Sep 29, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California athletic director Pat Haden talks to the media during the press conference at John McKay Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
I know, I know – we all know, actually – that Ed Orgeron has been named as the interim head coach at USC now that Lane Kiffin has been dumped in a side room at the L.A. Airport.
Which I felt was harsh, cold, and completely lacking of class, regardless of how bad Kiffin did; he couldn’t have been allowed to ride back to campus with the team?
Did athletic director Pat Haden really need to pull Kiffin off the bus in the wee hours of the morning? He couldn’t have waited until the sun came up, invited Kiffin to breakfast, and given him the news then?
After all, that’s the way UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero let Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel go, which was classy and dignified.
But what’s done is done…
As is understood, these Trojans need a new permanent head coach.
Lots of names have been thrown out there, such as Washington’s Steve Sarkisian (a former Trojan assistant), James Franklin of Vanderbilt, and particularly Chis Petersen of Boise State, who always gets mentioned every time a high-profile job opens up and who turned down UCLA before the Bruins hired Jim Mora.
However, if I were the USC athletic director, these three names would be on the top of my replacement list (in descending order, with the number one choice listed last):
3. ED ORGERON
As I have mentioned before, this is essentially an eight-game tryout for the former Mississippi head coach who in his second stint on the Trojan staff, having worked under Paul Hackett and Pete Carroll from 1998 through 2004 before heading to Ole Miss in 2005 and returning to USC in 2010.
Orgeron has an extremely fiery personality who ‘SC players, fans, students and alums love for his extreme intensity on and off the field, as well as a top-notch recruiter, and if the Trojans win under him – get back into Pac-12 contention if not go on a hot streak and win the conference – Haden may well remove the “interim” from his job title and give him the keys to the Trojan Empire.
If he beats rivals Notre Dame and UCLA and gets USC to a major bowl game if not the Rose Bowl, I think the job will be his.
Sep 14, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; USC fans celebrate a touchdown by Justin Davis (not pictured) in the fourth quarter against the Boston College at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Trojans went on to a 35-7 win. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
I can almost guarantee that the Trojans will exude a new energy and play hard for Orgeron, starting on October 10 against Arizona at the Coliseum.
The question is, will that result in enough wins to have the “interim” be wiped off?
The next two names I am mentioning have one special thing in common:
They were both students at USC and former Trojan football players.
Not only that, both men were stars at Troy before moving on to careers as players and head coaches in the NFL.
Considering the school’s emphasis on the “Trojan Family”, I was surprised when I found that no USC alum has ever been the head coach of the Trojan football program.
And I would be very surprised if Haden didn’t make a phone call to these men and say two words: “Come home.”
2. JEFF FISHER (USC 1977-1980)
If USC wants a man with extensive NFL coaching experience, they cannot do better than Fisher as he was the head man with the Tennessee Titans for 17 years, dating back to when they were called the Houston Oilers.
He took the Titans to the playoffs six times and a Super Bowl in 2000, won a total of 142 games with that franchise – by far the most in their history – and was hired as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams in 2012, where he remains.
Fisher’s days as a Trojan were great ones as he was part of a defensive backfield that included none other than Dennis Smith and Ronnie Lott, helping ‘SC win a national championship in 1978.
He also has a calm demeanor on the sidelines that Haden may like; the only issue is, is Fisher interested in returning to his alma mater, as he hasn’t indicated that he was in the past.
1. JACK DEL RIO (USC 1981-1984)
Many have said that this former Trojan All-American linebacker, Lombardi Award (given to the nation’s best linebacker) runner-up, and Rose Bowl hero – he was co-MVP of the Trojans’ 20-17 win over Ohio State along with quarterback and teammate Tim Green – is on top of the list of replacements for the USC head coaching job, and I have no disagreements with that.
In fact, if I were the athletic director, Del Rio would be the first one I’d call and tell to come home.
And not just because he was an ‘SC standout, either, as the former third round pick who had a 12-year playing career in the NFL, making All-Pro in 1994, has also had extensive coaching experience in the league.
Sep 21, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans tackle Nico Falah (74) and guard Khaliel Rodgers (62) pose after the game against the Utah State Aggies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Utah State 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
In addition to being the current defensive coordinator of the undefeated (as of this writing) Denver Broncos, Del Rio was the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars for nine years, his 68 wins tied with Tom Coughlin for the most in that team’s history.
He has an intense personality and style as a coach that will excite the Trojan faithful, and most importantly…
He was offered the USC job before, in early 2010 after Pete Carroll left for the Seattle Seahawks, but turned it down to stay with the Jaguars and fulfill his contract with them.
Because of his background, experience, and appeal to the Trojan community, this is the man whom opponents and rivals will be worried about more than anyone else.
As far as who will ultimately be the head man of the cardinal and gold, time will tell; things will have to unfold.
We will know for sure where the wind blows in a couple of months.
L.A. SPORTS HUBBERS – WHO WOULD YOU WANT TO BE THE NEW HEAD MAN AT USC?