Monday, September 26, 2016

Happy about it? No, no, no

         So we heard the news Sunday afternoon -- son-in-law was the first to call and alert me -- and a few minutes later, Bea walked in and asked, "Well, are you happy now?"
     After 20 phone calls and text messages over the past 24 hours, with several more people asking me how I felt about Les Miles being fired as head football coach at LSU, here is my answer:
     No, nothing to be happy about.
     There's not much good about anyone being fired, period. I know from personal experience, several times. But often it is for the best. Other doors will open.
     Happy about a 2-2 record? Heck, no.
     Yeah, the losses were close, and they could have turned into victories. But LSU's team looked so out of sync and was so thoroughly outplayed in those games.
      And, really, there wasn't much difference in a stilted, passing-challenged offense and a much-too-leaky defense from the last couple of LSU teams we've seen.
      Except for a super running back, Leonard Fournette, LSU last season could have lost five or six games. But not even Superman Fournette can make up for what I believe is a subpar offensive line so far this season.
      Miles gone at LSU after 11-plus seasons, a helluva lot of success, much fun ... and much agony. 
      It had gotten -- my opinion -- so that his football teams were not enjoyable to watch any more. In many seasons, the Tigers were sporadic but also exciting and ultimately successful. But, damn, the method often was excruciating.
      The past two-plus seasons these were -- again, my opinion, and that of many others -- not well-coached teams.
      You look at so many other programs, especially in the SEC and especially in the SEC West (Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas are prime examples), and their offenses, defenses and special teams were so much sharper than our Tigers.
      The reality: LSU is 4-5 since last season's deceptive 7-0 start (thank you, Leonard). This has become a mediocre program.   
      So was it time for Miles to go? Yes.
      Was it good timing? Yes, no need to wait. His job status  would have, could have been, a distraction through the next two months -- especially with each mounting loss.
      Will it make a difference? Your guess.
      Unless the Tigers improve quickly and drastically, they are looking at a six- or seven-loss season, or maybe even eight. Florida? Alabama? Ole Miss? Arkansas? Texas A&M? Maybe even Missouri this Saturday.
Ed Orgeron: He's in charge ... for now. (photo from
      Interim head coach Ed Orgeron has been in this role before (at Southern Cal). He is a fiery guy, a funny one, and he's been around a long time in the coaching world.
      Maybe he and new offensive play-caller Steve Ensminger, an LSU guy who also has been coaching for years, and the rest of the staff will have some answers, or wrinkles, or whatever that Miles and deposed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron did not have.
      I would suggest -- football mind that I am -- that they give their quarterback, be it Danny Etling or Brandon Harris, a chance to roll out and make plays with their feet, depend less on the pocket passing which hasn't worked well.
      Mostly, I would suggest that the offensive linemen actually block defenders more consistently, knock them out of the way, and give the QBs a chance to pass the football.
      Sacks, or heavy pressure, late in the Wisconsin and Auburn games badly curtailed LSU's comeback chances.
      Defensively, new coordinator Dave Aranda has a lot of talented players. But when the opponents are controlling the ball for 17 to 21 first downs a game (only Mississippi State had fewer, 14) and totaling 339 to 388 yards a game (Miss. State had only 270), the Tigers are vulnerable.
      (Only in the second half against Jacksonville State and for the first three quarters vs. Mississippi State did LSU look like a decent defense. And then it nearly gave the Mississippi State game away.)
      When the Tigers really needed a stop late in the game last Saturday, Auburn rolled off three first downs and almost a fourth, gained 51 yards and -- most important -- took 6:05 off the clock and kicked its sixth field goal.
      So what if Auburn didn't score a touchdown, and LSU had one goalline stand to keep it that way? Auburn had seven chances to score, and the way LSU's offense is, that was enough.
      Now, about that offense ... we all know that's what cost Miles and Cameron their jobs. Here, in a capsule, is the example of how they operated:
      Auburn led 12-10, late third quarter, when LSU recovered a fumble at the Auburn 16. They reached a third-and-3 at the Auburn 9 ... and then couldn't line up correctly and had to burn a timeout. Critical.
      Given time to come up with something creative or different -- anything to get the ball into the end zone or get a first down -- they instead ran their favorite play, the worn-out toss sweep left to Fournette. The blocks weren't made, he was tripped up short of a first down, and LSU settled for a field goal.
      Fournette was obviously upset, speaking to Miles as he came to the sidelines and then having a coach speak to him moments later. 
      My complaint? The timeout call. What a waste. Think the Tigers could have used that in the game's final ill-fated drive? The clock that ran out, and wiped out what looked like the winning TD pass.
      So typical of the whole Miles era. A waste of time, clock mismanagement (15 wasted seconds between plays need the end, a receiver failing to go out of bounds).
      And a loss, not a last-second undeserved victory, as so many of LSU's "miracle" victories under Miles have been.
       I don't like the trend in college football, the firing of coaches on any day, any time in the season. Used to be firings didn't happen until the end of the season, period. Now coordinators are at risk from game to game, and so are head coaches. Miles wasn't the only one fired Sunday.
       Miles won't go broke, not with buyout LSU will have to pay him, and he'll coach again if he wants to, and he indicated Monday that he does. Some program will hire him, probably for next season.
       Don't feel sorry for him. And many, many LSU faithful, including his players, thank him for representing the university well. He spread good will in the community often, in tough times, and the media appreciated his good moods and cooperation.
        So you keep hearing and reading that he's a good guy. But I have friends, coaching friends in Louisiana I respect, who did not like him, did not respect him, thought he was a fraud and not as good a judge of talent as so many thought. And flat out despised his offensive tactics. 
        Bottom line: It is about winning football games, or at least looking like a well-coached, disciplined team.
        It is obvious, as it was last November, that there were powers-that-be at LSU -- maybe the athletic director, certainly some big-money people on the Board of Supervisors -- who wanted him fired then. 
        I was told by what consider a reliable source not affiliated with newspapers or athletics, that the then-governor (Bobby Jindal), reportedly friendly with Miles, who told the LSU President (King Alexander) to back off, that the huge buyout then would not look good considering the state's woeful educational funding -- do we blame Jindal for that?
        Nothing saved him this time. You can lose to a mediocre Auburn team. You can't lose five in a row to Alabama, or look totally outclassed two years in a row by Ole Miss and Arkansas. You can't always depend on magic tricks.
        So good-bye and good luck -- and thanks -- to Les. It was past time to move on.
        But more good luck for LSU. I hope Orgeron and the Tigers go 9-0 (with a bowl victory), and if he becomes the head coach (after the interim), great. He's perfect for the job; he's a helluva recruiter, and he speaks Cajun.
        They don't all have to be wins. If it looks as if the Tigers know what they're doing, if they are organized and competitive, that would be more acceptable.
        Time for LSU football to be fun again.         



