ORLANDO, Fla. — George Carlin had his infamous list of Seven Dirty Words you couldn’t say on television — at least not back in the 1970s.
Here Thursday night, just after arriving with his LSU Tigers for the Citrus Bowl, Ed Orgeron had his Seven Telling Words about the Matt Canada situation.
Canada, unless you’ve been duck hunting on a remote lake in, well, Canada, is LSU’s embattled offensive coordinator, about whom reports surfaced Wednesday night that he will be out after Monday’s game against Notre Dame.
Asked about the Canada situation, Orgeron at first went for the block like a pulling guard.
LSU plans to split with Matt Canada after the Citrus Bowl.
“This is about these young men, about us coming to play Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl, about us winning 10 games,” Orgeron said. “That’s what our focus is on.”
Ultimately, though, Orgeron’s emotions got the best of him, and he could not help but let his feelings show.
Asked by WBRZ’s Michael Cauble whether Orgeron expects Canada to call the plays Monday, the coach said. “Matt right now is our offensive coordinator. He will call plays in the game.”
“Matt right now is our offensive coordinator.” A lot of weight in those seven words.
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Canada made the trip, too, though only Orgeron talked to reporters as was previously planned. Friday morning comes a must-see news conference with the coordinators from both teams and a couple of key players, a news conference that LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said Canada will attend.
Whether he says anything more than Orgeron did about their fractured relationship is yet more speculation. It wouldn’t be wise to put a bet on Canada being more forthcoming.
One is left to wonder how they got to this point, or rather how they got together at all. Orgeron and Canada didn’t have a previous connection from Coach O’s significant number of coaching stops. Presumably he wanted Canada for his coaching acumen, his unconventional (OK, quirky) predilection for multiple shifts and jet sweeps.
But if LSU was supposed to have an up-tempo attack, it never really materialized, presumably because it didn’t jibe with Orgeron’s philosophy of what he wanted from an offense. Puzzling to say the least, because all you had to do was pop in a DVD or go online to see what Canada’s offense was all about.
What LSU got was a watered-down version of Air Canada. As a result, the Tigers' major offensive numbers from last year to this have been relatively stagnant, and this with 2016’s numbers colored by the fact that LSU’s first four games worth of stats were under Les Miles/Cam Cameron.
- Total offense: 412.1 yards per game in 2017 (53rd nationally), 423.1 ypg in 2016 (59th).
- Rushing offense: 210.8 ypg in 2017 (28th), 233.0 ypg in 2016 (21st).
- Passing offense: 201.3 ypg in 2017 (85th), 190.1 ypg in 2016 (101st).
- Scoring offense: 28.1 points per game in 2017 (71st), 28.3 ppg in 2016 (65th).
Orgeron got the job in part on at least an implied promise that he would bring in Lane Kiffin to be his offensive coordinator. That evaporated when Kiffin got the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic. You can’t blame Orgeron for Kiffin wanting to run his own show, even on a smaller stage, but from the start his LSU staff didn’t turn out to be as advertised.
If Orgeron replaces Canada with tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, LSU’s interim offensive coordinator last season, as he has suggested he might, it isn’t necessarily a bad move. Ensminger's pro-style offense was a big reason Orgeron got the LSU job permanently. But it leaves a bad impression on the program when it looks like LSU is going from Kiffin (Ferrari) to Canada (Mercedes-Benz) to Ensminger (Toyota). The latter is dependable and may get you where you want to go, but when other Southeastern Conference rivals are buying sports-car coaches this offseason, it doesn’t look like you’re keeping up with the Joneses.
The Advocate's LSU beat writer Ross Dellenger appeared on 104.5 KNNX-FM's "Off the Bench" with Jordy Culotta and T-Bob Hebert on Thursday morn…
In the final analysis a head coach, as Orgeron said earlier this week, is entitled to do what he wants to do. To hire whom he wants to hire. To run the offense he sees fit. If he doesn’t want Canada around or doesn’t like his offensive tactics, so be it.
But assuming Canada is heading out after the bowl game, the man whom Orgeron picks next, and the offense that person runs, had better be an improvement over what Canada has done here. Or, perhaps more to the point, an improvement on what he has been allowed to do.