Lane Kiffin's coaching career has been anything but routine. Still just 43 years old, the guy's already experienced a Susan Lucci-sized catalog of personal soap operas. With abrupt and odd departures from just about every high-profile job he's held, Kiffin has established himself as the drama king of football -- the kind of lightning-rod figure who simultaneously induces contempt and curiosity. A fascinating character study. And a man who's been around a whole lot of gifted football players.
While he's currently the head coach at Florida Atlantic, Kiffin has already directed some of the biggest football programs in America. He's waded in some deep talent pools. So, considering all of the players he's worked with, who are the best of the best? What kind of team could you comprise from Kiffin's time as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and USC Trojans? Let's find out!
NOTE: As you can see, each guy's time with Kiffin is listed parenthetically.
Quarterback: Daunte Culpepper (Raiders, 2007)
Culpepper was past his prime by the time he landed in Oakland, but Kiffin's all-time quarterback room isn't exactly overflowing with enticing options. This is probably the thinnest position group on the list. The big man gets the nod here over 2007 Raiders teammate Josh McCown -- as well as USC Trojan golden boys Matt Barkley and Cody Kessler -- because of his superior career resume: three Pro Bowls, two playoff wins and one Big Tymers-infused celebration. Let's remember the good times.
Running back: Darren McFadden (Raiders, 2008)
OK, the RB stable isn't spectacular, either. (Apologies to Buck Allen and Michael Bush.) But this team's about to get juicy -- I swear! After taking the SEC by storm as a dynamic Swiss Army back at Arkansas, McFadden was selected fourth overall in 2008. He never lived up to his draft pedigree -- an injury history of "War and Peace" length didn't help -- but McFadden flashed game-breaking ability at times during his 10-year career. In fact, in his second game under Kiffin, the then-rookie gashed Kansas City for 164 yards on 21 carries. Unfortunately, he didn't eclipse the century mark again until Year 3.
Wide receiver: Nelson Agholor (USC, 2012-13)
Agholor gets top-dog status over his fellow Trojans on this receiving corps because he now has the biggest ring. And it's not like he didn't earn it: Agholor capped off a post-hype breakout season with a nine-catch, 84-yard effort on Super Bowl Sunday, including three big grabs on Philly's go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
Wide receiver: Robert Woods (USC, 2010-12)
Woods caught 32 touchdowns in his three seasons on Kiffin's Trojans. Then, after four inconsistent years in Buffalo, he returned to L.A. on a five-year, $39 million deal with the Rams. Judging by Woods' Year 1 production -- 56 catches for 781 yards and five touchdowns in 12 regular-season games, plus an additional nine catches for 142 yards in the playoff loss to Atlanta -- the man is worth every penny. Year 2 with Jared Goff and Sean McVay could very well yield Woods' first 1,000-yard pro campaign.
Wide receiver: Marqise Lee (USC, 2011-13)
Lee and Robert Woods weren't just college teammates -- they manned the same receiving corps at Junipero Serra High, too. That's not fair. But Coach Kiffin didn't complain about this fruitful receiver pipeline. Lee, like Woods, was a monster at USC. In fact, he was even more productive. In Lee's sophomore season alone, he racked up 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. (In one five-week span during that video game season, the guy had 53 catches for 924 yards and seven touchdowns.) His first two NFL seasons in Jacksonville were underwhelming and injury riddled, leading former Jags OC Greg Olson to dub him "the albino tiger": "You get there and if you're lucky enough to get him to come out of the cage and see him, it's a good day." But he's come into his own over the past two seasons, averaging 60 catches for 776 yards per.
Tight end: Zach Miller (Raiders, 2007-08)
Miller was the second draft pick in Kiffin's short-lived tenure with the Raiders. The first? JaMarcus Russell -- though Kiffin says he begged Al Davis to pick Calvin Johnson over the LSU quarterback. Whatever the case, Russell became one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, while Miller put together a solid eight-year career that included a Pro Bowl with the Raiders and a Super Bowl title with the Seahawks. Thus, he beats out flash-in-the-pan Pro Bowler Jordan Cameron -- who spent a year with Kiffin at USC -- for this spot.
Offensive tackle: Tyron Smith (USC, 2010)
Now that Joe Thomas has gone fishin', Smith might just be the best offensive tackle in the game today. The five-time Pro Bowler boasts premium size (6-foot-5, 320-pounder), strength, athleticism and ... physique? "They say he got a six pack," reigning NFL sack king Chandler Jones said on "The Top 100 Players of 2018," in which Smith was the top-rated O-lineman. "And I don't think any offensive linemen have six packs in the NFL." Smith's last year at USC was Kiffin's first. If you're a fan of nimble-footed demolition, Smith's USC scouting tape is for you.
