Arch Manning's decision looms over LSU's game, coaching search
Ole Miss is honoring Eli Manning this weekend.
LSU just happens to be in town.
The 12th-ranked Rebels are retiring Manning’s jersey No. 10 at halftime of the game against the Tigers.
The most prolific passer in Ole Miss history will be the center of attention. The Rebels fans also will be happy to see Eli’s oldest brother Cooper, who went to Ole Miss as a wide receiver but retired from football after being diagnosed with a spinal deformity, and the patriarch of the first family of Rebels football – Eli and Cooper’s father, Archie, the biggest football legend in school history.
The LSU fans at the game and watching on television will be more focused on how the Tigers play in their first game since it was announced Sunday that coach Ed Orgeron’s tenure will conclude at the end of this season.
Tigers fans have spent much of the past few days reflecting on how quickly Orgeron’s program plummeted in less than 2 years since the CFP championship.
That’s a lot of history and legacy for fans of both programs to ponder amid the latest meeting between 2 of the most bitter rivals in the South.
But everyone inside Vaught-Hemingway is also going to be looking at the future.
Also in attendance – and perhaps the person most on everyone’s mind will be high-school junior quarterback Arch Manning – not Dad Cooper, not Uncle Eli, not Grandpa Archie or fellow Ole Miss alum Grandma Olivia.
Ole Miss will paint the name “Manning” in both end zones – perhaps simply as an homage to Eli, perhaps as an additional acknowledgment to Cooper and Archie, or perhaps as an invitation to Arch.
The Rebels desperately want Arch to become the third Manning to quarterback for them.
The Tigers desperately want Arch to become the first member of the Manning family, which relocated from Mississippi to New Orleans when Archie became the No. 1 draft choice (No. 2 overall) of the Saints in 1971, to attend LSU.
Cooper and Eli were legacies, following Archie to Oxford. But Peyton, the oldest of Archie and Olivia’s 3 really talented football-playing sons, became the first Manning export out of Louisiana and he passed on Mom and Dad’s alma mater, spurned home-state LSU and chose to play at Tennessee for crying out loud.
Maybe Arch, who followed his father and his 2 uncles to Newman High School, one of the top programs in Class 2A, the second-smallest of Louisiana’s 5 classifications, will be different.
LSU is hopeful that whoever succeeds Orgeron can tilt the odds in their favor in the Arch sweepstakes.
This isn’t just an Ole Miss-vs.-LSU thing or even an SEC-wide thing, though it might well end up being a neighborhood battle for the latest Manning, but virtually every program in the country would like to have Arch.
There is a school of thought around the Tigers that suggests the choice of Orgeron’s successor should be based solely on who can lure Arch over yonder to Baton Rouge.
There are a couple of problems with that reasoning.
One is that the college coach closest to the Manning camp would be David Cutcliffe, Peyton’s position coach and Eli’s head coach, but the 67-year-old Duke coach seems done coaching Mannings.
That doesn’t mean another head coach couldn’t touch Eli’s fancy the way Phil Fulmer did Peyton’s.
But just who would that coach be?
It’s risky business trying to hire a coach based on the expectation that one recruit – even one who plays quarterback and plays it as well as Arch Manning does – will sign a year down the road.
That’s plenty of time for a teenager to change his mind and for a new coach to lose luster in a place that expects to win big every year.
Even if the new coach can deliver Arch Manning and keeps the fans happy until he arrives, the new coach is still going to have to recruit a whole bunch of other really good players and will have Manning for just 3 seasons of a tenure that he and his school hope will last much longer.
So picking a new coach based strictly on the expectation that he will be able to bring Arch Manning to Baton Rouge would be narrow-minded and short-sighted.
On the other hand, any defense-oriented coach or a candidate who might otherwise turn off the Manning camp is going to have a heck of a time selling himself to Tigers athletic director Scott Woodward.