He's always been more than a caricature, but now, Ed Orgeron has undeniably earned your respect
It’s impossible for you or me to put ourselves in Ed Orgeron’s shoes.
Those shoes are filled by a barrel chested, passionate Cajun who did everything in his power to make sure that his opportunity to coach his beloved LSU wouldn’t turn into Ole Miss 2.0, where he crawled to a 3-21 SEC record.
From the moment Orgeron got the LSU job after Joe Alleva whiffed on landing Tom Herman at the end of the 2016 season to Saturday night, we’ve seen plenty of moments of what it’s like to be in Orgeron’s shoes. But there was none more revealing than the one he shared after LSU took down Alabama for the first time since 2011.
“Might get to go to a 711 and get me a Monster or Red Bull without people saying ‘Gotta beat those guys.’ Well, I beat ’em,” Orgeron said after the win over Alabama on Saturday, according to Ross Dellenger. “This ain’t the last time we’re gonna beat ’em.”
No longer can people — both near and far — hold the Alabama streak against Orgeron. Now, it’s the ultimate feather in his cap as to why he’s earned your undeniable respect.
Why? Well, besides the fact that he made one of the great offseason coaching hires of recent memory by bringing Joe Brady and his RPO-based system into the fold to run with his handpicked quarterback Joe Burrow — something that not every coach would’ve been able to sell to their offensive coordinator — is the pure numbers.
Orgeron beat his fourth team ranked in the top 10 of Associated Press Top 25 this year. Since the start of the 2018 when Orgeron was on every hot-seat list in America, he’s 8-1 against teams ranked in the top 10 of the AP Top 25. He has 9 such wins since he shed the interim tag in 2017.
Just for a little name association, here’s how many wins vs. top-10 teams (AP) these elite coaches have since the start of 2017:
- Ed Orgeron, 9
- Nick Saban, 6
- Kirby Smart, 5
- Lincoln Riley, 4
- Dabo Swinney, 3
Nobody in their right mind would assume that since the start of 2017 Orgeron has as many wins vs. top-10 teams as Saban and Swinney combined.
In the offseason, I remember telling SEC Network anchor and LSU fan Peter Burns a stat that he made me repeat on air. As LSU’s full-time head coach, Orgeron had yet to lose to a non-Alabama top-10 team. It was an easy thing for even the diehards to forget.
And yeah, there were reasons why a stat like this was lost in the shuffle. There were still other losses. Some cited the Troy loss back in his first month as the full-time head coach as a reason as to why Orgeron was doomed to destroy what Saban and Les Miles built at LSU.
There was also the atypical dynamic with defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who made at least half of Orgeron’s annual salary since the start of 2017. Credit to the defense was given to Aranda because his record-setting 4-year, $10 million deal was a worthy price for LSU to pay in order to prevent him from leaving to join Jimbo Fisher’s staff at Texas A&M. With Orgeron still not even among the top 25 coaches in terms of annual salary (he’s No. 30), there are 5 SEC coaches who are set to make at least $2 million more than him this year alone.
And then, of course, there was the number that the pro-Orgeron crowd couldn’t spin — 0-3 vs. Alabama. Even worse was the fact that LSU was shutout twice and outscored 63-10. As long as that stat held true, there was always going to be somewhat of a divide on whether that crazy Cajun at LSU could do more than deliver an epic pregam speech and actually coach.
If you talked to LSU fans on Saturday night, they probably told you something to the effect of “you have no idea what this means for the state of Louisiana.” If there was anybody who could understand what it meant, it was Orgeron, AKA the guy whose dad didn’t even let Paul Bear Bryant come to his small town of Larose, La. to recruit him.
“I am so happy for the state of Louisiana, and all the LSU fans and our football team and our coaching staff. They worked very hard for this victory,” Orgeron told CBS Sports’ Jamie Erdahl. “It’s a much-deserved victory for our football team and our great state of Louisiana, and our great university in LSU.”
Coco Orgeron, Ed’s mom, and her friend hold a phone up to his ear. On the other end? Cajuns back home.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) November 10, 2019
Orgeron’s postgame behavior came under fire when a NSFW locker room video taken by a player showed him yelling “Roll Tide! F*** You!”
(I’ll save the rant on why players posting intimate locker room moments like that on social media have zero place in sports. This should’ve never seen the light of day, in my opinion.)
A comment like that surely ignited Alabama fans in a way that LSU hasn’t in recent memory. Call it disrespect if you will, or just realize that Orgeron’s emotions after that game were on a different level, which is saying a lot for him.
But again, we can’t picture what it’s like to be in Orgeron’s shoes.
None of us can relate to having our dream job and then a year later have the masses question how long we’ll have it. We can’t relate to walking up to Saban and shaking his hand, knowing that the greatest coach of all-time no longer stands in LSU’s way of a national championship like it did for nearly all of this decade. Nobody will understand the countless hours spent crafting the perfect roster and staff to finally slay the dragon that is Alabama. Not like Orgeron, at least.
Orgeron’s shoes were as unique as ever on Saturday night. They were probably a bit wet and sticky after his Gatorade shower, albeit a better kind of wet and sticky than the premature Gatorade dousing he got against Texas A&M last year.
Go figure that was the last time Orgeron lost. All he’s done since then is win a New Year’s 6 Bowl, win 10 straight games with a 5-0 record against top-10 teams and beat Alabama by scoring more points than any team has against Saban’s defense since he arrived in Tuscaloosa.
It was Saban who had a perfect record in Year 3 en route to a national championship. After Saturday’s monumental victory, the stage is now set for Orgeron to do that in Year 3 at LSU.
In the meantime, though, Orgeron will walk into a Baton Rouge 711, pick up a batch of Red Bulls to fuel his next pregame speech and say something to everyone who ever questioned if he was anything more than a caricature for LSU football.
“We got ’em.”