Dear Kansas football fans:
Your football program is better off than it was a few days ago.
You hired yourself a good football coach in that Les Miles guy. Probably the best guy you could have hired.
You’re familiar with him. You remember him from his time at Oklahoma State. You probably know about his run at LSU.
You know about the quirks – the chewing on blades of grass, the tortured syntax, the Mad Hatter reputation. That’s all part of the deal – and the caricature.
Watch closely as you get to know your new football coach. When his conversation veers off in a strange direction, like a ball carrier reversing field looking for daylight that isn’t there, you might just see a hint of a wry smile on his face.
He seems to like the image of a goofy character that shouldn’t be taken all that seriously as a football coach. It’s easy to underestimate him and he doesn’t mind at all when people do.
But anyone who thinks he doesn’t know what he is doing is wrong. Dead wrong.
Sure, he’s a little quirky, maybe even a little goofy. He’s also a first-class recruiter, motivator and competitor.
He’ll get good players. Maybe he won’t be able to get as many really good ones at Kansas as he was able to get at LSU, but he’ll get more than the Jayhawks are used to having.
He’ll get them to buy into what he’s selling and they’ll go out and give everything they have on every play of every game.
If there was one defining trait of Miles’ teams at LSU it was they always gave everything they had.
Yeah, his offense probably isn’t going to throw the ball around and put up video-game numbers like those guys at those Texas and Oklahoma schools you play every year. From time to time there will probably be a clock management issue that will leave you scratching your head, maybe even screaming at your TV.
But there will also be hard-hitting blocking and tackling, competitive football teams and wins, more wins than you’re used to during football season.
Sure Mark Mangino had a pretty good run awhile back. He took you to four bowls in eight seasons and 2007 was special. A trip to the Orange Bowl, beat a good Virginia Tech team, wound up in the top 10.
(By the way, four days after that Orange Bowl, Miles was coaching LSU to a BCS championship win over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl).
Mangino won 5 games the next season and Kansas hasn’t won more than 3 in any season since. It’s hard to sustain football success with the Jayhawks. You know that.
You could have gone out and gotten some young hot shot catch at a smaller program or a young hot shot coordinator at some bigger program. But there’s no telling if the success they had at a Group of Six or FCS program, or as a coordinator, would translate to being a head coach in the Big 12. And if it did they’d probably be on the first plane to somewhere bigger.
This guy has had success in the Big 12 – and the SEC. Sure he fell into a pretty sweet situation in Baton Rouge when Nick Saban bolted for the NFL, but he didn’t have much of a head-start in Stillwater.
He built up the Cowboys and he maintained what the Tigers had. Yeah, there was some slippage at the end with LSU, but he didn’t exactly leave the cupboard bare. After 11 years it was time.
He’s the second-winningest coach in LSU history and still has one of the highest winning percentages in SEC history.
No offense, but there probably weren’t many guys like that lining up to interview with you guys.
Now don’t start thinking you’re headed to the CFP any time soon either. But you are headed in the right direction.
And remember this: LSU fired Miles 26 months ago. He wanted another chance badly. He couldn’t find any takers and turned 65 while waiting.
He stared at the very real possibility that he was done.
Then you came along. He’s tanned rested and ready. You’re probably not going to be a stepping stone. He’s eager to author a new – and quite possibly final – chapter to a pretty darn good coaching story.
He needed you.
And you’re lucky to have him.