It’s a simple question that has a potentially very complex answer.
As USC’s athletic director Pat Haden tried to re-create the opposite of Spike Lee’s memorable film, “Get On The Bus” early Sunday morning with Lane Kiffin, the former golden boy head coach was told to Get Off The Bus and never return to Trojanland. Losers of 7 of their last 11 games going back to last season, the fanbase of LA’s “professional” football team were fed up, and somebody’s head had to roll.
Lets get a couple of things out the way right now. USC is without a doubt one of the 10 best college football jobs in America. This list of the 10 best coaching jobs in America are not up for debate, here they are in no particular order:
(tie) Oregon, Texas A&M
Over the next few months. the discussion on who will replace Kiffin at USC will take on a life of its own. USC fans will make preposterous requests like, “BRING NICK SABAN TO LA” and we will be forced to guffaw loudly in their faces. Outsiders will name some young assistant coach on an emerging team, and we will be forced to chuckle as we remind them that, “HEY, THIS IS USC” in their faces.
College football has proven that while players definitely matter, the coach is the defining piece that takes programs from good to great. USC’s conundrum is that they’re resource deficient and in a state of uncertainty. In marketing, thought leaders would say that the Trojans need a rebranding of sorts, and nailing the right head coach is the way to do it. They could go about this a few ways:
The Hometown Hero – Jack Del Rio
There are few players more highly decorated that JDR at USC. A former consensus All-American at Linebacker U., Del Rio maintained the elite standard of ‘backers while wearing the Cardinal and Gold. In the pros, Del Rio was a Pro Bowl player, and as a coach has won a Super Bowl as an assistant and led a talent-deficient Jacksonville Jaguars squad to the playoffs. Going back to USC as the head coach would be a beautiful homecoming, but would Del Rio be capable of handling the blitz of recruiting limitations and a roster lacking depth and….(gulp) talent?
Bovada’s odds of Del Rio being USC’s next head coach? 3-to-1.
The Pro Coach Gone Bad Who Could Turn Good Again – Jon Gruden
While Nick Saban is the best example going in college football right now, the most relevant example would be the coach that Lane Kiffin took the job from back in 2009. Let’s clear this up right now, Pete Carroll was never a failure in the NFL. However, it can easily feel that way if you were followed up in your job by guys named Bill Parcells at the Jets and Bill Belicheck at the Patriots. When Carroll left the northeast and took his talents to LA, the Trojans became the juggernaut everyone feared they could be. Running a pro-style offense that catered to those golden-armed QB’s who grow on trees in California, USC would dominate the West Coast for much of the decade. I’m sure that Jon Gruden loves working in cushy confines of that dinky Fired Football Coaches of America garage/office of his, but being able to take the reins of USC while their stock is low has to be appealing…right?
Bovada’s odds of Gruden being USC’s next head coach? 8-to-1.
Creeping On A Come Up – Chris Petersen
Here’s a quick list of teams that a school with little money, two and three-star players and that got damned blue turf field that Chris Petersen and Boise State has beaten since his arrival in 2006:
2006: #10 Oklahoma, 43-42 (all the cuss words)
2008: #12 Oregon, 37-32 (in Autzen Stadium)
2009: #14 Oregon, 19-8 (This was the game that LeGarrette Blount punched ole buddy in the mouf.)
2009: #3 TCU, 17-10 (Fiesta Bowl)
2010: #6 Virginia Tech, 33-30 (At “neutral site” in Washington, D.C.)
2011: #22 Georgia, 35-21 (in Atlanta)
Oh, and Petersen’s record in that time? 87-10.
You got a still relatively young head coach in Petersen (turns 49 in a few weeks) who’s from Northern California, played QB at Cal Davis, and regularly recruits the same two and three star players in the state and somehow gets them to bring their talents to the middle of nowhere Idaho. What he’s proven to me more than anything, is that his teams are always prepared, they’re always adjusting and he coaches players up. Players like Doug Martin, Ryan Clady, Shea McClellin and Kyle Wilson are getting drafted in the 1st-round out of Boise State are proof of that.
I personally believe that Petersen’s done everything he can as the head coach of Boise State, and he’ll always be revered there. But there’s nothing left to accomplish, and this could be the challenge that reinvigorates him, thusly making him my choice to take the reins from Kiffin.
Bovada’s odds on Petersen being USC’s next head coach? 5-to-1.
Who would you choose to be the next head coach at Southern California? Do names like Kevin Sumlin, Kirby Smart or Jeff Fisher come to mind? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”