LSU's staff was gutted, but this will serve as another reminder that Ed Orgeron is elite now
Is it OK to prematurely hate a take? Asking for a friend.
When word came out Thursday that Dave Aranda was leaving LSU to become the head coach at Baylor, I put the pieces together. Add that on top of losing offensive wunderkind Joe Brady and soon enough, the take quake is going to be out there.
“Well now we’ll really see if Ed Orgeron knows what he’s doing.”
With all due respect to anyone who has or will voice that opinion, you’re wrong if that’s your take now or 7 months from now.
You don’t go 15-0 with arguably the best season of all-time with a head coach who is still figuring things out. You can bet there are still somehow Orgeron skeptics waiting to pounce the second he loses a game for the first time since the 2018 regular season finale that inexplicably gave us 7 overtimes against Texas A&M.
Orgeron knows what he’s doing. That’ll be true even if LSU goes 9-3 next year without the aforementioned Aranda and Brady.
If anything, 2020 should serve as a reminder that Orgeron is an elite coach now. With Aranda’s departure, that means none of the top assistants who were on staff when Orgeron shed the interim tag after the 2016 season are there anymore. Perhaps now it can be universally appreciated just how far Orgeron has come and how focused he keeps his team.
It’s funny because that’s the very thing we praised Nick Saban’s team for throughout Alabama’s decade of dominance. Great coaches don’t let their teams take anyone lightly (Saban hasn’t lost to a non-top 15 team since 2010).
Remember when LSU lost to Troy and Orgeron was on the hot seat a month into his first season as the full-time coach?
Looks like we forgot to throw Ed Orgeron on the SEC hot seat too.
— Brad Crawford (@BCrawford247) October 1, 2017
LSU is 31-5 since then. Orgeron said it was the turning point of the program.
In case you were wondering, all 5 of those losses came to teams that finished the season ranked. And 12 (!) of those wins came against teams who were ranked in the top 10 at the time that they played. Even without Aranda and Brady, I’m not betting against the Tigers to continue to rack up quality wins.
(For those wondering about what the offense will look like now that Brady is gone, think Alabama post-Lane Kiffin. The system stayed after Kiffin went to FAU. Saban made sure that any coordinator who came to Alabama knew that they were going to run some variation of the spread with Kiffin’s concepts. In other words, no, LSU isn’t about to go back to running the I-formation.)
But sure, the second LSU doesn’t look like an all-time great team next year, it’ll somehow come back to Orgeron and his new-look staff.
The thing that skeptics dismiss about Orgeron is how good he is as a talent evaluator. That’s true of how he sees both players and coaches. The under-the-radar moves he made that were key parts of LSU doing what it did was keeping longtime strength coach Tommy Moffitt on board, as well as the decision to pivot to Steve Ensminger after the Matt Canada experiment failed.
One thing Orgeron also does much better at this stage in his career than he did at Ole Miss is check his ego at the door. LSU has benefitted and will continue to benefit from that. The ability to pay assistants like Aranda top dollar only happens because Orgeron is content not making money of a top-10 coach, even though he clearly proved he should. It’s one thing for a coach to say “he truly wants what’s best for his program.” It’s another when a coach says that and he leaves millions of dollars on the table so that he can truly better his program.
LSU, if it continues to win, is going to cycle through top assistants on a yearly basis. That’s what elite programs like Alabama and Ohio State deal with on an annual basis. It’s the ultimate sign that your program is a well-oiled machine. Orgeron is operating a well-oiled machine right now. There’s no question about that.
Players want to play for him, and coaches want to coach for him. If that wasn’t the case, someone like Aranda would have left years ago.
Speaking of Aranda, his contract has always been part of the reason that perhaps Orgeron didn’t get credit for being an elite coach. When you pay a coordinator $2.5 million a year to coach the same side of the ball where your head coach’s expertise is, yeah, it sends the message that one person is handling the Xs and Os while the other is more of a figure head. It’s different than Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables getting paid $11.6 million over 5 years because Dabo Swinney is an offensive-minded guy.
But it’s easy to forget that Tony Elliott did most of the offensive play-calling for Clemson, and that Ryan Day did that for Urban Meyer in 2018. Even stubborn Jim Harbaugh turned complete control of the offense over to Josh Gattis. It’s about what works for a program.
Orgeron knows what works at LSU. Clearly. It shouldn’t take away from who he is as a coach just because he isn’t back there calling defensive plays like Saban.
And here’s the other thing that’s not going to be talked about in the wake of LSU losing Brady and Aranda — LSU’s recruiting isn’t going to take a hit. Like, at all. As great as those assistants were, Orgeron is going to continue to crank out top 5 classes. That’s what great coaches at great programs are supposed to do.
The goal now is to consistently rack up top 10 finishes (and not go 8 years between wins against Alabama). Not since the first 3 years of the Les Miles era did the Tigers earn 3 consecutive top 10 finishes. That was the first and only time that happened at LSU.
That’s in play for 2020. Orgeron can and will avoid the post-2007 championship season that yielded an 8-5 record and a finish outside of the Associated Press Top 25.
It’s a new era in Baton Rouge. A new chapter of Orgeron’s journey is ahead. Some will tell you that losing those assistants will send him and LSU back to reality. Are they tough losses? Absolutely.
Will they halt the freight train that is Orgeron and the Tigers? Absolutely not.