5 events that doomed Les Miles at LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. — Obviously, Les Miles wasn’t fired as LSU’s head coach because of an 18-13 road loss to Auburn on Saturday.
That was simply the last straw.
The undoing of the coach who led LSU to a 114-34 record and the 2007 national championship was a long time coming and traces back to one thing: quarterback play.
Here are five events that spelled his doom:
The dismissal of Ryan Perrilloux
There was nothing inherently wrong with Miles’ decision to boot his would-be starting quarterback from the team on May 2, 2008.
But that day marked the beginning of LSU’s troubles at the position, an issue that dogged Miles until the end.
Quarterback play had not been an issue for Miles. JaMarcus Russell was a No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick for Miles. He was followed by Matt Flynn, who led the Tigers to the 2007 title.
Perrilloux, an elite prospect from just down the road from Baton Rouge in LaPlace, La., was supposed to be the next in line. He had the résumé and the talent but apparently could not stay out of trouble off the field and eventually finished his career at Jacksonville State.
LSU was left with a Harvard transfer in Andrew Hatch and two freshmen, Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson. From that point forward, quarterback play was never the same for LSU — save one big year from Zach Mettenberger in 2013 — and Miles seemed to trust his quarterbacks less and less.
The 25-23 loss to Ole Miss in 2009
One thing that haunted Miles through his career was the reputation for mismanaging clocks. Sometimes, he’d get away with it. Other times, it would cost his team.
One can trace the origins of that reputation to this game, when Miles and quarterback Jordan Jefferson failed to call timeout after completing a screen pass in the game’s final minute. That allowed precious seconds to tick, and after a long completion that would’ve set up an easy field goal, LSU was not able to get its field goal unit on the field in time to kick the potential game-winner.
From that point on, there were grumblings about Miles’ game management, something that paled in comparison to Saban.
The 21-0 loss to Alabama in the 2011 national title game
By 2011, fans were frustrated with the mediocre play at quarterback for LSU in the post-Russell/Flynn era, but the Tigers were so good at other things — notably on defense — that the 2011 team went to the BCS title game with a 13-0 record.
But it unraveled with maybe the worst offensive performance in the history of the BCS National Championship Game. The Tigers managed just five first downs and 92 total yards. What infuriated fans even more was that Miles stuck with an ineffective Jefferson over Lee, even though the offense went sideways.
Before that game, the “Saban or Miles” debate was a valid argument. From that point forward, that was no longer the case.
The 30-16 loss to Alabama in 2015
The 2011 national title game started a trend where the LSU offense could be good at times, but have games where it would be just awful. When the Tigers were held to 182 yards by Alabama and Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette was stuffed for just 31 yards rushing, the grumblings took a turn to something more serious.
That was the day the rumors began, and they never let up until season’s end.
The 2-2 start to 2016
There were some remarkable things about Miles in his tenure at LSU. Here are two: Coming into 2016, he had never lost a non-conference, regular-season game at LSU. And he had this penchant for having teams pull out miraculous, unlikely last-second comebacks.
Both of those bubbles were burst in the two losses that led to his firing.
The season-opening, 16-14 loss to Wisconsin ended Miles’ 42-0 record in non-conference, regular-season games. And when the Tigers couldn’t get the last play off at the end of the 18-13 loss to Auburn, it seemed his luck with miraculous endings had run out.
Instead, what carried those days was the Tigers’ inability to move the football. The offense managed just one touchdown in each of those games and quarterback play was frustratingly ineffective.
At the end, it seemed all of the remarkable things about Miles had extinguished in this season’s two losses, but the flaws of his tenure were magnified. It added up to a mid-season change.