Lane Kiffin back in the NFL?
Some say it's a matter of when, and not if, but how soon could it happen? After the historic 2021 season he led Ole Miss to, including 10 regular season wins and one of the best offenses in the country, the head Rebel's name is beginning to surface following the end of the National Football League's regular season.
'Black Monday' came and went with several firings and some, like the Giants moving on from Joe Judge, came later in the week. In all, five new jobs have opened in the league -- Chicago, Denver, Miami, Minnesota and New York. Las Vegas and Jacksonville of course have been open for some time due to the in-season dismissals of Jon Gruden and Urban Meyer, respectively.
That makes seven NFL head coaching jobs technically on the line to be filled sometime relatively soon.
Several college coaches have been rumored to be interested in at least securing an interview, with Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, Ohio State's Ryan Day, Iowa State's Matt Campbell and Kiffin chief among them. Each is coming off of double-digit wins in 2021 save for Campbell, though he has elevated the profile of the Cyclone program for some time.
For The Grove Report's audience, the destination tied to Kiffin may not matter. It may just be about the fact that he could be gone after two years, especially having survived the craziness that was the 2021 college football coaching carousel despite his reported interest in at least two open vacancies.
For curiosity's sake, it is the Vikings opening that has created the most tangible Kiffin buzz relative to the other jobs. And it makes sense. Minnesota has offensive talent comparable to the league's best, especially at running back and wide receiver, though it has been lead by a defensive-minded head coach for some time in Mike Zimmer.
The report from Brad Spielberger initially teased an 'outside the box' candidate before revealing Kiffin's name, likely due to a failed attempt in the league. In addition to offensive success in college, most recently at Florida Atlantic and Alabama before the move to Oxford, Kiffin of course had an early run as the Raiders head coach. The move was bold, even for Al Davis, hiring the then 31-year old back in 2007.
He was the youngest head coach in NFL history at the time. Throw in JaMarcus Russell, a move Kiffin reportedly was against, as the team's new quarterback and the 2007 fate was never to be strong. Oakland finished 4-12. After a 1-3 start to 2008, Davis let Kiffin go and he jumped back down the collegiate game, where he has been ever since.
Now Kiffin is approaching 50 and his reputation couldn't be more different than it was the first time the NFL came calling. He is known for quarterback development, bold play calls and most importantly for any of the rumors or speculation at any level -- winning.
Kiffin has a 45-21 record as a head coach dating back to 2017. In four of those five years, he took his team to a bowl game and went 3-1 in them. The only loss came on New Year's Day, to Big 12 Champion Baylor, after star quarterback Matt Corral was injured early on.
In the conflict of recency bias, the Rebel faithful could be at a crossroad. On one hand, there is a gratitude for Kiffin's emergence among college football's best coaches in having turned around the program in such a short span. On the other, there is a strong sense of hesitation as the bold coach could be on the move so soon after making such a dramatic change in Oxford.
There could be some silver lining at this stage, though.
Other coaching candidates like Byron Leftwich, Kellen Moore, Dan Quinn, Eric Bienemy, Brian Flores and Doug Pederson are much hotter names in NFL circles than Kiffin. Many have secured interviews with more than one franchise. But seven jobs is a high number and all it takes is for one phone call to change the trajectory of multiple fan bases.
So to say stay tuned would of course be an understatement, but it's nothing new for the Rebel fan base.
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