Oct. 15, 2016
The Case for Ed Orgeron to stay as LSU's Head Coach
What a strange year for LSU football.
They were regarded as a heavy favorite to win not just the SEC, but the national championship this year. All the recruiting abilities in a talent-rich football state, an incredibly supportive fan base in Baton Rouge, and a schedule from the eyes, looked very favorable (meaning Alabama visited Tiger Stadium this year).
And then by the end of September? Chaos took over Baton Rouge.
LSU loses up in Wisconsin on Lambeau Field of all places, looking very stagnant and one-dimensional while the defense held true to form and did most of the scoring (and at very worst, set up the scoring). The talk went from LSU winning a national title to Les Miles on the hot seat. Despite a plea from fans and boosters alike for Les Miles to bench struggling quarterback Brandon Harris for Purdue transfer Danny Etling (which he did), the Tigers continued to not be dominant beating FCS power Jacksonville State 34-13 (close for nearly a half was it was 20-10 until a punt return TD solidified that) and then nearly allowing Mississippi State to come back in Baton Rouge.
Then the Auburn game happened. LSU played stagnant in that in a game where they probably should have won. But poor coaching decisions by Miles and how he mismanaged the clock (again) costed the Tigers the victory. The Tigers fell to 2-2 and the next day, LSU fired Miles, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and Ed Orgeron took over. The program looked to be in disarray. I mean, why would you fire a coach one month into the season, especially one who netted you a national title, 2 SEC championships, and constant top 10 rankings?
Maybe because the coach's name was Les Miles.
I've mentioned before in a previous post that Les Miles was a "good" coach. I still believe that, but I think he was massively overrated. Every year in Miles's tenure, his program was ranked right besides Alabama for recruiting. Largely he could recruit because Louisiana is an amazing hotbed for recruits. You're talking easily about one of the top five states for high school football recruits. It is one reason why Alabama does well is because Saban can recruit in Louisiana. But all Miles needed to do is pitch the "home state" thing to these 4 or 5-star players to stay home and he had done it over and over again. So every year, when the media and the coaches make their first ranks, LSU is top 5, top 10, etc. because of what the Tigers have for talent. But Les Miles and his style of coaching never meshed, especially after 2011. His stubbornness nailed him time after time, keeping the likes of quarterback Jordan Jefferson in games where he was totally lost and in over his head, keeping troubled athletes without suspending them or any ramifications, etc. It felt like the inmates had ran the asylum at times. And of course, his in-game clock managing was some of the most mind-boggling things to have ever been done by a coach. It ultimately just caught up to Miles. And the refusal to change with the times especially on offense, did Les in.
So enter Ed Orgeron.
Orgeron, who struggled in his first stint in the SEC as head coach at Ole Miss ten years ago, knew of his lessons learned and did things in my eyes very differently from Les. He would open the offense (promoting Steve Emsinger as offensive coordinator to help do that) up make it more of a spread out the offense instead of that whole smash it up the middle bit (also probably why Leonard Fournette was dinged up in 2016 was because of this style of play). It worked. He set up procedures weekly procedures for practices, giving it a theme, similar to what Pete Carroll did, giving the program guidance. That worked. He never really put himself in the forefront of antics and silliness that Les did (it always felt like Les was above the players which bothered me). He rallied the teammates and showed great energy while Miles was incredibly stoic and felt like the players would play up to their talents and never really motivated the team despite all the antics and shenanigans whenever the team came out of the tunnel.
LSU rolled, winning the next three games with ease, beating Ole Miss, Missouri, and Southern Mississippi. Granted, they aren't exactly powerhouses, especially this year, but given the struggles Miles had, while LSU might have won those games with him, they wouldn't have exactly been awe-inspiring nor impressive leading up to the Alabama game......
And then it is the game that decides evidently all SEC coaches........Alabama. Probably Orgeron's issue was telling to keep the Tigers players' mouths shut leading up to the game (players saying how LSU would dominate Alabama and they want revenge from last year) because Alabama played inspired defense the whole time. That said, LSU did not budge or back down against the Tide. The game was decided in the 4th but LSU showed they could hang. Could there have been an argument Miles would have done the same? Maybe, but I think had Miles stayed at LSU, Bama wins by 20 given Les's style of offensive play. If anything it proved Orgeron deserves a crack.
After the loss, Orgeron rebounded his players to run all over the field on Arkansas in a decisive win, ending a 2-game losing streak to the Razorbacks. However, LSU lost to Florida at home (after they got the game back scheduled to the Tigers advantage) in a heartbreaking manner being stopped 4th & goal at the 1 on the last play really. But the Tigers rebounded and throttled Texas A&M to end the season amidst of rumors that Tom Herman is close to becoming the new head coach.
So the question begs: Should LSU keep Orgeron as head coach or have Tom Herman man the ship?
Here's what I will say and it sounds silly: Herman might become a better head coach, but Orgeron is the BEST fit for LSU. Orgeron is a Louisiana guy. Those players are mostly from Louisiana can relate to Orgeron better than a guy who came from Michigan like Miles (where some LSU alums had wished he went back there after 07, 11, and 14). If you don't think the players don't take that into account, you are kidding yourselves. Orgeron is probably better understanding of where these guys come from and what potential they could use. I think for the last 5-6 years Miles banked on these players to fit in HIS system and not necessarily utilize them to the best of their skills (Odell Beckham, Jr. anybody?) and that is what dragged the Tigers into really a middle-of-the-pack team in the SEC West. This alone should keep Orgeron as the Tigers head coach.
I am not saying Tom Herman WOULDN'T do well in Baton Rouge and he might have answers to Alabama as well, but it is also a bigger risk for LSU than even Texas or Texas A&M to take if they want this guy and it might come back to the whole Herman is a northern guy, similar to Miles. Could he keep top recruits from leaving Louisiana for Alabama? He did a great job so far at Houston, keeping those guys within the southeastern part of that state and probably is the best team in the Lone Star State right now. But he could probably do a much better job of all things in Texas than LSU. Yes, he can open up the offense for the Tigers, but it could always mean that vaunted defense LSU has over the years could actually take a step back, which isn't a good thing when you have to face off with Alabama and Auburn (whose defense is finally showing improvement this year). If you cannot defend, you're in trouble and I think Herman's first year or two in Baton Rouge might be similar to Miles final years where 8-4 was the norm and that will not sit well with the LSU fan base.
My pick? Keep Orgeron there. He is the best bet and the best current bet to have LSU near the top of the SEC and possibly back in the national picture.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat