One of the first movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe begins with Tony Stark, dressed in a perfectly-tailored suit and designer glasses with a glass of whiskey on the rocks, riding in a military Humvee to AC/DC’s “Back in Black”.
Similarly, this is where the Lane Kiffin story begins.
Stark, who inherited the US military defense contractor Stark Industries, is headed into the heart of war-torn Afghanistan to demonstrate the new “Jericho” missile. Lane Kiffin, son of Super Bowl champion defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, followed in his father’s footsteps and headed into the heart of the early-2000’s college football epicenter to demonstrate his high-powered offense at Southern California.
“Is it better to be feared or respected,” asks Stark. “I say, is it too much to ask for both?”
Kiffin is respected to a degree, certainly. A wet behind the ears, potential genius could describe his early success. Though to create a level of nationwide fear, the young, brazen innovator must put his ego aside and win at the top level. He has engineered some of the most creative offenses in college football en route to multiple national championships as an assistant and continues to put a lot of points on the board. The pinnacle, however, hasn’t yet been reached.
Stark and Kiffin were each given the opportunity to begin their high-profile careers at a very young age. Stark took over the world’s largest military supplier at 38 and Kiffin took over the Raiders at 31. In each situation, it was crash and burn from the get-go. Kiffin went 5-15 and was fired in less than two full seasons in Oakland, and Stark was ambushed and kidnapped by terrorists. Very comparable.
To keep Stark from dying, a fellow captive doctor implants an electromagnet into Stark’s chest to keep the shrapnel shards that wounded him from reaching his heart. Kiffin received a magnet in the form of a six-year, $14.25 million contract from the University of Tennessee. All those zeroes in the contract will get any heart pumping to be honest.
While trapped deep in a bunker (see: middling SEC East), Stark and his fellow P.O.W. secretly build powered armor to aid in their escape— a.k.a., the Iron Man suit. When the guards receive word of his plans to escape, it becomes chaos and Stark is forced to rush the process, leaving the cave in a pile of smoke and destroying everything in his path.
While in Knoxville, Kiffin was unknowingly plotting his plan to escape as well. He led the Volunteers to a 7-6 record in 2009 and increased their offensive output by more than 60 percent. However, he ruffled a few feathers with his sharp-tongue and outspoken nature. When he left Tennessee for the same position at USC after only one season, his departure set off a chain reaction of explosions and flying bullets.
Stark and Kiffin both returned home to California and began the next chapter. Stark announces his company will cease the manufacturing of weapons, and it is met with a lot of controversy as Obadiah Stane, Stark Industries’ manager, believes it will ruin the company and its legacy. Stark sarcastically pushes aside the outside noise and begins to build a better version of the Iron Man suit in his home workshop.
Kiffin set out to define his own legacy with the Trojans and took over a team that saw its head coach Pete Carrol leave abruptly for the NFL after a decade reign as one of the nation’s top programs. Prior to his first season, USC was hit with sanctions stemming from a recruiting violation with Reggie Bush in the early 2000s. His team would not be eligible for the post season in 2010 and 2011, but Kiffin stayed in his workshop and put together a solid prototype for an offense that ended the season with two thousand-yard receivers, a thousand-yard rusher and a 3,000-yard passer.
At a charity event held by Stark Industries, a reporter informs Stark his company’s weapons were delivered to the terrorist group that previously captured him in Afghanistan. It is a serious stain on his image and brings his company to a loss. It was Stark’s lowest moment since his return from captivity.
After falling from preseason No. 1 to a 7-6 overall record in 2012, Kiffin lost seven of his last 11 games at USC and lost 62–41 to Arizona State in early 2013. He received word that night that he was to be let go as head coach and he later said the firing was the lowest point in his career — “by far.”
To right his wrong, Stark dons his most recent prototype and returns to Afghanistan, where he saves villagers from a terrorist group. He is tracked by two United States fighter jets on the way home, the country of which he tries to fight alongside, but escapes its pursuit and returns successful in his mission.
Needing to reestablish himself, Kiffin returned to the SEC as an offensive coordinator and tested his newly evolved offense against the top competition in the nation. He was chewed out by Nick Saban on occasion, the head coach Kiffin takes the field alongside, but learned the ways of one of college football’s greats. His time in Tuscaloosa finished as a success with two rings.
What might be most remembered, however, is Kiffin’s no-nonsense attitude.
The final chapter in Iron Man leads to the second and third movies in a trilogy. The final climax ends with Stark on his last stand after his electromagnet is taken from his chest, and the film ends with a final battle. Right before the credits role, Stark publicly admits to being “Iron Man.”
His personality likens itself to Kiffin’s and that breeds results.
For Kiffin, his last stand came with taking the job at Florida Atlantic. For him to return to the Power 5 level, he needed to reaffirm his ability to win at the top level. He did just that and won two Conference USA titles with a team that had won three games before his time in Boca Raton, admitting to having learned a lot and gaining a new approach to his perspective to the game and to his life beyond the field.
When Lane Kiffin accepted the head coaching job at Ole Miss in December, he officially became...
It’s the perfect storm for a program in need of new life, and the young, brazen innovator begins a new chapter.
The brash, cocky, arrogant and entitled youngster is ready to take his trust fund and turn Ole Miss into a behemoth the likes of which the world has never known. Stark and Kiffin both know the best defense is the demonstration of an unstoppable offense.
Also, we gotta figure out Pepper Potts, Stark’s loyal to the end assistant and then later wife. She plays the role of trying to keep Stark safe, getting him to settle down, etc. As far as we know, Kiffin doesn’t have a love interest he’s made public though he was married to ridiculous smoke show wife, Layla, until a split several years ago.
So I guess for Ole Miss/Tony Stark context, it’s sort of like when you had a sorority girl who is responsible and marriage worthy, and she constantly gives you warnings about your family’s heart issues and not to do lines at the Library the night before a final or care too much about football.
That’s Miss Potts, she’s great, put a ring on it, fellas.
What does the story arc of Tony Stark/Iron Man/Lane Kiffin show us though? That people ultimately can change some, but they are who they are and that’s generally what makes men like these characters popular and successful. There’s little doubt watching Iron Man and the ensuing MCU movies featuring him, a lot of people would want to BE HIM. There’s a lot of people who would love to be a head coach in the SEC, make millions, live a ridiculous lifestyle, and become a legend.
We live vicariously through characters and people like them instead, however. We provide the outside noise and criticism that fuels them to create something we never could.
So while the rest of the SEC looks to Oxford and thinks of the media circus and frenzy that Kiffin brings to the table, the young coach is in his lab, working away, for his next big reveal — Ole Miss football, which could change the landscape of the conference.