The Minnesota Vikings fanbase has been set ablaze by the reports linking a certain polarizing head coach to Minnesota. Following the dismissals of Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman on Monday morning, it didn’t take long for the football world to hint at 1994 Bloomington-Jefferson graduate and current Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin being in the running for the Vikings’ top job.
Mike Ryan threw some more fuel on the fire when he went on The Dan Le Batard Show and said, “I truly believe Lane Kiffin is probably going to be the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. The reason why I think this is because of all the assistants leaving the Mississippi staff, and I was told, ‘Look out for the Minnesota Vikings job.'”
Following the latest announcement of an Ole Miss staffer taking a position at the University of Miami on Tuesday, Ryan doubled down on Kiffin coaching elsewhere in 2022.
We live in an era of youthful, exuberant offensive head coaches like Sean McVay, Kliff Kingsbury, and Kyle Shanahan. Kiffin was the trailblazer for coaches cut from this particular cloth. He spent his mid-to-late 20s playing a critical role as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator for the USC Trojans’ dynasty. From 2001-06, he coached Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, and Dwayne Jarrett.
And as we all know, Kiffin has been a lightning rod of controversey. Allow me to bring it back to 2006, during the height of Kiffin’s meteoric rise through the coaching ranks. It was Shaant Hacikyan of Cute Is What We Aim For fame who once said, “Drama doesn’t follow me, it rides on my back.”
And rest assured, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better description of Kiffin’s coaching career following his stints as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Volunteers from 2007-09. But instead of providing you with a history lesson on Kiffin’s drama-filled career, let’s take a look at why it makes perfect sense for the Lane Train to make its next stop at US Bank Stadium.
When the subject of Kiffin in the NFL is broached, folks are quick to point to college head coaches who flamed out in the pros like Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino, and Butch Davis. However, the NFL is still full of Super Bowl-winning success stories. We’re talking Pete Carroll (who Kiffin coached under at USC), Barry Switzer, and Jimmy Johnson.
And while he didn’t win a Super Bowl, let’s not forget about the second-greatest coach in Vikings franchise history, Dennis Green. He was the head coach at Stanford and Northwestern before landing with the Vikings in 1992.
Green was ahead of his time when he made the jump from college to the pros in the early ‘90s. And the Vikings had not only a ton of fireworks on offensive, with Green dialing up plays for Cris Carter and Randy Moss, but they won a lot of football games along the way. For crying out loud, the Vikings ranked fourth in scoring and won the NFC Central with a record of 11-5 in Green’s first season as an NFL head coach.
The Vikings made the playoffs seven times, won the division four times, and had two NFC Championship game appearances during Green’s eight seasons as head coach. So before Skoldiers scoff at the idea of a college coach like Kiffin making the jump to the NFL, let’s keep Green at the forefront of our minds.
The Denny Green/Randy Moss combination was arguably the most fun, most successful the Vikings have been throughout the lifetimes of Skoldiers under the age of 45.
By pairing Kiffin and his high-flying offense with a roster that includes Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and (maybe?) Kirk Cousins in 2022, the Vikings would be returning to their roots of winning meaningful games. They’d light up scoreboards like pinball machines.
Let’s be real: Kiffin has served his time in football jail. Despite overwhelming success as Alabama’s offensive coordinator and convincing the greatest college football coach of all time to change his core philosophies, the ostracized Kiffin had to essentially start from the bottom to become a head coach again.
And after successful stops as the leader of Florida Atlantic and Ole Miss over the past five years, Kiffin is ready to make his return to football’s grandest stage on Sundays.
Minnesota was extremely bold to hire Green from the college ranks as their head coach in 1992, and it more than paid off. So what’s the problem with making an equally bold hire in the 21st century for a guy who doesn’t have any qualms about tossing his play-sheet after dialing up 91-yard scoring strikes?
I’m old enough to remember when an offensive wizard head coach — one who’s cut from the same cloth as Kiffin — ran into the end zone in Week 18 to celebrate a touchdown with his players.
Let’s bring that 1998-2001 Dennis Green or even modern-day Sean McVay type of fun back to Minneapolis.
All the Wilfs have to do is come aboard the Lane Train and bring Minnesota along for the ride.