Ed Orgeron apparently has his sights set on a post-LSU career, but what does his next 5 years look like?
It was as fitting of a sendoff as you could’ve imagined for Ed Orgeron.
Serving as LSU’s lame duck/interim head coach in his final game, Max Johnson hit Jaray Jenkins for a game-winning touchdown with 28 seconds left to beat Texas A&M and earn a bowl bid. LSU had already agreed to pay Orgeron an $18 million buyout to walk away 2 years after completing arguably the best season in college football history.
After the dust settled from a blissful Tiger Stadium, Orgeron took to the postgame podium one last time. As only he could, he shared his immediate plans for his next step:
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Ed Orgeron’s packing tonight and heading to Destin tomorrow with his girlfriend.
“Whoever the new coach is, I wish him all the luck in the world,” Orgeron said. “I’ll always be an LSU fan.”
— Wilson Alexander (@whalexander_) November 28, 2021
Say what you want about the guy. Even until the bittersweet end, he was always an adventure.
In the past 3.5 months, Orgeron’s public sightings have been exactly what you’d expect. From a viral video of him staring down a group of guys on spring break to his appearance at Notre Dame’s pro day, Orgeron is going wherever the wind takes him.
Well, let’s back up a second. Nobody could’ve predicted 2 years ago that Orgeron would make headlines for giving a motivational speech to Notre Dame players and coaches:
“I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but with this staff and this team, you’re gonna .”@Coach_EdOrgeron | #GoIrish pic.twitter.com/0R80IVxEpz
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) April 12, 2022
The question that’s worth asking for Orgeron is simple — what’s next?
If these past 5 years were any indication, Orgeron’s next 5 years will be of interest to even the casual college football consumer. The short-term vision could look much different than the long-term vision.
In the short term, we know that Orgeron isn’t planning on coaching in 2022. He said in his post-firing press conference that any plans to get back into the profession would wait at least a year.
“I want to take a little time off. I’m 60 years old. I’ve coached for 37 years,” Orgeron said in October. “I think I’m gonna have enough money to buy me a hamburger every once in a while. I want to take a little time off to find what direction I want to be in. ”
Paul Finebaum said on the latest episode of “The Saturday Down South Podcast” that Orgeron is trying to get a job at ESPN, and how that would differ from what he thought a post-Alabama Nick Saban would do. It won’t come as any surprise to know that Orgeron and Saban are wired a bit differently. Orgeron becoming an ESPN analyst for a year would fall in line with plenty before him.
Urban Meyer did it in his gap year at ESPN working as an analyst and calling games alongside Dave Pasch. By his own admission, Meyer was burnt out. A year in the booth recharged his coaching batteries enough to want to accept the Ohio State job.
Orgeron isn’t Meyer. In all likelihood, he’s not about to have powerhouse programs blowing his phone up to take over.
The popular comparison many made to Orgeron this past year was former Auburn coach Gene Chizik. Like Orgeron, Chizik won a title with an all-time great transfer quarterback and then was fired 2 years later. Both got significant buyouts and didn’t necessarily need to jump back into coaching.
Chizik joined ESPN’s college football coverage in his first post-Auburn year and shifted to SEC Network during its first season in 2014. He took those 2 years in the media world to reset, and ultimately, he went back into coaching as a defensive coordinator at UNC (go figure that Chizik essentially repeated those steps when he rejoined with SEC Network from 2017-21 and recently went back to UNC to become the DC again). He pursued business ventures in Auburn, where he never left (he rented an apartment in Chapel Hill and flew back in those 2 years). He also traveled with his family and was hired to speak at events across the country.
Orgeron’s path could be similar to that. Really similar. Based on him speaking at Notre Dame, it appears that Orgeron is at least dabbling in the public speaking space.
But what we don’t know is what Orgeron’s market will be once he’s a year or 2 removed from LSU.
Will he tackle potential TV opportunities as a student of the game like Chizik did? Would he be willing to accept a job as a Power 5 coordinator? Would Orgeron be willing to grind as a Group of 5 head coach for the first time in his career? Could he go back to his alma mater and take over at FCS Northwestern State? Most coaches over 60 years old don’t sign up to start a new chapter at a Group of 5 or FCS program, especially when money isn’t an issue. Even Gus Malzahn was only 55 when he accepted the UCF gig after getting a $21.5 million buyout from Auburn.
The key difference between the Orgeron and Chizik situation is the age. When Chizik was fired at Auburn, he was only 50 (Chizik is actually 5 months younger than Orgeron). Even though he knew he elected to take 2 years away from coaching after 26 years of grinding, he also felt he had more to give. He had that same itch working at SEC Network from 2017-21, which was why he returned to UNC.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Orgeron still had that itch. Things are a bit different now than when a 46-year-old Orgeron was fired from his first head coaching job at Ole Miss. In his 2020 book with Bruce Feldman “Flipping the Script,” Orgeron shared that he went to the beach in Destin to figure things out with his family after getting that news.
“I picked through my past and identified where I needed to grow, things I needed to bring back into practice, and things I needed to let go. With this transition, I wanted a new challenge. It felt like this was the ideal time to go away from the world of college football for a bit and get a different perspective on the game.”
This time, “different perspective” could be in the media world. It’d be a stark contrast to getting right back into the mix as a defensive line coach. Eventually, that could be where Orgeron is most comfortable.
Maybe he won’t like stepping into the analyst role and having the college football world pick apart his thick Cajun accent every time he goes on live TV. Or alternatively, maybe that’s where he’ll find his calling and he’ll become the Charles Barkley of college football media.
Whatever the case, Orgeron’s next step will be an interesting one. In the meantime, he’ll continue to show up unannounced all over the internet.
Sooner or later, though, the wind will die down and another Coach O adventure will begin.
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