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Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin just could not resist.
After his team won, 31-28, at Texas A&M Saturday night, sending embattled coach Jimbo Fisher to his fourth straight loss, SEC Network announcer Cole Cubelic asked Kiffin who he was dresssing up as for Halloween on Monday night.
“I don’t know,” Kiffin smiled devilishly. “Maybe Jimbo has a Joker outfit for me.”
Kiffin has long thought Fisher is a bit of a joke when his $9 million a year contract is compared to his recent won-loss record. The Aggies fell to 3-5 on the season Saturday night and to 1-4 in the SEC in Fisher’s fifth season. Texas A&M was a mediocre 8-4 and 4-4 last season. After a 9-1 mark and narrowly missing the College Football Playoff in 2020, Fisher got a raise to his present salary. He was 9-4 and 5-3 in his first season with the Aggies in 2018 and 8-5 and 4-4 in 2019.
That’s pretty average so far, and it’s getting worse.
Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher Has Been A Disappointment
Fisher was hired at A&M before the 2018 season after going 5-6 and 3-5 (ACC) in his last season at Florida State. He was made the highest paid college football coach in the country at the time at $75 million over 10 years by then-athletic director Scott Woodward, who is now LSU’s athletic director. Fisher won the 2013 national championship as Florida State’s head coach and reached the first College Football Playoff in 2014. From 2012-16, Fisher was no Joker as he went 59-9 and 34-6 – a mark Kiffin has never been remotely close to at five head coaching jobs
Kiffin took shots at Fisher over the past week leading up to Saturday night’s game. Kiffin has been particularly upset at the sound of Fisher’s name since last spring when Fisher hired Kiffin’s defensive coordinator – D.J. Durkin – away for more money.
“We got outbid,” Kiffin said on the SEC teleconference on Wednesday. “Kind of a common theme with that program.”
Losing coaches to other programs with more resources is a common theme in the college football world, not just at Ole Miss, Kiffin should realize, if he’s not just being cute again.
That last sentence by Kiffin was a jab at Texas A&M’s growing reputation since the 2021-22 recruting season for its perceived, more lucrative Name, Image & Likeness financial deals for players. Fisher signed the consensus No. 1 class in the nation in February of 2022 that has been called the best class in history. And there have been a steady stream of accusations that he signed that class largely because of large NIL deals. He has denied that, but Alabama coach Nick Saban said last spring that A&M “bought every player.” A feud ensued.
Kiffin also has loved to say how much talent Fisher has amid all his losses. He did that this past week, and he took more shots after the game Saturday.
“This is a tough place to play. They’ve got great players,” Kiffin said. “You saw their players show up today.”
No. 15 Ole Miss (8-1, 4-1 SEC) outgained Texas A&M and Durkin 530 yards to 480 and overcame a 14-7 deficit in the second quarter to win.
“I mean, we rushed for 390 yards against a bunch of five-stars,” Kiffin said. “That’s pretty good.”
On the teleconference Wednesday, Kiffin took a few other shots about Fisher’s roster talent and its underachievement.
Lane Kiffin Likes To Take Shots at Jimbo Fisher
“They’ve got some really elite skill players,” he said. “They can – even though they’ve not been this year at any point – be really explosive because they have great players like that. When you have great players, it’s always dangerous to go play them.”
Asked why the Aggies were 3-4 with so much talent last Wednesday, Kiffin said, “I don’t know that. You guys would know that probably better than me. It’s always your fear as a coach, when you play good teams that are stockpiled with great recruits, that they come together when you play them.”
That didn’t quite happen Saturday. Texas A&M again lost close. The Aggies’ last three losses have been by four points or less. Maybe Fisher has the players to be competitive, but not the coaching to get over the hump.
Truth is, though, Kiffin’s continued lauding over Fisher’s talent is a stretch. Fisher did sign the No. 1 class last February, but everyone knows it takes two to three years for a class to come into fruition. Fisher had the No. 7 class in 2021 and the No. 6 class in 2020, so A&M should be better.
But. Kiffin could just be jealous of Fisher as his highest ranked class with the Rebels was No. 17 in 2021. Despite a 10-3 season in 2021 in which Kiffin set the school record for regular season wins, he only parlayed that into the No. 27 class in the nation – behind the likes of Auburn at No. 18 and Mississippi State at No. 16. Do you know how to recruit, Lane?