Offensive tackle: Matt Kalil (USC, 2010-11)
Kalil actually started over Tyron Smith at left tackle for USC (Smith manned the right side) and eventually became the No. 4 overall pick of the Vikings. A Pro Bowl bid followed in his rookie campaign, but Kalil's play has fallen off since, possibly due to extensive time spent on the surgical table. Heading into the second season of a five-year, $55 million deal with the Panthers, Kalil apparently has a clean bill of health. Will he now be able to protect Cam Newton as well as he trolls him?
Offensive guard: Robert Gallery (Raiders, 2007-08)
Perhaps no player benefited more from Kiffin's brief Raiders tenure than Gallery. The second overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft -- in a top-five clump that included Eli Manning, Larry Fitzgerald, Philip Rivers and Sean Taylor -- Gallery was shaping up as a massive bust after his first three seasons at offensive tackle. Then Kiffin arrived, moved the 6-7 behemoth inside to guard, and Gallery became a quality NFL starter for multiple seasons. Not something Al Davis pointed out on the overhead projector.
Offensive guard: Cooper Carlisle (Raiders, 2007-08)
The Raiders snagged Carlisle away from the hated Broncos in free agency prior to Kiffin's first season at the helm. And as a starter in Oakland for the next six seasons, Carlisle did what many offensive guards do: honorably toil away in obscurity. Seriously, how many of you had heard the name Cooper Carlisle before today? Dude started 133 games in the NFL.
Center: Jeremy Newberry (Raiders, 2007)
Newberry's two Pro Bowl seasons actually came across the Bay with the 49ers, but he started 14 games with Kiffin's Raiders in 2007. Still, former 49ers coach -- and current NFL Network analyst -- Steve Mariucci described him best: "When you look up the word 'finesse,' Jeremy Newberry's picture is not there. He's one of those guys that you've got to have. Tough as nails. Plays with broken bones. He's salty. He's a leader in that locker room."
Defensive end: Leonard Williams (USC, 2012-13)
A coveted recruit out of Daytona Beach, Florida, Williams made an instant impact on Kiffin's Trojans, piling up 64 tackles (including 13.5 for loss), eight sacks, two fumble recoveries and a pick as a true freshman. He's been a widely known -- and feared -- commodity ever since. Still just 24 years old, and the last man standing from the Jets' hyped D-line trio (with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson having worn out their welcome), Williams is the kind of versatile disrupter you can build a defense around.
Defensive end: Nick Perry (USC, 2010-11)
Perry wreaked havoc at USC, piling up sacks and TFLs, but some thought he was a tweener size-wise. Then he showed up to the NFL Scouting Combine with 20 pounds of fresh bulk and put on a show. Since joining the Packers as a first-round pick in 2012, Perry has been a bit of a tease in Green Bay. Although an 11-sack season in 2016 netted a five-year, $60 million extension, injuries have prevented Perry from establishing himself as a consistent edge threat.
Defensive tackle: Jurrell Casey (USC, 2010)
Casey never truly got the love he deserved at USC, eventually entering the NFL as a third-round pick. And despite making the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons, Casey still doesn't get his proper due. In a league that's currently obsessed with interior pressure and versatility on the defensive front, this guy should be a rockstar. Unfortunately, he plays in Music City, where the nationally recognized rockstars are ... rockstars. Though Eagles center Jason Kelce knows what's up: "Usually, the size limits the athleticism and the explosion," Kelce said about the 305-pounder to NFL Network, "but for some reason, it doesn't do that with him."
Defensive tackle: Warren Sapp (Raiders, 2007)
The Hall of Famer's best years obviously came in Tampa Bay, where he made seven straight Pro Bowls and earned 1999 Defensive Player of the Year honors, but he finished off his NFL career under Kiffin in Oakland. And he quickly came to Kiffin's defense after his unceremonious ouster, claiming Al Davis didn't give Kiffin a fair shake. Consequently, it just feels right to hand him a starting job on this mythical, Kiffin-inspired team.
Linebacker: Kirk Morrison (Raiders, 2007-08)
Linebacker: Malcolm Smith (USC, 2010)
Balling out on the game's biggest stage -- with nine tackles, a fumble recovery and a 69-yard pick-six -- Smith became one of the most unexpected Super Bowl MVPs in NFL history. Although, nobody who watched Smith at USC could have been too surprised. The athletic linebacker's always had a penchant for making the splashiest of splash plays. Against crosstown rival UCLA, Smith had a 62-yard pick-six as a junior and a 68-yard fumble-return touchdown as a senior. The clutch, 74-yard pick-six in the one-point win over Arizona State was pretty dandy, too.
