Lane Kiffin: Plan to remain at Alabama

ByChris Low ESPN logo
Sunday, December 27, 2015

DALLAS -- Lane Kiffin said Sunday that he expects to return next season as Alabama's offensive coordinator.

"I'd love to be back," Kiffin said. "We'll have a new set of challenges with a third year of a new quarterback and replacing a Heisman Trophy winner [Derrick Henry],just as we did with a Biletnikoff winner the year before [Amari Cooper], and some great returning players to work with. I'd be real excited about that."

Sources close to Kiffin also told there is a good chance he will be back at Alabama for a third season. The relationship between Kiffin and coach Nick Saban is much better than has been portrayed, the sources said.

Kiffin had a chance to leave after his first season at Alabama when he was offered the offensive coordinator job with the San Francisco 49ers, but he didn't want to leave after just one year with Saban.

"It didn't feel right," Kiffin said. "He really took a chance on me. The phone wasn't ringing, even for assistant coaching jobs. It wasn't, and I felt like we didn't really finish what we started last year and to see if we could go this year and finish how we should have finished last year and get him another championship."

Kiffin made his comments at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic media session. He rarely does interviews, per Saban's policy that assistant coaches don't talk to the media.

The offensive coordinator has been a lightning rod just about everywhere he's been. Kiffin butted heads with owner Al Davis as the Oakland Raiders' coach and was fired four games into the 2008 season. Kiffin shook up the SEC with his brashness as the coach at Tennessee in 2009. After 14 months in Knoxville, he abruptly left to take the USC job, where he was fired five games into the 2013 season.

When Saban hired Kiffin in January 2014, it seemed like an odd pairing. But Kiffin has revitalized Alabama's offense, molded two quarterbacks with little game experience and helped steer the Crimson Tide to back-to-back SEC championships and consecutive College Football Playoff appearances.

Kiffin, 40, reached out to Saban for advice the summer before he was fired at USC. The Trojans went 7-6 in 2012, and Saban had just won his second straight national title. They met that July at Saban's house.

"I had 32 questions that I had written out for him and was there taking notes while he's sitting there in his chair," Kiffin recalled. "He was at his lake house, and he flew back and we sat there for three or four hours, and he answered all the questions. People don't understand that about him. He is about helping coaches grow. He is about helping coaches get new jobs and improving."

Kiffin, who owns a 28-15 record as a college coach, said he would love to be a head coach again, but he said his focus is on the job he currently has.

"All I can control is improving as a coach and getting our players ready for games and continue working hard for Coach Saban, and then whatever happens, happens," Kiffin said. "I have a great job, and any time there's any thinking any different, I just remind myself how many people would want to be the offensive coordinator for Nick Saban.

"Take out the head-coaching experience, period, at the three different places I was at. If somebody were to tell you that you were going to work for Pete Carroll and Nick Saban before you were 40 years old as their coordinators on some very successful teams when you're 25 years old, you'd take that in a second."