Maybe LSU’s offensive coordinator situation hasn’t stabilized after all.
The hiring of Matt Canada last offseason was thought to be an upgrade that would keep him in that position until something better came along.
Now it appears Canada is actively seeking something better — with the blessing of Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron.
According to recent reports, Canada is seeking an interview for the head coaching job at Rice, which came open Monday when David Bailiff was fired.
Canada’s reported interest in the Owls’ job is the latest indication of a less-than-ideal working relationship between him and Orgeron.
Orgeron had an opportunity after the Tigers’ 45-21 victory against Texas A&M last Saturday to dismiss any notion that Canada’s days with the Tigers might be numbered. He passed.
“Everybody wants to be a head coach,” Orgeron said. “I hope he gets an opportunity to get it.”
Of course everybody wants to be a head coach, but Orgeron said more with the words he didn’t use than with the ones he did.
If the relationship weren’t strained, the answer should have been something like: “Everybody wants to be a head coach. I hope he gets an opportunity to get it. But in the meantime, we’re happy with the job he’s done here and we’re glad he’s on our staff.”
Orgeron was asked if LSU would continue to run Canada’s offense if Canada were to leave.
“I have in mind what we want on offense,” Orgeron said. “I’ve been at some pretty good schools, pretty good offenses.”
If it sounds like Orgeron is hoping Canada finds an avenue out of Baton Rouge on his own, it’s probably because LSU doesn’t want to buy out its first-year offensive coordinator. Canada, one of the highest-paid assistants in the country, would be due about $3 million if the Tigers were to dismiss him.
It’s hard to figure why Orgeron may have soured on Canada or his scheme in just one season. As for the scheme, Orgeron knew what he was getting when he hired Canada to bring his shifting, misdirection offense from Pitt.
The last several years of Les Miles’ tenure were marked by inconsistent execution by the offense in what critics called an outdated scheme. It began with the shutout of Greg Studrawa’s offense in the national championship game against Alabama after the 2011 season.
It continued for another season under Studrawa before he left and was replaced by Cam Cameron. The Tigers opened up the passing game to some degree under Cameron, but the offense remained inconsistent as LSU gradually slipped further from national-championship-contender status from 2013-2016.
When Miles was dismissed four games into the 2016 season, one of the first things Orgeron did as interim coach was fire Cameron and replace him with tight ends coach Steve Ensminger.
The offense performed better under Ensminger. But after Orgeron was named full-time head coach, he brought in Canada to overhaul the system.
Canada’s system was more creative than what the Tigers had run previously, but the results weren’t dramatically better. Considering Canada had a young, injury-plagued line, a quarterback with limited play-making ability and a roster mostly recruited for a vastly different scheme, the results shouldn’t have been surprising.
The first sign that Canada’s offense wasn’t the godsend that many Tigers fans were longing for came during the fifth game of the season. Orgeron had Canada eliminate the shifting in order to simplify things for an offensive line that was featuring two true freshmen. It didn’t work, and LSU was shut out by Troy in the first half. Canada went back to his way of doing things in the second half, and the Tigers scored three touchdowns in the 24-21 loss.
Since then, it appears Orgeron has allowed Canada to be Canada.
The Tigers won six of their next seven games, putting up huge numbers against Ole Miss and Texas A&M. Even in the one loss — a 24-10 setback against Alabama — Canada’s offense produced 10 more points than Ensminger’s offense did against the Crimson Tide last season.
It remains to be seen whether Rice or anyone else is interested in hiring Canada, but it seems the Tigers’ offensive coordinator position might not be set after all.