Kiffin a dark horse worth rooting for 

I love long shots. I love rooting for the out-of-left-field, burst-on-the-scene nobody who sends every member of the media scurrying for morsels of information.

Ted Ligety winning an Olympic gold medal at last year’s Olympics. Jason Gore at the U.S. Open a few years ago. Some qualifier reaching the round of sixteen at the U.S. Open tennis championships.

And right now, right here in the Bay Area, we’ve got a story that rivals any long shot story I can think of.

Lane Kiffin is be the coach of the Raiders at the ripe age of 31 years old.

Talk about jumping to the head of a class.

This is Modesto’s city comptroller suddenly being named mayor of San Francisco. This is some kid competing on the dirt tracks of North Carolina up and driving NASCAR. This is some nice college player teeing it up with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

I’m not saying he can’t do it. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve the opportunity, but Lane Kiffin is a million-to-one shot right now. He’s that fresh-faced kid who two weeks ago was not even a blip on the NFL radar. Heck, he probably could name only 27 of the 32 franchises.

In the movie "The Natural" the scout who signed him called Roy Hobbs "a nobody from nowhere." And, in terms of the National Football League, that is a perfect description of Kiffin.

And now he is down at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., trying to convince men who’ve spent their lifetimes in the league to join him on the Raiders’ coaching staff.

Do the math. There are 31 other NFL head coaches, plus another half-dozen or so who have the credentials to step in anywhere, at the top of the coach’s pecking order. After that come 32 offensive coordinatorrs, 32 defensive coordinators, followed by some 450-500 other NFL assistants out there.

After that, at the top of college football, there are 119 NCAA

Division I-A head football coaches. Below them are their coordinators, which was where Kiffin stood on the coaching totem pole before Al Davis plucked him from out of the blue to take over the Silver and Black.

Kiffin jumped from No. 700 in the coach’s pecking order to No. 32. In a week. Thank you, Al Davis.

Throughout the coaching fraternity, there’s plenty of head-scratching going on, especially among the 600 or so passed over.

Lane Kiffin has never been a head coach, has spent a grandtotal of one year in the NFL, and that was as something called a quality control coach, which I’m told are responsible for stuff like making sure coffee is hot and the copy machine works.

Sure, he was incredibly successful the past two years as Southern Cal’s offensive coordinator, but we have to remember he originally came to Alameda to interview for that position with the Raiders.

Kiffin got a job he didn’t even ask for. He got a job his dad, Monte Kiffin, longtime defensive coordinator now with Tampa Bay, couldn’t get. And this weekend Kiffin is down in Mobile, Ala., trying to convince someone from the hard-scrabbled, pay-your-dues-kid coaching community to join him in Oakland.

Excuse me, Mr. Parcells, could I ask you something?

He’s going to get laughed out of more than one hotel room this weekend, mocked behind his back at every turn, and that’s long before he faces Randy Moss or Jerry Porter. Every football know-it-all who’s ever had a sniff of the big time is going to be rooting for Kiffin to fall on his face.

And that’s why I’m going to be rooting for Lane Kiffin, rooting for him to become the next great NFL head coach, and prove to all of us that million-to-one shots do come in.

Tim Liotta hosts the weekend edition of "Sportsphone 680" on KNBR (680 AM).

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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