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National Columnist

Lane Kiffin, Kyle Shanahan: Daddy's Boys keep falling forward

Lane Kiffin lands on his feet, taking the job as offensive coordinator at Alabama. (USATSI)
Lane Kiffin lands on his feet, taking the job as offensive coordinator at Alabama. (USATSI)

Lane Kiffin is the mirage that won't go away, and now he's vaporized out of thin air to become the new offensive coordinator at Alabama.

It's offensive, the way this guy gets great job after great job, and the same goes for Kyle Shanahan, the second most notorious Daddy's Boy in football coaching. (Hey, Lane, you're No. 1; and that's not my index finger I'm raising.) On the same day Kiffin was announced as the offensive coordinator at one of the best football schools in America, Kyle Shanahan interviewed for the offensive coordinator position with the Dolphins.

It's disappointing, disheartening, even disgusting that people like Kiffin and Shanahan continue to find open doors and welcome mats after spectacular failure, when good men -- men who didn't climb onto Daddy's back for their start in the football business, or any business -- sit by the wayside, either unemployed or underemployed because they don't have a father who was better at their job than they ever will be.

Thing is, Nick Saban is a brilliant football coach. The guy knows how to put together a staff, and he's not about to hire Lane Kiffin because Lane's father is Monte Kiffin, one of the better defensive football minds of the last few decades. Saban hired Lane because he thinks Lane can help him, or because he likes the continuity Lane brings -- Lane was on campus this past month as an "adviser" or "observer" or "village idiot" or something -- or maybe because Saban fell under the same spell that people fall under when they talk to Lane. I fell under it in July 2012, and let me tell you this: Never again.

As for Shanahan, he should be unhirable at the moment as offensive coordinator. Go be a quarterbacks or receivers coach somewhere, but no way should this man return as offensive coordinator. The NFL is a brutal, Darwinian business. Only the strong survive, and they survive by eating the smaller and weaker in their path, and everyone in an NFL locker room knows it -- and they know Shanahan didn't get there the way they got there. Shanahan ate his way to the top, too, but his meals were brought to his room on a silver platter by Daddy, the steak already cut into little pieces, the custard served at the perfect temperature, to be eaten with a silver spoon.

Last we heard of Kyle Shanahan, he was part of the most spectacular implosion of the 2013 NFL season, the Washington Redskins' freefall to 3-13 that saw his father get fired. Most coordinators, after a humiliation like that, would have to work their way back up the ladder. But Kyle Shanahan being Kyle Shanahan, he just has to answer the phone. The Miami Dolphins are on Line 1. Who knows who was on Line 2. Maybe the governor. Maybe the White House. Falling forward knows no bounds for guys like Lane and Kyle, who will heretofore be called Lane and Kyle because I'm a sports writer, and I believe in last-name references, but I believe the only Shanahan worth giving that honor is Mike Shanahan, and the only Kiffin worthy of that respect is Monte.

So Lane and Kyle it will be, from here on out.

Why am I so bothered by this? Well, it's not because I was such a dramatic overachiever. For my story's sake it would be great if I could tell you that I was born into poverty and became the first person in my family to get a degree, but that's not my story.

It's my dad's story.

He was the 10th of 10 children in Shawnee, Okla., so poor it makes me cry to see pictures of the one-bedroom house he came from. He was the first Doyel to graduate from college. Hell, he was the first to even go to college. Worked his way through the University of Oklahoma, married his high school sweetheart, and with my mom's help he went to law school.

My dad became a lawyer, then a law professor, then a judge.

Me? I'm nothing compared to that. I was born into the middle-class, grew up in three-bedroom homes in Norman, Okla., and Oxford, Miss., and resisted the urge to follow my dad into law. He had the shingle all picked out -- Doyel and Doyel -- but I wanted to be a sports writer, so I went that way. But he paid for most of my college experience. Don't get this twisted: I'm not mad at Lane and Kyle because I had it rough. I did not.

But people do. My dad did. Millions of others did, and still do. This world, it isn't easy. And when I see someone like Lane, someone like Kyle, a pair of kids born on third base but who have always presented themselves as the strikers of stand-up triples, it rubs me the wrong way. Because you didn't do that, Lane. Neither did you, Kyle. Your fathers clawed their way up the system, and then you rode their coattails to greatness, and because of that ride you will always find open doors and welcome mats while others, most, do not.

Lane was given a job on Pete Carroll's staff at USC because Carroll knew (Monte) Kiffin, and Lane eventually talked his way into offensive coordinator, calling for Matt Leinart to hand the ball to Reggie Bush and LenDale White or throw it to Dwyane Jarrett and Steve Smith. The Trojans put up amazing offensive numbers.

You didn't do that, Lane. The two Heisman winners did it. The future first-round picks. Pete Carroll, for recruiting them. All Lane did was get put on the USC conveyor belt by his dad and then ride it to the top, taking it to head coaching positions with Oakland (fail), Tennessee (quit) and USC (fail). But he's still seen as a good offensive coach, apparently, or Nick Saban wouldn't have hired him.

Maybe Lane will succeed at Alabama. Look, he better. The way Saban recruits tailbacks and receivers and offensive linemen, it's just not that hard. Lane racking up yardage at Alabama won't mean a thing to me. Go do it at Bowling Green, Lane. Do it at Vanderbilt.

Same goes for Kyle, who was placed on Gary Kubiak's staff with the Houston Texans by his daddy, who was Kubiak's mentor in Denver. Kyle rode the conveyor belt to offensive coordinator by age 28. He had been offered the chance to be offensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota in 2007 by another of daddy's buddies, ex-Broncos assistant Tim Brewster, but Kyle was too smart for that. A fraud could fail at Minnesota. At Houston? With a young Matt Schaub throwing to Andre Johnson? A fraud could succeed there, and Kyle did. He succeeded all the way to Daddy's side in D.C., where they failed miserably.

They were fired less than two weeks ago. Kyle interviewed with the Dolphins on Friday. It's like he's racing Lane to see who can fall forward the fastest.

 
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