  1. From Robert Steckel: Bingo: "Bottom line: It is about winning football games, or at least looking like a well-coached, disciplined team." With the exception of his first season -- his "Saban" season -- I've never watched a game they played during his tenure and thought they were well-coached. The lack of discipline has been a common thread through the years; that, and his atrocious clock and game management. I wish him well, but I shed no tears for him. LSU had no choice but to cut him loose.

  2. From Lynn Chance: Miles blew it with me when he reinstated the outlaw bunch several years ago after they had gotten into serious trouble with the police. Miles -- no class, no character! My son could not have played for Miles.

  3. From Gary Phillips: This is a very, very good read, My opinion (we all have one): it's probably the truth. Thanks, you nailed it again. GEAUX TIGERS!

  4. From Ross Montelbano: I take exception to your friend's comment that he is a fraud. Former All-American Glen Dorsey said, "Coach Saban taught me more about football than anyone. Coach Miles taught me how to be a man." That's good enough for me.
    Otherwise, you nailed it.

  5. From Jim McLain: Excellent critique on Les' firing. I never met the guy, but he came across in his TV interviews as a genuinely nice but a little wacky-talking guy.
    If all the recruiting rankings were right -- and his many former players in the NFL suggest they were -- the Tigers in the last few years have severely underperformed.
    Quarterback, the most important position, was the exception. Les never recruited a QB that wasn't one-dimensional. Other programs, notably Alabama, can win with an ordinary QB. Not LSU.
    True, Les, early on, was an exciting risk-taker, but his attempt at trick plays this season were dismal flops. The two attempted against Mississippi State failed so miserably that it looked as if they had been put in on Friday at the close of practice.
    And, don't get me started on clock management!
    Maybe Orgeron can get the train back on the tracks.

  6. From Maxie Hays: Totally, totally agree. I am one of those coaches that does not like anything about Les Miles. I was so upset when LSU hired him. I remember thinking after La. Tech beat his Oklahoma State team in Shreveport, how stupid he was to lose that game that night. Of course I was thrilled that Tech won the game, but it was because of Les Miles' ignorance.
    Enjoyed the read.