Why hiring Ed Orgeron was the only choice LSU could make
Those of us who cover sports are not supposed to have a rooting interest, but with the news that Ed Orgeron will be LSU’s new full-time head coach, it's hard not to let out a primal scream and maybe take a swig of some good Cajun rum.
Coach O is the new man in charge of the LSU football program. And it was a move that is both good for college football, and good for LSU. Frankly, it was the only right decision the school could make.
No, Orgeron wasn’t the best candidate on the market. That was very likely Tom Herman. Unfortunately for LSU, Herman clearly played the school like a fiddle over the last 36 hours, using them to leverage Texas to make a move on Charlie Strong (Strong made things easy on UT by losing Friday).
Jimbo Fisher would have also been a better candidate at LSU, but it was clear that he was never leaving Florida State for Baton Rouge. Good coaches don’t give up good jobs solely because of nostalgia. That’s the only reason Fisher — a former LSU offensive coordinator — would even consider the job. But it was never going to be enough to get him to leave Tallahassee.
Therefore, LSU was a prisoner of the market around them, and the market dictated that there really weren’t all that many good candidates available to them. Had they gone after someone other than Coach O (with the understanding that neither Herman nor Fisher was available), what was their best option? To take a run at Larry Fedora, which would have required overpaying for a guy who just lost to NC State? Going after South Florida’s Willie Taggart, an uber-successful coach that most LSU fans have likely never heard of and might have been soured on before he even had his first press conference?
Nope, Coach O was the best bet. And credit to LSU for making a decision that in some circles will be unpopular. At the same time, in a college football world where it sometimes seems like administrators make sane, illogical decisions just for the sake of making them, LSU made the smart, sound one and didn’t think twice.
So now that the Coach O news is official, what is LSU getting in their full-time head coach? For one, he’s a guy who obviously has a pulse for the program after spending the last two years there, and the last eight games in the head coach’s chair. He’s also a player that both the former and current players love. We all saw the postgame locker room videos from Kyle Field on Thursday night. We also saw many former players already pandering for jobs on social media Saturday. Simply put, players love Coach O. The fact that he’s a born and bred Cajun won’t hurt in recruiting either.
But beyond just his good-natured, Louisiana boy attitude, there’s also reason to believe Orgeron is a changed coach as well.
His three-year run at Ole Miss was disastrous — he went 10-25 in three seasons, winning just three SEC games — but let’s never forget that he also left that program in much better shape than he inherited it. Houston Nutt — yes, Houston flippin’ Nutt — won nine games with Orgeron’s players the year after Coach O was fired in Oxford. Let’s also not forget that Orgeron has been a bit of a makeover specialist, completely flipping both the USC and LSU programs when he was put into an interim role. He went a combined 11-4 after taking over at both schools mid-season, injecting life into talented teams that had fallen flat under their previous coaches. At USC, if Orgeron hadn’t lost his final game to UCLA, he might have gotten the full-time gig there. Now we get to see how he’ll do in that role in Baton Rouge.
Finally, there is one more note on Coach O that is worth mentioning: Because he really had no better options, LSU got him at a bit of a hometown discount. They’ll reportedly pay him just $3 million a year, which is not only about half of what Herman would have commanded, but also opens the door for the Tigers to overpay for an offensive coordinator. Could Lane Kiffin be tiring of working for Nick Saban? How about Steve Sarkisian getting his next shot in Baton Rouge?
Only time will tell, but what we do know is that LSU has its next head coach.
It might have been a decision that was laughable two months ago, and unlikely after the loss to Florida a week ago.
But it was the right move, and ultimately the only decision the school could make.
— Anthony Johnson (@AXJ76) November 26, 2016
Big selling point for #LSU AD Joe Alleva on Ed Orgeron was the plan he presented including Lane Kiffin as his OC & having more flexibility.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) November 26, 2016