Will there ever be another Ed Orgeron? Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin might be the closest facsimile


Let’s pretend Ed Orgeron’s story will happen again.

Let’s pretend a 58-year-old coach, who already failed at one SEC program, spends nine years as an assistant (and occasional interim coach) before becoming the third choice at another. Then let’s pretend that, going into his third full season, he responds to the pressure of going 19-7 those first two years by changing the offense and hiring an unknown 29-year-old NFL assistant to run it.

Oh, and he just happens to plug in a largely unaccomplished transfer quarterback. Oh, and all of this happens at his hometown school … where he goes on to win a national championship.

Impossible.

Right?

Right.

But we must try to imagine it even if Orgeron in 2019 was a coaching unicorn armed with a “Go Tigers!” rallying cry.

Trying to find the “next” Ed Orgeron is just as impossible of a task. The coach’s accomplishments in 2019 were so incredible, so unique, it’s hard to come up with someone to match them.

How many men ever get a third chance at a Power Five job and win a national title once getting that opportunity? First, there was the failure at Ole Miss from 2005-07. After going 6-2 as USC’s interim coach in 2013, he was not retained. After going 6-2 as LSU’s interim coach in 2016, the administration was still looking elsewhere for its next coach.

Even tougher, how many coaches ever get a second chance in the hyper-competitive SEC?

There’s only a couple that come to mind but certainly one who sticks out: Lane Kiffin.

OK, it might be a stretch, but squint a little. Kiffin is not an exact replica of Orgeron, but the path is close enough.

The common denominator here is Ole Miss. Orgeron’s first Power Five head coaching stop is Kiffin’s third. Both joined the Rebels in their mid-40s, albeit at different points in their careers. This from a pair of coaches who were once colleagues on the same USC staff.

Would you be absolutely shocked if Kiffin gets the Rebels back in championship contention? Hugh Freeze did it (with nefarious methods), but that’s part of the reason Kiffin was hired.

Entering his fifth head coaching job overall before the age of 45, Kiffin shows promise. And if there is one thing college football fans will buy into, it’s promise.

Not only is Ole Miss’ new coach in the same SEC division as Coach O, Kiffin is at the same school where Orgeron started as a head coach. That’s what makes the task so tough and so possible.

The SEC West currently houses coaches who have won seven of the last 11 national championships. That doesn’t include Kiffin’s 2004 ring at USC as an assistant.

Orgeron and Kiffin landed at this moment in their careers both advancing together from that same Carroll coaching tree at USC. They coached together from 2001-04, winning that national championship together.

Coach O was the gruff-voiced defensive line coach, forced to fight for every opportunity, who didn’t project as a head coach. Lane was the son of a defensive genius (Monte Kiffin), born with a proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, who couldn’t shut up.

Or so it seemed.

Now they’re peers and rivals. So why not Lane? Why not now?

Joe Brady and Joe Burrow come along — together! — once in a coaching lifetime. But Kiffin at age 44 has 14 years on Orgeron. Kiffin always seems to have youth going for him. Even in middle age, he has that glint of mischief in his eye that always makes him seem closer to 24.

That means there’s time to (further) remake, reshape and reinvent himself, his reputation and even his coaching chops.

We saw it at Alabama where, as offensive coordinator, Kiffin helped modernize Nick Saban’s offense into the top-five unit it is today. We saw it at FAU. In three seasons with the Owls, Kiffin won two-thirds of his games and a pair of conference titles.

The New Lane emerged: Substance triumphed over style. He has never been a losing college coach (61-34 overall), but there’s always been a redemption angle with this guy.

Like Orgeron, Kiffin flopped in his first head coaching gig, getting run out of town by Al Davis after a failed stint with the NFL’s Raiders. He ditched Tennessee like a bad first date, and like with Orgeron, USC had no interest continuing with that experiment. The wins never seemed to outpace Kiffin’s mouth.

One guy (Kiffin) always seems to have a job waiting for him. The other guy (Orgeron) was the gutty coaching everyman. Will the resemblance one day be uncanny?

Few are predicting Kiffin is going to win a national championship at Ole Miss, mostly because it’s Ole Miss. The school claims three national titles (1959, 1960, 1962) awarded by the likes of the Billingsley Report and the Sagarin Ratings. The Rebels haven’t won the SEC since 1963.

But few were saying Orgeron was going to win a title at LSU … until he did.

Coach O was 10-25 in three seasons at Ole Miss. The road back to respectability was long and hard. Nine years after Ole Miss, Orgeron got his second interim gig at LSU, going 6-2 in 2016 after Les Miles was fired.

How many coaches get those chances and then are almost run out of town? Five games into his first full season at LSU in 2017, the Tigers lost at home to Troy. Two years later, LSU went 15-0.

No, the Ed Orgeron story will probably never be duplicated.

Unless Lane Kiffin is running the copying machine.





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