Update: Source says "all indications" are that LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis is leaving for Texas A&M.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — John Chavis could have ended the speculation.
When he emerged from the LSU locker room Tuesday after the longest delay this side of the review of Brad Kragthorpe’s fake field-goal keeper — he got in, but that’s not the topic right now — Chavis could have refuted the swarm of media reports that say he is likely to leave LSU for the defensive coordinator job at Texas A&M right then and there.
Instead, he sternly blockaded questions about his future after six seasons in Baton Rouge, saying he would only talk about LSU’s just-completed 31-28 loss to Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl.
If his defense did as good a job stopping the Fighting Irish on third down as he did inquiries about where he’ll coach in 2015, LSU would have won. It would have sent Chavis out on top, if the smoke surrounding him indeed catches fire.
Actually, the coach they call Chief didn’t really have to say anything about where he goes from here. His “no comment” is commentary enough about what lies next for him.
He’s going to Texas A&M.
Funny how the same day the years of Les Miles-to-Michigan guesswork ended, likely for all time, with the introduction of Jim Harbaugh as the Wolverines’ new coach, the storyline shifted so abruptly to Chavis.
Miles for his part all but confirmed the man’s imminent departure, saying emotionally in the postgame presser of Chavis: “Great career at LSU.”
Past tense in this case is a strong indication of what happens next.
All choked up like that, Miles sounded like he wanted Chavis to stay.
On paper, LSU’s actions say otherwise.
It has been weeks since the school offered Chavis a three-year contract extension with a $30,000 bump in salary to $1.33 million per season.
Five other LSU assistant coaches whose contracts were up for renewal have signed new deals. Not Chavis. His moustache has been twisted in a sour Grinchy frown all December over a clause that says, if Miles leaves, Chavis is only entitled to be paid six months’ salary.
That’s a meager $665,000.
A source told The Advocate on Tuesday that Chavis was offered an alternative contract: two years, same cash, no Miles clause.
Apparently, that LSU play was for no gain.
Texas A&M is reportedly dangling a three-year, no-clause deal, but a telling part of this tale is that it’s for $5 million total.
That works out to $1.67 million per year. That’s a salary LSU could easily afford to counter — if it so wished. The school already has the highest-paid coaching staff in college football, and the royalty checks from the SEC Network are about to come a-rollin’ in.
But every indication here in the days leading up to the bowl was that LSU has no intention of getting into a bidding war over Chavis. He was the third-highest-paid coordinator in the college game in 2014, though Will Muschamp’s new $1.6 million paycheck to be Auburn’s defensive coordinator has obviously tilted the playing field.
LSU offered Chavis two options.
It looks like option number three is a move to College Station.
It seems strange that LSU would take a hard line with Chavis considering the Tigers came into the Notre Dame game with the No. 1 total defense in the Southeastern Conference and the nation’s No. 3 scoring defense.
But look within the numbers and it tells you there there’s a reason behind the numbers LSU is offering.
Tuesday’s game marked at least the fifth time since 2012 that LSU has lost a big game on a late drive. There was Alabama in 2012 and 2014 (though in the latter it was a drive for a field goal to force overtime), Clemson in the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl, Ole Miss in 2013 and now Notre Dame.
The Irish were so desperate they handed sophomore quarterback Malik Zaire his first start after a turnover-filled regular season under senior Everett Golson. Both played and the result was a two-man slicing and dicing of LSU’s defense as not seen since Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott and Auburn’s Nick Marshall were wielding the sharp implements.
The Tigers surrendered 449 yards to the Irish and allowed them to convert 11 of 17 third downs. Five of those conversions were on third-and-6 or longer.
You know what Tennessee football fans used to call third-and-long situations when Chief was defensive coordinator for the Volunteers?
Whether that knock is fair is debatable, and certainly a matter of what you value from your defense. Chavis has unquestionably been one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the college game for a very long time and, were LSU to decide to pay him to stay, you would find no criticism here. In today’s college game, anyone’s defense is going to give up big yards and big plays.
But everyone has a ceiling regarding what their employer thinks they’re worth.
Looks like Chavis has reached his at LSU.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.