Kiffin: I could have coached title game if I wanted to

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin talks with the media during Alabama's offensive press conference for the Peach Bowl, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, at Hyatt Regency Atlanta in Atlanta, Ga. (Vasha Hunt/AL.com via AP)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Lane Kiffin says he could have remained as Alabama’s offensive coordinator through the national championship game if he had wanted to and that he has a “great” relationship with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.

Kiffin told ESPN’s Mike & Mike show Tuesday that he’s not sure if he would have retained his role as coordinator through next Monday’s game with Clemson had the Tide’s offense performed better in the 24-7 semifinal win over Washington.

“I know this was a decision that I came up with, and it was very difficult to do,” said Kiffin, who’s taking over as Florida Atlantic’s head coach. “This was not something that Nick Saban forced me to do by any means.

“If I wanted to coach this game, I would have coached this game, and I just thought that it wasn’t the best thing for the players.”

Kiffin and Saban announced Monday that incoming offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who has worked as an analyst this season, would run the offense and call plays against Clemson. Both described it as a mutual decision.

Kiffin indicated Tuesday that he and Alabama are checking into whether he can help the Tide from the press box during the game.

As for his relationship with Saban, he said: “We had a great relationship. It just kept getting better and better as time went. Obviously the success on the field was fun and the players that we were able to coach in our three years in one of the greatest runs in the history of college football. And one more game to finish it.”

Kiffin said he watched Alabama’s defense struggle against Clemson in last year’s national championship, with coordinator Kirby Smart pulling double duty as Georgia’s new head coach.

“I don’t know if that’s part of it or not,” he said. “But I didn’t want to have that feeling and if it was, and we lost the game because I wasn’t 100 percent focused on our players, I didn’t have them in the best position to win, I couldn’t live with that.”

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