When the darned computer won’t work as it should anymore, what do you do?
You hit the reset button. You pull the plug. Or you throw it out and get a new machine — one that can operate outside the box, if you get my drift.
At 2-2, LSU's football season is already too far gone for the Tigers to meet some of their more aspirational preseason goals. Yes, it’s still mathematically possible for LSU to win the Southeastern Conference or even reach the College Football Playoff, but it doesn’t really compute. Not with the daunting path ahead of the Tigers, crisscrossed by the tripwires of five ranked SEC foes.
No, like it or not, LSU football is formally in reset mode. And while the rest of this rebooted season may not bring the thrill of a national championship hunt, it is going to be breathtakingly important for the future of the program well beyond the current campaign.
As everyone who cares about college football knows by now, Ed Orgeron was named LSU’s interim head coach for the rest of this season upon Miles’ ouster. He or someone else will be leading the Tigers under the goalposts and into Tiger Stadium next season and the seasons after that.
Whether you want to believe Miles did a good job or not, this remains the most golden era of LSU football. The Tigers have been to 16 straight bowl games and — more impressive than that in an age when 5-7 teams can snag one of the many (too many) postseason berths — LSU has won at least eight games per year since 2000. No other FBS program can say that.
There are two caveats to that achievement. One, given the way LSU has underperformed through its first four games, eight wins, even counting a bowl victory, is hardly a guarantee this season. And two, LSU wouldn't have stuck with Miles just to keep trying to win eight games a year.
LSU wants greatness — the kind of greatness its administration and a broad swath of an increasingly grumpy fan base came to believe Miles could no longer deliver.
So, for the first time since 2004, LSU is back on the market. Back-channel feelers from coaches’ agents are already being made, athletic director Joe Alleva confirmed Thursday during an interview on “Culotta and The Fan” on WNXX-FM.
No surprise there.
“This is a great job,” Alleva said, “one of the top 10 jobs in the country.”
With a great job comes great responsibility.
“Whoever we pick to lead this program going into the future is huge, not only to the athletic department but to the whole university and to the whole state, for that matter," Alleva said.
It’s worth remembering that, despite a slide in recent years, Miles was still averaging 10 wins per season. The next coach will be responsible for managing and living up to outrageous expectations.
There is a large segment of LSU’s fan base that has known nothing but success. They forget or are too young to remember the eight losing seasons out of 11 from 1989 to '99. Or the fact that LSU won only three SEC championships between 1961 and 2001. (The Tigers have won four dating to 2001 along with two national titles.)
This week, CBSSports.com college football writer Dennis Dodd asked the question that is unthinkable for most in Baton Rouge and Marrero and Shreveport and Houston: Has LSU football peaked?
It’s a valid question, but one that can be answered if Alleva and the rest of LSU’s administration pick the right guy to lead the program forward.
That process has already begun. It started the moment Miles sat down with Alleva on Sunday and told Miles he had to make a change. It started with the contact from agents. It started with Orgeron filling the room Monday at his introductory news conference with his bass Cajun voice and infectious energy.
“We’re going,” he said, “to flip the script.”
Consider it flipped. The first order of business is to determine whether it will be Orgeron or someone else who will be LSU’s scriptwriter.
Oddsmakers have made Houston’s Tom Herman — the lusty object of desire for every fan base yearning to make a change this year — the favorite to get the job. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, North Carolina’s Larry Fedora and Louisville’s Bobby Petrino are also among the top 10 prospects.
A lot of factors go into a hiring a football coach, some more random than others.
So is Orgeron. He will get his shot over the next eight games, games Alleva said he considers an “audition” for the gregarious Cajun.
Coach O has made all the right moves so far, talking of opening up the offense, cutting down on practice, even inviting former LSU players to make the pregame walk down Victory Hill with the current team. Some of it may be change for change’s sake, but he has clearly amped up the anticipation for Saturday’s game beyond what it could have been if Miles were still in office.
How much does Orgeron have to win to get the job? Orgeron went 6-2 in a similar spot at Southern California in 2013 and wasn’t retained. What if he goes 6-2 and upsets vaunted Alabama? No one at LSU can do the math right now and provide a realistic answer.
The only knowable today is that the chase is on. Not for championships this year, but for championships in play down the road.
It may not be the chase LSU and its fans envisioned a month ago, but it’s going to be a riveting spectacle just the same.
Coaching searches are unpredictable processes in which schools often don’t land their first,…