Maybe Pat Haden knows something about Lane Kiffin that the rest of us don't.
After an abysmally disappointing season in which USC started as the preseason No. 1 team and finished 7-6, USC head coach Lane Kiffin was believed to be under mountains of pressure to win this year. Kiffin is a great recruiter and used to be a decent play-caller, until the hype and ensuing collapse of 2012 ruined the momentum that the Trojans had after their 10-2 record in 2011. Pac-12 Media Days took place on Friday in Los Angeles and the person who most answered the most questions was Lane Kiffin. Kiffin, with wide receiver Marqise Lee and linebacker Hayes Pullard, faced questions for 23 minutes, more than any other school did during their allotted time at the media gathering.
Kiffin answered questions about everything from their preparation this season after the overhyped 2012 season, to who will start at quarterback this year. He also enlightened the media, and those of us not fortunate enough to be in attendance, that he will continue to call plays this year. I'm sure the fans of USC sighed when he announced this, and all those who play the USC Screen Pass Drinking Game did much rejoicing.
The one question that Kiffin was not asked, however, was whether he felt like his job was safe.
That question was answered on Thursday night by a YouTube video released by the USC Athletic Department, showing Athletic Director Pat Haden giving his "State of Troy" address to the faithful. Haden goes through the litany of positives that surround this year's USC team, like Marqise Lee being a humanoid receiving machine, the depth at running back, offensive line strength and an already successful Monte Kiffin-less defense.
As far as Kiffin's job security is concerned, Haden said, "I anticipate the media will ask me if our football coach is on the hot seat this year. Here is my answer, and it will be my answer whenever I’m asked: He is not. I’m behind Lane Kiffin 100 percent. I have great confidence in him. He’s a very hard-working, detail-oriented coach. He’s a dynamic play-caller in my estimation, and he’s an exceptional recruiter. He knows USC and he knows what it takes to be successful here."
Haden has been an excellent athletic director during his tenure at USC, a place where he played quarterback and was a Rhodes Scholar, but this devotion to Lane Kiffin is confounding at times. Haden was unwavering after last year and remains that way today, but if Kiffin's team this year does not achieve some semblance of success, he should be fired. Last year's team was possibly the biggest underachieving team in college football in the last 50 years. And even though Haden says that Kiffin isn't on the hot seat, Kiffin knows that he has this year to make the team actually look good and turn it around.