Retrospectives tend to be among the more entertaining pieces you will read from the sports world — primarily because the passage of time allows for a much more honest recounting of the past. The less people have invested or at stake, the more they can speak their minds.
I found that to be the case working this summer on a 10-year retrospective on Brett Favre’s arrival with the Vikings. And I found it once again in reading an excellent ESPN.com piece about Lane Kiffin’s year as head coach in Tennessee a decade ago.
The anecdotes were firing fast and furious, and the best part was Kiffin himself going on the record with great honesty. I’m still chuckling about this sequence in regards to Kiffin’s brash style:
“A lot of the things I was saying, that’s straight out of Steve Spurrier 101, and people loved Coach Spurrier, taking a shot at someone else and making a joke,” Kiffin said. “That’s who I grew up idolizing, Steve Spurrier. That’s why I wear a visor and why I run a wide-open offense. I grew up wanting to be Steve Spurrier. And that’s why it was so cool to beat him that season.”
Spurrier doesn’t want any of the credit (or blame) for Kiffin’s scorched-earth approach.
“Oh, no, don’t blame it on me,” Spurrier said. “I wasn’t doing and saying some of the stuff he was. I know they clobbered us pretty good that year in that night game. How many years was he there — one or two?”
When told just one, Spurrier said, “Seemed longer. I guess a lot happened in that one year.”
It did, indeed — and it ended with Kiffin bolting for the USC job after that one season. All of it is worth a read — and it’s also a reminder that this could have played out right here in Minnesota.
Kiffin’s father, Monte, was an assistant with the Vikings from the mid-80s to the mid-90s, and Lane grew up playing QB for Bloomington Jefferson. As Lane grew into coaching, his name was bandied about in connection to the Gophers’ vacancy after Glen Mason was fired.
From a search of the Star Tribune archives, there are 151 stories that have appeared in our paper that have “Lane Kiffin” and “Gophers” in them (and 58 were written by our venerable 99-year-old columnist). A Chip Scoggins byline story from 12 years ago notes that Kiffin interviewed for the Gophers job on Jan. 12, 2007.
A few days later, of course, Minnesota hired Tim Brewster. And about a week after that, Kiffin was hired as head coach of the NFL’s Raiders even though he was only 31 at the time. He lasted two years there and one at Tennessee.
His tenure with the Gophers might have been just as brief. But it would have been memorable.
“I compare it to childhood actors or actresses or singers. You get so much early, so fast, and a lot of times it doesn’t really work out well,” Kiffin said in the ESPN.com story. “A lot of the stories don’t work out well because you get too much too fast.”