The decision to keep or fire Lane can be as complex or simple as you'd like it to be, but the only relevent factor is the best interest of USC football. Many people are simply mad about this season, and they want someone to pay. To them, "fire Lane Kiffin from his dream job" is more about payback for all they suffering they've endured this season, and less about moving USC forward. (BTW, not saying the author feels this way, but that is a prevailing sentiment that's out there).
Many of the arguments made to fire Kiffin revolve around what people "deserve". Lane Kiffin deserves to get fired. The fans deserve better. The players deserve better. To me, this is nonsense. Nobody "deserves" anything other that a best effort. The fans deserve the best efforts of the players and coaches, and the players deserve the best efforts of the athletic department. USC may have a long, proud tradition, but this isn't a welfare line. USC's fans are not entitled to 5 Rose Bowls a decade just because they had it before. They deserve effort, and as far as I can tell, they got it.
This talk of satisfying everyone's needs completely ignors the most fundamental consideration...the best interest of USC football. To achieve this, we must first define the ultimate goals (or vision) for the program, and then determine the best way to get there. I'll go out on a limb, and say that the feelings of Greg Doyel, Michael Weinreb, Robert Mays, the Taiwanese people, and SEC fans, etc. don't matter. They will bash us when we are down, but guess what? When we win...they still won't like us. Look at the Domers, the most hated and disparaged program in the country, and they are going to the NCG. Think they care?
Rather than define what USC football should be, I'll attempt to look at it through Pat Haden's eyes. From his standpoint, I'd say that the ultimate goal is to have a top flight coaching staff in place, that achieves success on the football field and in the classroom, and that complies with NCAA rules. The important question is how to best get there, and get there sooner. And truthfully, few of us believe that Kiffin is the answer. The solution is THE NEXT GUY HIRED. It's not firing Kiffin. That doesn't help, much. The next guy is the key, and that guy that will define USC football for the next 5 years, hopefully longer. You don't make that type of decision if the timing is wrong, if you are unprepared, if you have misgivings, simply because fans are mad and frustrated.
It's easy to write "Searching for a new coach in the middle of scholarship restrictions will be a big risk, but hey, it’s going to be an improvement from what we’ve got now." Well hey, there's a reason why you need gray hair to be a good AD. You need to have gone through some "well, hey" moments in life and learned from them. You don't blow off "big risk", but rather you seek to minimize it. You take a flier on the wrong guy, you get 5 years like the one we just had. There is no place for shortsighted, impulsive decisions in the Athletic Departments of winning programs.
Since Pat Haden is now forced to deal with an unforeseen disaster (called the 2012 season), I'll give you two examples of programs that I think dealt with unforeseen disasters the right way. First, tOSU was caught off-guard by the abrupt departure of their iconic coach, Jim Tressel (show cause order from the NCAA). They wisely named a young assistant, Luke Fickell, as "interim HC". He sucked. tOSU went 6-7. But...the next guy was Urban Meyer. Say what you want about Urban, but the Buckeyes are 12-0. If, instead, tOSU had hired an upstart HC from the Sunbelt, they might be 3-5 years (at least) from their next guy. Arkansas did a little differently. When they were forced to abuptly fire Bobby Petrino (sex scandal) before the season, they gave a short-term contract to journeyman coach John L Smith. He sucked worse than Fickell (4-8), but now Arkansas has had a year to prepare and is at least positioned to get "the next guy". Both Fickell and John L Smith are trivia qestions. Their fan bases have moved on. Nobody cares that they had a bad season or two.
Now, an example of how not to do it: When USC faced a difficult situation after Pete Carroll departed for the Seahawks, our AD signed the Kiffins to long term contracts (without really doing a thorough search). This is why we are where we are now...because (in retrospect) our AD took a "big risk", and perhaps also because our AD was a bit distracted, impatient, and lazy. BTW, I love Mike Garrett, but when you operate on impulse you open yourself to criticism. Haden is everything that Garrett wasn't, which isn't always good, either.
Since the article was "Fire Kiffin", I understand why there was no attempt to look at what Kiffin has brought to the table. But Haden has to consider it. In Kiffin's favor, he has done an outstanding job of recruiting, managing the roster, and developing at least some of his players. 2011 couldn't have gone much better, especially in considerating what happened in 2012. And this year, we were treated to Barkley, Woods, and Lee, which should not be underappreciated. Kiffin's obsession with detail may prevent him from ever becoming a good HC, but this is exactly the trait that USC needs to keep the roster stacked through the sanctions. The majority of better coaches might not have planned or recruited as well as Kiffin. The roster could be a lot worse. Just speculation, but you're got to consider that a better coach might have delivered 3-4 loses this year anyway, with less talent and less hope for the next 2-3 years. Kiffin has done some things which are outright embarrassing, but up until the last two months, he has kept USC relevant and charged with hope.
In summary, I'm not advocating that Kiffin should not be fired. In fact, I'll be extremely disappointed if there are not major changes in the way this program is run. But I strongly believe that Haden should not make any decisions based upon impulse, frustration, or pressure from alumni. His only consderation should be the best long-term interest of USC football, which necessitates that selecting the next guy takes priority over firing the current guy. He should trust his instincts and do what he feels is right. As Trojans, that's all that we should expect and all that we deserve.