Tommy Hodson calls it an athlete’s “selfish instinct.”
When a situation arises like the one that happened to the LSU football team Sunday evening — coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron were fired just four games into the season — players sometimes revert to a me-first mindset.
Hodson has seen it before. The former LSU quarterback was in his final year with the New Orleans Saints in 1996 when Jim Mora was fired midseason. The Saints weren’t a good team that season, and the coaching change only compounded the team’s dysfunction.
“When the coach leaves, everybody — the coaches, players — go into self-preservation mode,” Hodson said. “Everybody’s selfish instincts kick in. It’s like, ‘Well, I’m playing for my job. I got to make sure I do what’s best for me.’ It takes a special head coach to really put it all together and to keep the team unified.”
This LSU football team likely isn’t as bad as that Saints team, Hodson said, but the shock of Miles’ ouster for interim coach Ed Orgeron is still being felt by those within and around the program.
Players — former, current and future — were active on social media, mostly expressing disbelief or appreciation for Miles’ 11 full years at LSU. Even with his job threatened last year and a 2-2 start, which had never happened under Miles, this year, the reality is still setting in for some players.
“The main reason I came to LSU is coach Miles,” sophomore running back Nick Brossette tweeted.
“Lost of words (right now),” freshman linebacker Michael Divinity tweeted.
Former LSU running back Jacob Hester, who spearheaded Miles' only national championship at LSU, took it a step further on Twitter.
“My heart hurts for my coach today,” he wrote. “There's nobody in this world that I respect more. You've been a (second) father to me. I love you, coach.”
One former player’s tweet of support was underscored by some apparent resentment toward fans who wanted Miles out.
“Sure hope you ‘fans’ treat that man with respect on his exit out,” former LSU kicker Drew Alleman wrote, “because that man loved and respected this university like no other."
Former LSU defensive end Marcus Spears — who played under Miles’ predecessor, Nick Saban — said he is uncertain how Miles' legacy will be defined.
Spears, now an SEC Network analyst, has publicly stated that a change needed to be made and was not surprised by the decision Sunday. Though he considers Miles to be one of the best to ever wear a whistle at LSU, Miles' resistance to change was more glaring than losses to Wisconsin and Auburn.
“You look at what he was able to accomplish and also keep the program relevant after Nick Saban left,” Spears said. “His ultimate legacy will be one of the best coaches at LSU, in LSU history. But I think a lot of people will still remember the later years and feel that the football team underachieved greatly.”
LSU players received a mass text message Sunday afternoon: Be at the football operations bui…
Miles needs to evolve, Spears said, but he still believes a "Power Five" conference program could be interested in the former LSU coach because of two Miles strengths: recruiting and putting a staff together that can recruit.
“I think somebody will be intrigued by that,” Spears said.
LSU’s recruiting efforts for the 2017 class have yet to take a hit yet despite some surprise and gratitude toward Miles from prospects. LSU has 20 commitments for the 2017 class — including two quarterbacks, a position Miles was often criticized for not being able to succeed with.
One of those quarterback commits, St. Stanislaus (Mississippi) quarterback Myles Brennan, reaffirmed his commitment to LSU on Twitter. Earlier in the afternoon, St. Stanislaus coach Bill Conides said Brennan had not changed his mind, but Conides wanted Brennan to “focus on football” with his high school team.
Other LSU prospects, like four-star offensive tackle Austin Deculus, tweeted out ambiguous remarks when the news of Miles’ firing broke.
“What do I do now,” he wrote.
Orgeron went 6-2 as Southern California's interim coach after Lane Kiffin was fired.
“They’ve probably picked the best guy,” Hodson said. “Ed Orgeron, I have no doubt, he can pull them together. I don’t think they’ll be fragmented. I think they’ll all pull together as one."
Pete Jenkins has known Ed Orgeron for decades.