Kiffin could also be jealous of Fisher’s salary. He makes nearly $2 million a year less than Fisher at $7.25 million a year. And Kiffin frequently makes subtle references to the fact that Ole Miss has fewer financial resources than many SEC schools, including A&M. Like that’s new. That’s why he lost Durkin.
Kiffin also often speaks enviously of other SEC schools’ game atmospheres (Tennessee and LSU in particular), which are hard to match at Ole Miss with its 1970s-size stadium capacaity of 64,038.
The previous week Kiffin sounded jealous of first-year LSU coach Brian Kelly, so much so that he sounded like he would’ve liked to get that job last year. He also overrated LSU’s roster talent. That’s an old coach’s trick – say how much talent your opponent has before the game, so if you lose, it’s not on you. Kiffin’s been doing that for years.
Texas A&M does not quite have as much talent as Kiffin like to say it does. Kiffin failed to mention that A&M lost one of its top skill players early this season to injury – wide receiver Ainias Smith. The Aggies also lost quarterback Max Johnson to an injury after he had replaced original starter Haynes King.
Much of the talent Kiffin is referring to at A&M is true freshmen talent. Kiffin also conveniently didn’t mention after the game Saturday that Fisher started his third quarterback this season, partly due to injuries – true freshman Conner Weigman. Yes, a major recruit from the ’22 class, but a true freshman still. Weigman completed 28 of 44 passes for 338 yards and four touchdowns in his first start. That looked promising for the future.
Fisher will have a future after 2022 at A&M regardless of how poorly he finishes this season or how much Kiffin criticizes him. The buyout is more than $80 million, which is about what it costs for an entire program to switch conferences. He’ll get the chance he deserves to coach the class he has been so criticized for signing, which can’t be that different than how most coaches have signed top recruiting classes over the years. If Kiffin ever signs a top 10 class, he may find that out.
Nevertheless, Kiffin is 2-0 against Fisher as a head coach. Maybe, Kiffin is thinking he better get his shots in now when he can, should Fisher turn it around in the near future with all that talent Kiffin likely covets. Kiffin is in the lead now, though.
In his third season at Ole Miss, Kiffin is 23-9 for a winning percentage of .718.
In his fifth season at Texas A&M, Fisher is 37-19 for a winning percentage of .660.
The Joker Mask Would Fit Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin Well, Too
But it is interesting that Kiffin is talking about a Joker mask. It would fit him well, too. At just 46, Kiffin has already been fired from two major coaching jobs – as the Oakland Raiders head coach at 5-15 and as the USC head coach at 28-15 for a .651 winning percentage. Wow, that’s worse than Fisher’s mark at A&M. Fisher, by the way, has never been fired.
Kiffin had plenty of A&M-like resources at major brand USC as its head coach from 2010-13, but he had very current-Jimbo-like numbers in 2012 at 7-6 and 5-4 (Pac-12) and was fired in 2013 at 3-2 and 0-2. Wow, wonder how much talent he had?
Funny thing about Kiffin’s coaching records with the Raiders (5-15, Tennessee (7-6), USC (28-15) and Florida Atlantic (26-13) before he got to Ole Miss – they do not appear in the SEC media guide. All 13 other coaches have their previous head coaching records, including Arkansas coach Sam Pittman’s ledger at Hutchinson Community Colllege and LSU coach Brian Kelly’s at Grand Valley State. They’re missing from Kiffin’s. Trying to “mask” something, Lane?
Kiffin also skipped town on Tennessee after just one season in 2009 for the USC job, displaying not the greatest character. His adolescent-type behavior as Alabama’s offensive coordinator in the 2016 postseason led to coach Nick Saban asking him to leave before the season was done.
So Kiffin is one to talk about clowns and the Joker. Maybe it takes one to know one.
Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin Could Find Another Job, Or Could He?
After talking for two weeks about how much LSU and Texas A&M have, Kiffin was finally asked last week if he feels he has everything he needs at Ole Miss to build the kind of program he wants. You know, so he’ll quit sounding like a kid complaining about his presents at Christmas.
“Obviously, you’re always striving to have everything you want in a program,” he said. “We are definitely headed in that direction.”
And if that doesn’t happen, Lane, why don’t you try to get a higher level job again like you had at USC and Tennessee? Or, hey, maybe A&M will open before too long.
Or could it be that no one wants to hire you for those upper level jobs because you tend to be a clown and “The Joker” yourself?