a “Fire Kiffin” chant, and not without reason. It seems apparent that, at least right now, USC doesn’t have a single effective starting quarterback between the two it has, which is something of a problem when you have the most talented wide receiver in the country, Marqise Lee, sprinting outside the hash marks, begging for someone to hurl a football in his general direction. And coming on the heels of last year’s paranoia-fueled 7-6 debacle in which USC started the season ranked first in the country and finished it unranked, it might be a shock if Kiffin even makes it to December without being forced to consider a career as a Daniel Tosh impersonator.
I know Lane Kiffin’s demise will make many people happy. I know Lane Kiffin is almost universally reviled for good reason; I know Lane Kiffin is the least popular football coach of his generation because is prone to outright lies, because he has spent his thirties inexplicably falling upward, because he is the physical manifestation of the kind of handsome and over-entitled social climbing jerkwad who engenders white-hot hatred in every office in this country. I know there is a considerable contingent of college football fans who view Kiffin (consciously or not) as a proxy for the ignorance and nepotism and shallowness of the American bureaucracy, and I suppose it would feel sort of guiltily good if he gets his comeuppance, and if he winds up blackballed from his profession, and if he is forced to sell homeowners’ insurance and shill for energy supplements on late-night television.
And honestly, I can’t blame you if you feel any of those things. But I ask you: Won’t it be at least a little bit disappointing, and won’t it kind of mute your ability to revel in his demise, if Kiffin fades into obscurity without ever actually having won anything?
As it stands right now, Kiffin’s record as a professional football coach is 5-15; his record as a college coach is 33-20. If USC goes 5-8 this season (the Trojans play 13 games), which now seems like a legitimate possibility, his all-time record as a head coach will be 42-42. His career will be algorithmically mediocre, and isn’t it hard to really get worked up about a coach who was, for all that bluster, a statistically average leader of men? Wouldn’t it be better if the Trojans rebound, and finish 10-3, and then Kiffin wins a national championship in 2014, and then he becomes embroiled in a recruiting scandal of unprecedented proportion? Wouldn’t it be easier to hate Lane Kiffin if he keeps failing upward and then tumbles straight down into the abyss, instead of quietly fading into obscurity?
Isn’t that the American way?