INT. PRIVATE AIRPORT TERMINAL. LAX. LATE NIGHT.
Pat Haden, University of Southern California athletic director, is patrolling the Landmark Aviation terminal accompanied by Lane Kiffin’s most recent employers. Hovering over his right shoulder is the Ghost of Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders owner who gave Kiffin his first head-coaching job. Hovering over Haden’s left shoulder is the spirit of Mike Hamilton, the University of Tennessee athletic director who hired Kiffin after Davis fired him.
Do you want to know how much I hate this guy? I hate him so much I’m standing in a goddamn airport, AT THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING, so I can fire his ass. That’s how much I hate Lane Kiffin.
DAVIS AND HAMILTON (in unison)
I know, I know.
I still can’t believe it. We were thrashed, 62-41, by Arizona State. They gain 612 yards. We turn the ball over four times. I look at our guys, nobody cares. Kiffin wanders the sideline pretending to be a coach. It’s creepy.
DAVIS (staring at the ceiling)
I remember, it was January 2007 when I brought him into the NFL family.
Turns out I didn’t hire the person I thought I was hiring.
You signed him for $6 million over three years. Kid was 31 years old, youngest head coach in NFL history. He goes 4-12 his first season.
Starts his second year losing three out of four. You fire him for insubordination, for lying about how often he talked to you. Pretty thin gruel, Al. Why didn’t you just say he was a lousy coach?
I tried to be a gentleman about it. Asked him to resign. He wouldn’t, wanted to stay for the money. Starts his second season 1-3 so I fired him. For cause, which means I didn’t have to pay him a dime in missed salary.
You fired him and I hired him a few weeks later. I must have been drunk. I mean, how bad do you have to be to get fired by the Raiders?
I saved his butt. Don’t forget, the University of Tennessee is a founding member of the SEC, the best and baddest football conference in the country.
I got him $2 million for his first year, same as you. Got him a six-year deal, too. Kiffin was an NFL failure but had a reputation for recruiting, a hangover from his college coaching days. What can I say, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
DAVIS AND HADEN (in unison)
I know. I know.
So, the little ingratiating ass-kisser settles into Knoxville, says he loves Tennessee, says he named his son Knox. He stays one season, then jumps to USC and Hollywood during the recruiting season, taking his recruiting coordinator with him. On the way out, he holds a 90-second farewell press conference and wouldn’t answer a single question. Students riot. Players accuse him of being a traitor.
Hey, I didn’t hire him. He was COACHING — at $2.4 million a year — when I got here. USC was busy dealing with Pete Carroll’s legacy. Carroll fled USC before the NCAA hammered us with a two-year bowl ban and axed 30 scholarships.
Then, AD Mike Garett must have panicked. He knew Kiffin had a reputation as a great recruiter, figured USC would need a great recruiter. Who knows? Kiffin did have a couple good years.
The man’s best talent is finding a job. Nobody fires a head coach in September except for losers, the Raiders, and USC.