NEW ORLEANS — A former head coach in both the pro and college ranks, Lane Kiffin said Monday he plans to return to Alabama next season as offensive coordinator.
Kiffin spoke at the Sugar Bowl media session along with offensive stars from the top-ranked Crimson Tide, about the same time several NFL teams were dismissing their coaches on what is known as “Black Monday.
Asked if he plans to return to Alabama next season after a dynamic offensive season that served as a bit of redemption, Kiffin replied, “Yes. Definitely. I think that we’ve still got a lot of stuff that we can do better.”
It was the first time Kiffin has addressed the media since August. Head coach Nick Saban does not allow access to his assistants during the regular season.
Kiffin was largely low-key while taking questions for 45 minutes, a far cry from the cocky demeanor he was known for while coaching the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and during college stints at Tennessee and Southern California.
He thanked Saban for the opportunity — “I should pay him” — and said he’s become a better coach simply by observing how things are done at Alabama.
“That was why this was so perfect for me,” Kiffin said. “You come in here, you don’t question anything. You don’t go, ‘Why isn’t he doing this?’ You go, ‘Wow, he’s doing this, this, this and this. Let’s see how this goes.’ You don’t judge it. You say, ‘Let’s see how it works.’ There’s times when things happen and you go, ‘Wow, I don’t really know why he’s doing this.’ Then you see the end product. So it’s been great.”
Kiffin looks forward to breaking in new players at key positions next season. Quarterback Blake Sims is a senior and receiver Amari Cooper is expected to be one of the top players taken in the NFL draft.
“That’ll be exciting,” Kiffin said. “To me, there’s always the exciting of the unknown, when you’ve got a new quarterback, to see if we can do this again, to see if we can perform really well. Obviously, coach [Saban] has recruited really well year in and year out. Who’s going to be the next guys up?”
Alabama (12-1) is two wins away from its fourth national title in six seasons. The Tide meets No. 4 Ohio State (12-1) in the national semifinal game Thursday night.
Many questioned how Kiffin would handle working for someone else, especially an iron-fisted coach such as Saban.
Kiffin said it’s not been an issue at all.
“I think the assumption about us being so different is very fair,” Kiffin said. “But I don’t think it’s really accurate. We may not have the same personality, but we do have a lot of the same beliefs when it comes to coaching. … Toughness. Discipline. Running the ball. Even though people assume we throw the ball wherever we’ve been, we’ve always tried to run the ball. Play good defense. Be physical. Not have penalties. Be disciplined.”