26 September 2016

What is next for LSU and for Les Miles?

(AP Photo)
It may still be September but we have already seen our first coach get fired and it is a high-profile one to boot. Les Miles, four games into his twelfth season as the head football coach at LSU, got fired on Sunday after a disappointing 2-2 start that was capped off by a near-miss loss at Auburn on Saturday night. And just like that, it is the end of an era in Baton Rouge.

Miles may have been eccentric, and that is essentially an understatement, but it was those eccentricities that made us love him amidst the goofy world of college football. Not to mention that the man was a darn good football coach. After all, he won a national championship, lost another and in total put up a 114-34 record with the Bayou Bengals.

So with a record and a resume like that, how did we come pretty close to Miles getting axed back in November and now to the point where he was fired? First off, it doesn't hurt that the Tigers continue to be dreadful on offense, and no team should be dreadful offensively when you have a guy like Leonard Fournette in the backfield. But Fournette can only do so much when there is absolutely no passing game to keep defenses at bay and that has killed them this season. The truly confounding thing about the also-fired Cam Cameron's offense is that, thanks to strong recruiting from Miles, the team has talent and guys that should be playmakers on the outside yet the offense continues to be structured as if we are back in 1997.

Miles refused to evolve and that helped to sink him. He refused to dump Cameron in the offseason even though his contract had expired, and he refused to operate an offense that would adequately take advantage of the talent on-hand on the roster, particularly at the receiver position. And when you have less of a margin of error, then Miles' questionable coaching strategies (particularly when it comes to clock management) suddenly stop being so cute.

So even having all of the wins and all of the success is why it does make sense to move on from Miles, even as this feels awfully early for a coach of this stature. But now the Tigers have the common problem of who is next. Miles set such a high standard in Baton Rouge that ultimately he was unable to get back to that level late in his tenure and even with all the built-in advantages that a program like LSU has (money, recruiting base, tremendous fan support), winning is never a given. After all, LSU was no hotshot program before Nick Saban came to town.

Therefore, the pressure is on whoever is making the hire (AD Joe Alleva is also on the hot seat) to hit a home run and there are a pair of elite targets in Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman. Fisher would make sense since he is a championship-level coach and spent seven seasons as the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban while Herman only happens to be the hottest coach in football right now. However, it is not entirely clear that either would take the job. Fisher has been tremendously successfully in Tallahassee at one of the elite jobs in the country while Herman has himself the ability to build a power with the Cougars.

Beyond those two guys is where it gets precarious. There has been some reporting that the program has inquired about former Baylor head coach Art Briles but that would be an immediate PR nightmare for obvious reasons. I think Briles needs to go the way of Bobby Petrino in which he goes to a smaller school and rebuilds his reputation somewhat before taking on a big job again. Speaking of Petrino, his name could be in consideration but even a slimeball like Petrino has to realize that he is in a pretty good situation right now. But beyond those top two guys, there really is not that natural replacement candidate which will make this hiring process even more critical.

Should he want to coach again, and I imagine he would even as he is in his 60's, Miles will get a job. After all, he has showed at not just LSU but also Oklahoma State that he is a winner. And there may be some high-profile jobs (cough USC cough) that may open. That said, it still is very early.

No comments:

Post a Comment