LSU made the change that many expected them to make at the end of last season by firing head coach Les Miles on Sunday following an 18-13 loss to unranked Auburn that left the team at 2-2 this season. He will be replaced in the interim by defensive line coach Ed Orgeron. The reasons for the firing are understandable and defensible. Miles, since losing to Alabama in the BCS Championship game in 2012, failed to produce a conference title, was just 11-9 against Top 25 teams and 0-4 against the aforementioned Crimson Tide.
As you look over those numbers and combine them with the inability of Miles to adapt to a new age of spread offenses and his inability to develop a quarterback, you can see why the school decided to make this move. That said, it is odd timing. The Tigers two losses this season have come on the road (the game was in Lambeau Field, you’ll never convince me that’s a “neutral” site) against a Wisconsin team that is now ranked in the Top 10 by two points and a literal last-second loss against Auburn on Saturday. This team is one or two plays away from being 4-0 and making the decision to keep Miles look like a genius move.
So, the question is, why now?
The problem with firing Miles now is that the school can’t hire any of the guys it wants right now. You’ve probably heard about some of the potential targets. All of those coaches have their own seasons to finish and worry about before entertaining any possible overtures from LSU.
So, again, why fire Miles now? Is Ed Orgeron really the answer to all of this team’s offensive woes? Will he be able to make Brandon Harris make better decisions or significantly improve the talent level of Danny Etling? Orgeron’s a good coach, he proved that as an interim coach at USC, but the answer is no. LSU’s shot at an SEC championship looks dead in the water and it’s highly unlikely that Orgeron, no matter the proposed changes on offense, significantly improves those chances.
There’s no doubt that LSU is a Top 10, and likely Top 5 job in college football. The state of Louisiana is one of the most talent-rich areas in the country and because of that, LSU, the biggest school in the state, is able to keep a majority of those recruits at home. For reference, the Tigers averaged the 8th-ranked class in the recruiting rankings over the last 11 years under Miles The lowest they finished was 14th (2012) and they finished in the Top 10 nine times. Talent on these teams isn’t the problem, so naturally the blame falls on the coach.
I’m not saying getting rid of Miles is the wrong move, rather the timing of it seems random. The school was close to making this move at the end of last season, but was reportedly swayed by the show of emotion during Miles’ last regular season game as players carried him off the field on their shoulders. So, they brought him back. Then, four games into the year, they reversed course and showed him the door. Again, the reasons for doing so are valid, but they are no more valid today than they were ten months ago.
We’re picking on LSU here, but this seems to be a trend in college sports, where coaches are being let go mid-season. The theory is that the school then has more time to go out and find their next head coach. That’s all fine and good, but LSU already knows the candidates that they’re going to go after. They won’t be using the rest of this season to go over research or parse the numbers. No, instead they’ll be waiting around watching to see when Houston and Florida State’s seasons end. So, what’s the point? Is there a significant advantage to firing Miles now as opposed to waiting to the end of the season?
Sure he could get hot and the team could make a run to the SEC title and then firing him is out of the question. But, the likelihood of that is very low. And if you thought he could still make a run, wouldn’t he still be the coach?
You want to fire Miles, fine. I can see where you’re coming from. But, you’ll never convince me that doing it mid-season is the right move.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.