This weekend, Alabama's Nick Saban made Lane Kiffin available to the media. It was the first and only time the Crimson Tide's new offensive coordinator will face reporters this season. Given Kiffin's penchant for saying outlandish things, that's probably a very good policy.
But Kiffin said little that was outlandish at Bama's Media Day. In fact, he sounded like a coach who's done some growing up between the time he left Tennessee for Southern Cal, got fired in LA, and landed in AL.
"As you make mistakes, the #1 thing is you learn from them and not make excuses. I've made more than anybody, probably.
To be able to go [through] what I've gone through and still be fortunate before the age of 40 to be here and be an offensive coordinator with Coach Saban at Alabama, you take some time to reflect on that...
This was an opportunity that came about that was easy for me. There were some conversations about being an assistant coach in the NFL that I was going over.
I can't imagine a better place in college or the NFL to go to learn from someone who has been so successful and teaches his coaches."
A touch of humility. A pinch of self-deprecation. An understanding of just how lucky he is to keep landing on his feet.
That's not exactly vintage Kiffin. During his season as Tennessee's head coach, the Californian was more likely to be taking shots at Urban Meyer or the SEC's officiating crews than at his own shortcomings.
And speaking of his sole season on Rocky Top, Kiffin was asked about his 2009 layover:
"The people were phenomenal there — really loved being there. It was just a unique situation that came about. You can't look back. I just don't live that way, looking back and saying well should I or shouldn't I have left. I don't live that way. I look forward and we're excited about this year coming up. Obviously we're going there and it will be a competitive game, but right now we're focused on getting better in training camp."
The Alabama/Tennessee game hasn't actually been competitive since Kiffin's Vols had a last-second field goal blocked in a 12-10 loss to the eventual national champs back in '09. Since 2010, the Red Elephants have stampeded right over the Volunteers.
One of the big question marks hanging over the 2014 SEC season is, "What will Kiffin do when he and Alabama travel to Knoxville this season?" If he sits in the press box he might avoid a chorus of boos from Tennesseans. Those people will give their ex-coach a "phenomenal" booing if they spot him. At the same time, a trip to the coach's booth would lead him right past a lot of UT brass who'd just as soon spit on Kiffin as look at him.
For Kiffin, it sounds as if he realizes he's erred, "more than anybody, probably." But he still shouldn't expect much forgiveness from Tennessee fans at Neyland Stadium this fall. Others may hear and read Kiffin's Media Day quotes and sense a bit of contrition on the coach's part. In the Volunteer State, you can be sure Kiffin's newfound humility is falling on deaf ears.