MacAoidh an’ Kevin Boyd told me I hadda write a deal about Les Miles gettin’ his walkin’ papers, which they say is gonna happen shortly after he either beats or gets beat by Texas A&M on Saturday.
I really hope it’s the first one. Miles losin’ to the Aggies, which he’s never done, would be rotten for everybody. It would mean he goes out with four straight losses, 0-for-November, and it would mean he’s 7-4 this year. Which wouldn’t be the worst year he’s had – 7-4 is a little better than 8-5, and he was 8-5 in 2008 and again last year – but a loss in the bowl game, which ain’t gonna be a good bowl game, an’ you’re lookin’ at 7-5 which would in fact be the worst season since 1999 at LSU.
Here’s the thing – we already got a “worst since 1999” going this year. LSU hasn’t lost three straight games since 1999, an’ that year was the last year a coach got fired on campus.
Les was in that coach’s wedding, interestin’ly enough. He an’ Gerry DiNardo used to coach together at Colorado as assistants way back when. Or maybe DiNardo was in Les’ wedding. I can’t remember. Now they’re both gonna be former LSU coaches whose time went bad, though Les’ time didn’t go as bad as DiNardo’s did.
Like DiNardo, though, Les will have got done in by hiring a retread defensive coordinator to replace a guy who a lot of people thought was pretty damn good. Carl Reese was DiNardo’s guy an’ people thought he was a crafty ol’ wizard. Reese’s defense up an’ ambushed Florida in Tiger Stadium in 1997, in one of the most entertainin’ games anybody ever saw. Of course, the next week he got his pants taken off by Ole Miss in the same venue, an’ Gerry decided he couldn’t deal with Reese no more. Which was all right, except he didn’t trade up. He got Lou Tepper, and two years later he was out of a job.
Kevin Steele ain’t as bad as Lou Tepper. But he ain’t an improvement over John Chavis, either. An’ when you’re comin’ off 8-5 an’ your defense was the strength of an 8-5 team, you’d better make sure you got a home run hire to replace the defensive coordinator. Les got somethin’ more like a foul ball the third baseman reached over the fat kid in the front row to catch, and got that plastic cheese from the fat kid’s nachos all over his uniform for his trouble.
The coach everybody’s comparin’ Les to isn’t DiNardo, though. It’s Charlie McClendon, who was really well-liked and had lots of defenders even at the end just like Les does. And it’s not a bad comparison. Cholly Mac an’ Les are the two most winningest coaches LSU ever had, mostly because they stuck around the longest (Bernie Moore stuck around a while, too). It’s also a good comparison because like Mac, Les has a reputation that he can’t beat Alabama, which kinda metastasized into can’t beat some other teams the fans get depressed about losing to. And like Mac, Les’ offense is uglier than Rosie O’Donnell in a string bikini despite there bein’ a boatload of scary-good skill people who could do some good with the ball if somebody would get it to ’em in the open field.
And like Mac, Les has gotten real stale. It had been a good five years with Mac where LSU more or less wasn’t relevant anymore. With Les that ain’t really true; after all this year when they were 7-0 they were #2 in the playoff rankings. But that said, come on. This team was pretenders, not contenders. Beat Syracuse by 10 points? Can’t put South Carolina away? Close game with Eastern Michigan late? Once they started playin’ the meat of the schedule startin’ with Alabama the wheels fell off an’ it was obvious LSU wasn’t a championship type team.
Which is the standard now.
Tiger Stadium, when Mac was the coach, didn’t have upper decks an’ it didn’t have a lot of suites. The first upper deck on the West side went up in 1979 or sometime around then. They actually tore that down an’ replaced it, an’ now they got three upper decks on the East, West and South. They got 102,000 an’ change in that stadium they can fit. Plus a whole football complex across Nicholson from the stadium, an academic thing good enough to make sure Sloth from the Goonies could graduate an’ even Mike The Tiger’s got him a crib worth a couple million. Whereas Mac could go 8-3 an’ everybody was all fired up about what a great year it was, now that ain’t good enough.
Too much good history, too much wampum spent on buildin’ up a championship program.
Let’s remember that gettin’ rid of Charlie Mac wasn’t what put LSU on that scary roller coaster in the 1980’s and 1990’s. What did that was Bo Rein, who was the badass coach everybody wanted at the time, gettin’ killed in a plane wreck a few weeks after LSU hired him. People think there was some kinda karma LSU suffered for firin’ Mac, but it’s more like bad luck and dumb luck as well. When LSU hired a good coach who stayed alive in Bill Arnsparger a few years later they started winnin’ pieces of SEC titles, and then when they hired lousy coaches once Arnsparger left the goofball crowd started talkin’ about karma.
Les has been great at LSU, but he didn’t build the program. Nick Saban did that. Les has been a pretty good steward, but it’s 11 years on the job an’ it’s hard to see a direction that makes it look like it’s gonna get better. When you go 2-7 against Bama, Arkansas and Ole Miss in the last three years you’re likely to get R-U-N-N-O-F-T at LSU no matter who you are.
An’ if Jimbo Fisher or Chip Kelly, the two names that get thrown around most as his potential replacements, get the job then you’re back to Bo Rein. Air travel is safer now than it was. We oughta be fine.
So this doesn’t gotta be all contentious and mean. Les will be in demand if he’s out at LSU, an’ a change of scenery might do him some good. Maybe he goes to Mizzouri an’ coaches up those special snowflakes over there, or South Carolina an’ does a better job than either Lou Holtz or Steve Spurrier did. Or Illinois, or wherever. And hopefully Les goes out a winner in front of a big, loud crowd on Saturday.
But then let’s have a lil’ fresh blood in the program and a different approach. Let’s see if we can break one off in Nick Saban next year, and’ for cryin’ out loud don’t lose to Arkansas and Ole Miss.