Lane Kiffin will make his return as a head coach on Friday night as his Florida Atlantic Owls take on Navy.
Kiffin spent the last three seasons as Alabama’s offensive coordinator before Nick Saban decided it was best to part ways with him before the Crimson Tide took on Clemson in the national title game.
Kiffin discussed missing the national title game during an interview with the Washington Post, and he said it was difficult watching Alabama take on Clemson without him.
“It was rough,” Kiffin said. “It got really rough when you watched the game. At first, the idea of, ‘Okay, do your job. Focus on this one.’ But really when you watched it, and because they lost, and it was so close. If they lose by a lot, you don’t feel like, ‘Okay, would there have been a difference?’ You lose by one play, one second, it’s natural to think, ‘Okay, you could have made a difference.’ If they won, it wouldn’t have mattered. I would have just been happy for them. That was the hardest part, how it ended.”
Kiffin then said he believes Alabama would have won the game had he been calling plays instead of interim offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
“It’s no disrespect to Steve,” Kiffin said. “No matter who it was, you’ve been there all year long. You’ve been there for the quarterback. You’re all he knew. You were undefeated together. We’ve won  straight games together. You feel like, okay, it’s different. As great as Sark is, it’s just different. Again, if it had been 14 points either way . . . when it’s one play here or there, you think if those guys had the person they were used to, it would have made a difference.”
Kiffin does have a point about continuity with Jalen Hurts, and that could have been a difference maker in the title game.
Then again, Alabama’s offense was lackluster in the 24-7 win over Washington in the semifinals, and the Tide still put up 31 points against Clemson. The offense wasn’t necessarily the problem in the championship game, and it didn’t help that running back Bo Scarbrough went down with an injury.
Kiffin now has a chance to redeem himself as a head coach at Florida Atlantic, and he has already assembled plenty of talent via transfers. The Owls kick off the season at home vs. Navy on Friday night on ESPNU at 8 p.m. ET.
(h/t Washington Post)