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No explaining Les Miles Chaos Theory

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Kalani Simpson

Kalani Simpson is an award-winning journalist who has earned national recognition as a sports columnist at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and editor at Nebraska Sports America magazine.MORE>>
 
   
 

Regarding Les Miles, I have recently come to a revelation. An epiphany. And I decided this: I am just going to accept it, with Les Miles. I am just going to go with it, with Les Miles. In fact, I am about to start enjoying Les Miles Chaos Theory for all I am worth. If Les Miles is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

And conventional-football wisdom has it that the maddening LSU coach is often about 14 shades of wrong. Of course he’s wrong.

And yes, that used to bug me, until about eight seconds ago.

And it has been known to bug at least a certain segment of LSU fans, even though all Miles has done is win, and win, and win, and win (and win). Yes, the guy’s record is impeccable, against competition that’s top notch. And in a region and in a state and at a program where that sort of thing should mean a great deal.

But the guy is also so vexing. Even as he’s winning he has you wondering if he even knows what he’s doing. Is he — what? Lucky? Crazy? Basically just bumbling along out there?

He’s flown by the seat of his pants so often it’s a wonder you can’t see his rear end hanging out. And then you do see his rear end hanging out. But that’s just part of the ride — he’s won again.

It’s Les Miles Chaos Theory. And I have decided: I love this. I love that a guy can be succeeding at the highest level of his chosen profession, beating the best and most serious in his business doing … this.

Can you imagine what it must do to guys like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban to lose to that guy?

And now he eats grass. Of course he does. The grass in Tiger Stadium tastes best. Of course it does.

(John Ed Bradley wrote that it never rained in Tiger Stadium. Les Miles said that Tiger Stadium has good-tasting grass.)

Do you buy the Zen explanation that it humbles him, makes him one with the earth, keeps him in touch with the game? Or do you think he just eats grass?

Yeah, me too.

And if Les Miles is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

And no, seriously. I don’t want to be. Look around college football. Who’s “right”? Meyer, he’s definitely “right.” Saban? Yeah, that guy is about as “right” as you can get.

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Yet they’re being matched by a guy who sometimes makes us wonder if all of his faculties are intact.

Somebody give me a Shaquille O’Neal beat: Saban … Tell me how my grass tastes.

(I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.)

See, here is the thing. I’m not sure that Les Miles is a very good coach. (Sorry, Les.) And the fact that he continues to succeed in spite of that? Well, that means he’s a great coach.

He’s my myth buster, this season. Forget BCS buster. No, Miles is doing something bigger. He’s shattering the very image of college football coach as the all-knowing Wizard of Oz bigger-than-life genius.

How can what they do be rocket science if Les Miles is doing just as good doing … that?

Some people think Miles must be crazy like a fox, and I don’t think it’s that. Others go with that “Mad Hatter” thing, as if he’s some kind of eccentric, and I’m not buying into that, either. And then there’s the theory that he’s simply lucky, or some savant who unwittingly does the exact right thing, against all probable odds. And that’s not it, either.

Take the Oct. 2 Tennessee game, which was to have been his Waterloo. Miles went to new levels of wrongness, running players on and off the field, switching quarterbacks at the last second, calling plays that made no sense with the amount of time that was left on the clock. It ended in a whirlwind, with Miles having botched it, mass confusion, mass hysteria. An errant snap, a quarterback looking the wrong way, Tennessee storming the field. And it was over. Except it wasn't.

It turned out Tennessee had responded to all this wrongness the only way possible. By being flummoxed by it. By being wrong itself. Only Tennessee was wrong last; too many men on the field. Yes, Miles had had his rear end hanging out, yet again. Yes, he won yet again.

"Certainly it was not pretty," Miles said in the aftermath of the 16-14 win. "But damn, it was fun."

This was not his greatest win, or his biggest. But it will be his signature. This was Les Miles in permanent ink.

Last week, to beat Alabama, he ran a reverse -- a reverse! -- on 4th-and-1.

He calls a fake field goal on Oct. 9, trailing by three, with 35 seconds left. The holder flips the ball over his head, it BOUNCES, is thisclose to being a forward pass and the play is reviewed for several minutes. It was good, of course, a first down and LSU went on to beat Florida with :11 on the clock. Meyer could only sigh. It was happening again.

No, Miles doesn’t do the right thing. He does the wrong thing, but he’s so wrong he completely throws off everyone in the stadium with his sheer wrongness. He’s so wrong people have no idea how to react to it, until you realize, my goodness, he’s won the game again.

Football is about tendencies. It’s about keys. Football is about reacting, and adapting. You see this, we do this. He goes here, you go there.

There are few things as perplexing as an opponent who isn’t where he’s supposed to be, who doesn’t do what he’s supposed to. It upsets the natural order of things. That’s what Miles is doing. He’s the biggest buster of them all. It’s a heck of a lot of fun.

I don’t know who first said Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right. But whoever it was, he didn’t live long enough to see the Tigers play.

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