Friday, February 06, 2009

Just two thoughts on the Kiffin thing ...

... because it got pretty well beat to death yesterday. But I have to make a couple of points:

1. Color me more-than-a-little surprised by the reaction to Kiffin's bravado coming from Tennessee fans, who by and large seem to shrug off the potential humiliation at the hands of Meyer's world-beaters next year as the cost of doing swaggerin', ball-bustin' business. Joel himself writes:
I’m telling you, 73-20 wouldn’t really feel that much worse than 59-20.
For the fans, who can walk out midway through the third quarter or turn off the game or drink themselves into quick oblivion, this is probably true. But I have to wonder if it's the same for the players, who will have to sweat and toil and remain on that sun-beaten field for every stinking, godforsaken minute of their (hypothetical) embarrassment. Kiffin's willingness to stir the hornet's nest (and the Vol fans' willingness to endorse that decision) when it's the players who will feel the worst of the resulting sting strikes me as naive or unfeeling at best, and downright stupid at worst. Soldiers under the leadership of a general who leaves them needlessly open to attack don't think much about the leadership of said general; if the Vols have to trudge out of the Swamp on the sore end of a 77-0-type beating (don't say it can't happen), I have to wonder what they'll think of Kiffin's motormouth then.

2. Plenty of people--mostly Gators and Tide fans licking their lips at the thought of Saban and Meyer going for Kiffin's jugular--have noted the downside to Kiffin's diarrhea of the mouth. But I think it's genuinely worse than believed since, to start with, there's no tangible benefits to making the statements he made yesterday. Sure, it may have been effective pandering, but how many Vol fans on the fence with their opinion of Kiffin were finally, convincingly swayed by (as Dr. Saturday so memorably put it) "the audacity to invent a rule out of thin air, then call your most imposing rival on it in public." I'm guessing zero. I suppose there's also the ensuing media ruckus and Kiffin's enhanced visibility to consider, but again, I'm not sure how much value is really gained by having every sports columnist in the South simultaneously breaking out the same "Al Davis was right!" joke. Other possible tangible benefits include: nothing, at least that I can think of.

Meanwhile, on the negative side of the ledger, there's the possibility of having alienated administrators and coaches at the same school that just produced the recruit you're crowing so lustily about, making the recruitment of the next one more difficult; the possibility that the occasional recruit will pass on letting Kiffin into his home, lest he later publicly disparage the values of his relatives; the possibility that Saban and Meyer will specifically target prospects they expect Kiffin to make a run at (since Lord knows they've built up enough recruiting luxury and bile by now to do it); the possibility that Saban and Meyer will run up the score to an extent over the course of multiple seasons that the Vols' reputation as a serious contender in the SEC East sustains substantial damage; the possibility, as detailed above, that his players will lose their respect for him for letting his mouth write checks neither he nor they can cash.

Now, do I think any of those possibilities are even remotely likely? Not really. But they're out there. The potential positive value of Kiffin's comments is nil; the potential negative value of those comments, while negligent, is more than nil. So why say them? Whether it's because Kiffin didn't attempt to work that out or did and decided it just didn't matter, I'm not sure it's the best example of the decision-making process I've seen from an SEC head coach. It's a long way from saying anything important about Kiffin's chances for long-term success in Knoxville ... but forgive me Vol fans, for the time being I'm glad to have the leagues' new successful-coordinator-but-poor-head-coaching-record head coach who's got his coachin' head down and out of the way.


Hobbes said...

What is not getting a lot of national press, but is getting a ton of press down here is Kiffin's insulting comments aimed at Pahokee's high school Blaze Thompson.

Not real smart thing to do.

Robert said...

I also saw that Bama picked up a commitment for 2010 today from one of the top receivers in Memphis. So much for Lance Thompson locking down the city and not letting Saban get any of his recruits.

I'm sure Saban, Miles and Meyer are all going to be going after the state of Tennessee hard just to make the point. And then there's play on the field...