Monday, Alabama announced via a Nick Saban statement that new FAU head coach Lane Kiffin will not join the Crimson Tide on the sideline or in the booth as offensive coordinator for its upcoming rematch with Clemson in the national title game. Given the curious timing and Kiffin’s tendency to wear on his employers, a notion emerged that maybe this wasn’t a joint decision to give Kiffin extra time to get FAU playoff ready, but rather one made by Saban to get Kiffin the hell away from him and his team.
In a Tuesday morning radio appearance on Mike & Mike, Kiffin did his darnedest to dispel any notions of ill will between him and his former boss, telling the hosts he and Saban had “great relationship” that got “better and better” with time. He went on to say that had the folks at FAU not been so freakin’ amped about winning The Big One, he’d definitely be back in crimson for the playoff finale.
I was planning on being back there and he’s said he was planning on me being back, and we’ve never had any discussion different than that. We were recruiting the next class, and then this FAU job happened. And meeting the people here and seeing it and their commitment to wanting to make this a championship program made it a job I could not turn down and [am] excited about.
I know this was a decision that I came up with and was very difficult to do. This was not something that Nick Saban forced me to do by any means. If I wanted to coach this game, I would have coached this game, and I just thought that it wasn’t the best thing for the players. And I saw Kirby [Smart] struggle with it a year ago. I don’t know if that’s why we struggled on defense, I don’t know if that’s part of it or not.
So, in addition to trying to throw Kirby Smart under the bus and ignoring the fact that Deshaun Watson was on a mission from God last postseason, Kiffin posits his premature exit was entirely his idea, one born of him wanting to give his all to his players. Such a good sport, that Lane. He told Mike & Mike that having a spot in the press box would be “ideal” and that Alabama was looking into it. Let’s check and see what ole Sabs had to say about the decision, per the AP:
“It’s really not even possible from a legal standpoint for him to do those things,” he said. “That’s not something that we’re interested in pursuing.”
“I try to make the decisions based on what’s best for helping our players be successful,” Saban said. “At the time there was no anticipation or thought that there would be any kind of problem relative to managing to jobs at once. When we sort of saw, and agreed, that that was a little bit of a tough team, then we decided to move in a different direction.”
Some have wondered if Kiffin made it easy for Saban to turn to Steve Sarkisan after Alabama’s offense had its second-worst outing of the year in its Peach Bowl victory over Washington. Nay, says I. Kiffin had this offense humming all year long, and having your second-worst outing against a top-10 defense isn’t exactly something to hang your head or axe your offensive coordinator over. Either Kiffin really loves his Owls, or Saban hates his ex-OC. Either way, I can’t wait for next year’s Alabama-FAU semifinal matchup.