That Ellis Johnson packed his bags for the Gamecocks after less than a month on the Hill might tickle Falcons owner Arthur Blank pink, but I won't bite on the “just desserts” argument. Johnson had been hankering to go home to South Carolina for years, just as Petrino always wanted to coach in the SEC. Anyone foolish enough to think loyalty has anything to do with it is living in a dream.
Lane Kiffin's story might snap them out of slumberland. Back in the anxiety-ridden days of the coaching search, Kiffin's name kept popping up on blogs and message boards as a possible candidate. Another high-flying offense guy, the youngest head coach in Oakland Raiders history, and a pupil of Pete Carroll at USC, Kiffin seemed like a great but bizarre prospect. He had no firm ties to the program (his father had coached under Lou Holtz for few seasons when Kiffin was only a toddler), but the abysmal Raiders, their infamous fan base, and the lure of the SEC made for a somewhat believable reality.
Perhaps somebody convinced Kiffin he should ride out the season. Perhaps he felt a certain amount of loyalty to the team. Perhaps the rumors were just that. As far as we know, he never sent overt signals Jeff Long's way. (Of course, there's always the faint possibility he was rebuffed, but only if Petrino was already on the other line.) At any rate, another struggling first-year NFL coach sucked it up and beat him to the punch.
The Raiders finished 4-12 this season, something like the record Petrino would've come away with had he stayed on with the Falcons. Now, it's been reported that Raiders owner Al Davis has asked Kiffin for his resignation after only one year in the driver's seat. Kiffin's made a splash in the media by refusing and opting to force Davis to can him. He's owed a contract settlement if Davis really wants him gone. The Oakland papers are raking him over the coals. Who's loyal now?
Johnson's resignation is unfortunate, but nothing's terribly surprising about it. People make similar decisions all the time. Those who don't are middle-management material. Even the best bosses can become every bit as faceless when the occasion calls. Business is, after all, business. Loyalty's better reserved for friends and family, and that's likely what Johnson had in mind when he made his decision. Someone will come along and sign up for the lucrative contract he leaves behind. If the timing weren't so damn awful, we wouldn't have missed a beat.
The signing deadline is Feb. 6, and the remaining staff is scrambling for viable defensive recruits. It'll take more than simple loyalty, or a love for “the helmet,” to keep the defensive commits we have when our DC is long gone. Petrino doesn't want the track team anywhere near our secondary.
PS: Anyone wondering what I think about the Hogs beating LSU in Baton Rouge for the first time in eons, ask me later this week after they hit the court with a team that's stacked with scholarship players on Wednesday. You can check my temperature Thursday morning.