Cornerback: Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders, 2007-08)
There was a time -- a time that included Kiffin's Oakland sojourn -- when Nnamdi Asomugha was squarely in the "best cornerback in football" debate. Following Asomugha's breakout, eight-interception season in 2006, opposing quarterbacks just completely stopped looking in his direction. Yep, the Deion treatment. The guy was a wizard on the island, locking down receivers in man-to-man coverage week in and week out. So, why did the Eagles sign him to play zone in Philadelphia? Philly's flying high right now -- no need to bring up that "Dream Team" nightmare.
Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall (Raiders, 2008)
Well, this is odd. Like Kiffin, Hall didn't make it through the 2008 season with Oakland. While Kiffin was canned after Week 4, Hall received his walking papers following Week 9. As mentioned above, opposing QBs avoided Asomugha like the plague ... and Hall grew a gargantuan target on his back. QBs abused him on a weekly basis. And just like that, the man who had signed a seven-year, $70 million deal less than eight months prior was released. So, why does he make this team? Well, first of all, I'm tasked with picking the best players Kiffin has coached, and Hall was a 14-year pro with three Pro Bowl nods. Secondly, Hall's whirlwind Raider rise-and-fall screams All-Kiffin Team.
Nickelback: Nickell Robey-Coleman (USC, 2010-12)
A three-year starter under Kiffin at USC, Nickell Robey chose to enter the draft following his junior season. But NFL teams were wary of his small stature (5-7, 169 pounds) and Robey went undrafted. He caught on with the Bills, who found the perfect role for his sticky coverage skills: slot corner. Prior to the 2016 season, he added Coleman to his last name, in honor of his late mother. And this offseason, after a fine debut campaign with the Rams, he added a healthy sum to his bank account, signing a three-year, $16.75 million deal. Obviously, Nickell was born to play in the nickel.
Safety: Eric Berry (Tennessee, 2009)
This fake team needs a captain. I nominate Berry! In his lone season under Kiffin at Tennessee, Berry won the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college football, in addition to earning unanimous All-America honors for the second straight year. Since joining the Chiefs as the No. 5 overall pick, he's been a Pro Bowl mainstay. Yes, his 2017 season was almost entirely wiped out by a torn Achilles, but I'm not betting against his comeback. After all, he spent the 2015 offseason ... um ... beating cancer, and then earned first-team All-Pro honors the very next fall.
Safety: T.J. McDonald (USC, 2010-12)
The son of six-time Pro Bowl safety and Super Bowl champ Tim McDonald followed in his father's footsteps by attending USC. After a fine run with the Trojans that included All-America honors and a whole bunch of tackles, he was a third-round pick of the Rams. Now he's heading into his second year in Miami, but the Dolphins' first-round pick of Minkah Fitzpatrick puts his role into question. One thing's for sure: You don't want to be on the receiving end of contact from this heavy hitter.
Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski (Raiders, 2007-08)
The former No. 17 overall pick (yep, that's something that happened at the turn of the millennium -- maybe Y2K did wreak havoc after all) lined up for the longest field goal attempt of his career with Kiffin on the sideline. With one second left in the first half of a Week 4 game, Seabass lined up for a whopping 76-yarder. "It's a very low percentage, obviously," Kiffin said at the time, via the Los Angeles Times. "We took a shot at it and felt great about the coverage unit and really felt that nothing negative was going to happen because of the way that we had practiced that situation." The attempt -- which was widely perceived as a Kiffin jab at Al Davis for Oakland's lack of talent on offense -- fell woefully short. A couple days later, Davis canned Kiffin.
Punter: Shane Lechler (Raiders, 2007-08)
Given the Raiders' lack of offensive output under Kiffin -- and, to be fair, throughout most of the aughts -- Lechler was put to good use. Though Kiffin did throw him under the bus back in 2011 when asked about Janikowski's infamous, ill-fated 76-yard field goal attempt. "That's Shane Lechler's fault. Cracks a smile.] He was the holder -- the punter," Kiffin [told ESPN. "Shane told me [Janikowski] could make it." Sure, Lane -- put it on the punter.
Returner: Johnnie Lee Higgins (Raiders, 2007-08)
Yes, for much of the aughts, Oakland seemed scoring-averse. But don't blame Johnnie Lee! In 2008 alone, he served up three punt-return touchdowns. Unfortunately, they all came after Kiffin's public flogging/firing.