Who would you hire to fix LSU's offensive woes?
The storybook scenario for LSU’s post-Les Miles era is no longer achievable.
You know the one. It’s where the Cajun coach, Ed Orgeron, leads the Tigers to an improbable run to the SEC title and, with the right dominoes falling around the country, the two-loss Tigers go to the College Football Playoff.
Orgeron gets the job, Lane Kiffin gets pilfered from Alabama to be offensive coordinator and Orgeron, Kiffin and Dave Aranda form the Holy Trinity of head coach and coordinators to lead LSU back to the promised land.
After Saturday night’s 10-0 loss to Alabama, that dream is shattered.
While this season’s SEC and national championship ambitions are over, nothing about that game decided Orgeron’s LSU fate one way or another. If Orgeron had beaten Alabama but lost to Arkansas and Texas A&M by season’s end, the Alabama win would have lost a lot of luster. And, by the same token, one game where the Tigers played Alabama about as tough as any team might this season shouldn’t seal his doom.
No, the audition continues for Orgeron, and the only fates that may be sealed are the jobs of most of the offensive staff after such an anemic performance (125 total yards) against the program LSU always measures itself against.
As we mentioned before, if the Alabama game proved nothing else, it’s that what’s needed in Baton Rouge is an offensive pied piper who can attract better offensive personnel. Sure, Orgeron himself is one of the best recruiters out there, but he can’t be hamstrung by the perception of the product he’s trying to sell.
The conventional wisdom has been that LSU needs to address the offensive weakness directly with the head coaching hire.
And there’s much to be said for that. It’s why Houston’s Tom Herman, whose résumé before becoming head coach featured a stint as Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Ohio State, has been such an oft-mentioned candidate. It’s why Jimbo Fisher is such a desired candidate with his mentoring of Jameis Winston into a Heisman Trophy-winning, national championship quarterback and his past as a successful offensive coordinator back in the days when LSU had functional offenses.
Then, there’s a guy like Dan Mullen, an offensive guy who maybe has done as much as he can with Mississippi State’s program after serving as Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Florida. And even Kiffin, the former Tennessee and USC head coach who Orgeron replaced at USC after Kiffin was fired. Like Orgeron at LSU, he’s rehabilitated his good name at Alabama.
Then, there are the wild card candidates, from Chip Kelly to Kliff Kingsbury to Bobby Petrino to Art Briles.
Offensive coaches, all of them. I’m just waiting for somebody to suggest Mike Leach. Heck, he’s got Washington State rolling. What if the Cougars beat Washington and play for the Pac-12 title?
The one defensive guy who is in the hunt is Orgeron. Conventional wisdom is you have to get an offensive guy, then go all-out to keep Dave Aranda as defensive coordinator (or, as my former colleague at The Advocate, Randy Rosetta wrote, why not just make the fast-rising Aranda head coach?).
So you see where hiring a big-name offensive coordinator would be important? The hypothetical Orgeron staff would need somebody with the offensive history to sell to recruits:
Who might that be? Here are a few thoughts:
- Major Applewhite, Houston: Applewhite was once a wonder kid who had the OC job at Alabama and Texas but is now at Houston. He isn’t quite the hot commodity he once was, but he’s again associated with a hot program, and he can help LSU land first-rate players from the Lone Star State. Remember, Houston sits a mere four hours from Baton Rouge.
- Tee Martin, USC: Wouldn’t it be something if Orgeron can stick it to his former employer by pilfering away one of its up-and-coming coaches? Doesn’t hurt that Martin is respected in the SEC as a guy who did what Peyton Manning couldn’t do, lead Tennessee to a national championship as a quarterback. The guy is a first-rate recruiter, and if you are looking for a guy who can attract offensive players to your program and sell them on what you are doing, Martin could be a strong candidate.
- Kiffin: Why not? His contract with Alabama runs out in January, and Orgeron and Kiffin are great friends going back to their days together at Tennessee and USC. Would Orgeron propose to take less money on his salary in order to make Kiffin (and Aranda) two of the higher-paid coordinators in college football? Certainly, that would turn heads.
Others: How about Texas A&M’s Noel Mazzone, who was with Orgeron as offensive coordinator at Ole Miss a decade ago? Orgeron admits he meddled too much with Mazzone when Mazzone was his offensive coordinator. Would Orgeron go after a hot young name in Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma? How about somebody like Notre Dame’s Mike Sanford, a boy wonder who went from many peoples’ short list to be a head coach last year to being on the staff of one coach in Brian Kelly who’s on one of the hottest seats in the country? For that matter, if Kelly’s out at Notre Dame at the end of the year … but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Who would you hire to fix LSU’s offensive woes? A head coach? A coordinator for Orgeron? Or for Aranda? If so, who? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.