By David Climer | firstname.lastname@example.org
Say you're a football coach who has fallen on hard times. You got fired at your previous job. Your reputation is lousy.
Know what you need? Coaching rehab.
There's alcohol rehab, drug rehab, even sex rehab (remember Tiger Woods?), so why not coaching rehab? What's good for politicians, televangelists and entertainers should also work for coaches.
That's the only explanation I can come up with for Lane Kiffin's arrival as an assistant coach at Alabama. If you're trying to rehab your image and regain footing in your chosen profession, what better place than on Nick Saban's staff?
After a season or two of calling offensive plays for the Crimson Tide, Kiffin will be back in demand. Why? Because if you are deemed worthy of being hired by Saban and can hold up under his domineering style, you're well on the road to recovery.
Different coaches rehab their careers in different ways. After Bobby Petrino lost control of his Harley and his career at Arkansas in April 2012, he sat out the following season. Then Western Kentucky gave him an opportunity to re-enter the coaching world.
After one season with the Hilltoppers, his rehab was complete. Petrino hopped to Louisville, where he previously had been head coach in 2003-06.
And then there's Derek Dooley. After he got fired at Tennessee in 2012, he could have hung around the house and collected his $5 million buyout, which is being paid in monthly installments over a four-year period.
Instead, Dooley took a job as wide receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys. At some point, he'll likely get another head coaching gig.
As for Kiffin, this is quite a career shift. For years, he somehow managed to move up the coaching ladder despite a resume that was lacking. Really, now, how do you go from offensive coordinator at Southern Cal to head coach of an NFL team at the age of 32? Granted, it was the Raiders but that's still quite a leap.
Likewise, he was out of work when Tennessee hired him as head coach. And he had just gone 7-6 with the Vols when Southern Cal called in January 2010. To this point, he is much better at getting jobs than keeping them.
Now he's roughly back where he started in 2006 when he was calling plays for Pete Carroll at Southern Cal. It's a smart move. After washing out at Southern Cal and getting fired at midseason, he was not exactly in demand. This was the best way to get back into the game.
It takes two to rehab so Saban had to be on board. He is. While he is acutely aware of Kiffin's flaws and shortcomings, Saban has his own agenda. He wants to win national championships. And he sees Kiffin as a means toward that end.
Saban has been a fan of Kiffin for quite some time. He tried to hire him in 2007. Later, Saban praised Kiffin profusely after the 2009 Alabama-Tennessee game when Kiffin's overmatched Vols almost beat the eventual national champion Tide in Tuscaloosa.
When Doug Nussmeier left Alabama to become offensive coordinator at Michigan, Saban sent out feelers and eventually hired Kiffin. The move raised lots of eyebrows. Saban is a control freak. Kiffin is a loose cannon. Why bring in an assistant coach who could be a distraction.
My question: When was the last time an Alabama assistant was a distraction?
Kiffin's many flaws - an aloof attitude, penchant for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, playing it loose with the rulebook, etc. - may have undermined him as a head coach but are not nearly as damaging as an assistant.
The things that made Kiffin his own worst enemy are not an issue now. At Alabama, he is not the face of the program. He is not its spokesman. He will be shielded from media and fans because that's how Saban runs things. Alabama assistants are seldom seen and never heard.
Kiffin's past tells us he will direct a pro-style offense with a power running game and play-action passes. It's far from the no-huddle, spread offense many college teams employ. This is in keeping with Saban's philosophy of running an NFL-style scheme on both offense and defense. He believes this gives him yet another advantage in recruiting top talent.
In short, Kiffin is the offensive coordinator but Saban has the last word.
Let the rehab begin.