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The rise and fall of Lane Kiffin's coaching career, in 11 steps

Kiffin was one of the top up-and-comers a decade ago. Now he's out of a job.

Christian Petersen

Lane Kiffin has gone through more in the past six or seven years than most coaches will go through their entire careers.

He's been the head coach of three teams, including one professional franchise and arguably the most prestigious college program west of the Mississippi River. Yet despite his rapid rise to the top of the coaching ladder, Kiffin now finds himself an unemployed punchline.

Here's a timeline of his coaching career.

1. Kiffin surprisingly hired as Raiders head coach

Al Davis surprisingly picked the USC offensive coordinator in January 2007 to be the next head coach of the Raiders. Kiffin was just 31 years old. He was the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. It was a bold hire, but given Davis' track record with young coaches, most liked the move.

He went 4-12 in his first season, and Davis would reportedly ask him to resign. Kiffin has a history of not resigning.

2. The 76-yard field goal

Kiffin probably knew his time as head coach of the Oakland Raiders was running short after 18 months in the Bay Area. On Sept. 28, 2008, Kiffin called on Sebastian Janikowski to attempt a 76-yard field goal with just a couple seconds left before halftime.

Janikowski missed the kick by about 25 yards.

Kiffin was laughed at for days.

3. Kiffin gets fired in Oakland

Davis had seen enough. In September 2008, he held a press conference and went into great detail to why he was letting Kiffin go. Instead of parting on good terms, Davis ripped into Kiffin in front of the media, even displaying on an overhead projector a letter he'd sent Kiffin that began with: "I will no longer stand silently by while you continue to hurt this organization."


I think he conned me like he conned all you people ... I reached a point where I felt that the whole staff were fractionalized, that the best thing to do to get this thing back was to make a change. It hurts because I picked the guy. I picked the wrong guy.

Kiffin went 5-15 with the Raiders over one and a half seasons.

4. Rocky Top!

A little more than a month after he was let go by the Raiders, Kiffin was officially named the head coach at Tennessee, replacing fired former national champion Phillip Fulmer. Reaction was mixed.

5. Kiffin takes on the SEC

The still-young head coach immediately sought to get his program's name in the news as frequently as possible.

Just one example: In front of about 1,000 UT boosters, Kiffin said he was going to turn then-Florida coach Urban Meyer into the NCAA for recruiting violations. He alleged Meyer called a recruit, Nu'Keese Richardson, when he was on a visit to check out the Volunteers and their program.

"Just so you know, when a recruit's on another campus, you can't call a recruit on another campus," Kiffin said. "I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him."

Kiffin was torn apart by just about everyone, including the SEC commissioner at the time. He issued an apology, though it didn't do him much good.

There was also the hostesses thing. And an ongoing Steve Spurrier thing. And a host of NCAA secondary violations. And so on.

6. Alshon Jeffery, gas pumper

On the day before the 2009 National Signing Day (and just a few days after the incident with Urban Meyer), Kiffin infamously told recruit Alshon Jeffery that if he stayed home and played for the Gamecocks, he would "end up pumping gas for the rest of his life like all the other players from that state who had gone to South Carolina."

Jeffery ended up a second-round NFL Draft pick out of South Carolina.

7. Kiffin bails on Tennessee, everyone hates him

After just one 7-6 season in Knoxville, Kiffin left the Vols to return home to California and coach the USC Trojans. He was labeled as a snake, a weasel, and a traitor by just about anyone who had anything invested in Tennessee football.

8. The 2011 season and the win that changed everything

This season was the pinnacle of Kiffin's coaching career.

With the Trojans heavily subdued by NCAA scholarship violations and a postseason ban, Kiffin, Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, and the Trojans finished the season with a 10-2 record and No. 6 ranking in the AP Poll. In late November, USC invaded Eugene and knocked off Oregon, 38-35, likely keeping the Ducks out of the national championship game.

He remained as Kiffin as ever throughout, being criticized for having his players switch numbers against Colorado and for curiously deflating game balls against Oregon.

All of their 2011 success led some to label the Trojans as the team to beat in 2012, when they would finally became eligible for postseason play.

9. Everything goes wrong in 2012

Ranked No. 1 in the polls, USC began the 2012 season with two wins. Then came a 21-14 loss to Stanford on the road. The Trojans recovered, winning their next four games to get back into the top-10. If they could run the table, a chance at the national title was still possible.

In an instant classic, Arizona knocked off USC in late October, 39-36. Oregon then hung 62 on the Trojans at home the following week. Then they dropped the final three games of the season, including an embarrassing 21-7 showing against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

Kiffin's proverbial seat was starting to warm up. He responded in part by gutting much of his coaching staff, including firing his defensive coordinator (and father) and shutting out the Los Angeles media.

10. "Fire Lane" Kiffin

After losing to Washington State at home, Kiffin lost any remaining local goodwill. This happened at the end of the WSU game:

And this kind of thing, which had been happening for a while already, started showing up more and more:

11. Kiffin is fired from USC

After three and a half years, Kiffin was relieved of his duties upon USC's return to Los Angeles following a 62-41 Arizona State romping on national TV. He finished with a 28-15 record, dropping 7 of his last 11 games.

Your turn

Squeezing the bizarre history of Lane Kiffin into 11 steps is not easy. What Kiffin moment most deserves to be included here?