Both of LSU football’s coordinators cashed some enormous checks this week.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda because the school desperately wanted him to stay.
Offensive coordinator Matt Canada because it just as desperately wanted him to go away.
Canada shares his name with a country but is currently a man without country. This after The Advocate reported he and the school reached terms on a $1.7 million buyout, just more than half of what he was owed. The good part for Canada is he doesn’t have to surrender any of that lump sum under the likely event he gets another job as his contract had dictated.
The scratching sound of coach Ed Orgeron’s signature across that check brings to an one of the shortest, most acrimonious and bizarre coaching tenures in LSU football history.
And with this program, that’s saying something.
Just stack Canada’s buyout on the pile of money LSU is paying people to not coach. The school started shelling out $9 million to Les Miles in September 2016, $133,000 per month at a time. In May, LSU just finished paying a combined $1 million to former assistant coaches Jabbar Juluke and Dameyune Craig, tip money compared to what Miles and Canada are owed.
Canada came in all fanfare and fireworks, with a reputation for running an exotic offense filled with shifts and misdirection and unpredictable moves to keep opposing defenses off balance. It had to be pleasing to the eye of many an LSU football fan weary of years of offensive conservatism under Les Miles.
Clearly, Orgeron wasn’t amused. He poured a gallon of vanilla extract into Canada’s concoction when LSU played Troy in September, which might have had a direct hand in the Tigers’ shocking 24-21 upset loss.
The relationship between Orgeron and Canada apparently morphed into something like North Korea and South Korea. There are similarities — they both coach football, and as Canada said with a string of carefully parsed declaratives last week before LSU’s 21-17 loss to Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl, they both want to win.
Aside from that … not so much.
If things went so badly so quickly, why did Orgeron hire Canada? Clearly he wasn’t O’s first choice. That was his friend Lane Kiffin, who was on the market after being banished from Alabama where he worked Nick Saban’s last nerve (sound familiar)?
But Kiffin decided he wanted to be a head coach again so badly he took one of the few openings at his disposal at FAU. That left Orgeron still needing to make a big splash so he could draw an even sharper line of demarcation between his regime and Miles’.
Comparing with broad strokes LSU’s 2016 offense, a combined effort of Cam Cameron (fired after four games) and interim play caller Steve Ensminger to Canada’s offense of 2017, the production was roughly the same. LSU wasn’t quite as good running the ball this past season (Derrius Guice often wasn’t 100 percent) and was slightly better in the passing game. LSU ranked 59th in total offense in 2016, 54th in 2017; 101st and 21st in passing and rushing in 2016, 84th and 28th in those two categories in 2017.
What if Orgeron had completely given himself to Canada’s offensive style? Maybe the production would have amped up, but we’ll never know. Orgeron couldn’t bring himself to embrace it. Or him. The result is a costly (literally) lesson in personnel management.
Some of this must be on Canada, too. His track record says as much. Bret Bielema did not take Canada with him when he made the jump from Wisconsin to Arkansas in 2012, reportedly because of a power struggle over the Badgers’ offense. N.C. State sent Canada packing in 2014 after two seasons and after signing a new three-year contract. Don’t know what happened in Raleigh, but the circumstances force you to believe it wasn’t because Canada did everything to Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren’s content.
That dismissal perhaps should have been a red flag to LSU, but Canada’s gaudy numbers at the University of Pittsburgh last season (the Panthers averaged more than 42 points a game and sprung a huge upset at eventual national champion Clemson) convinced the school and/or Orgeron to take a leap.
Now, Canada is being told to take a hike.
Who’s next? We don’t know, but the odds-on favorite is Ensminger. Orgeron owes him a huge debt for helping him get the LSU job full time in 2016, and he showed a propensity for running the kind of pro-style offense Orgeron said he wanted even while Canada was still at LSU calling the shots.
Whoever it is, you can believe LSU’s next move will be someone who pleases Orgeron’s eye, not who pleases the fans because of the fancy bells and whistles his offense brings.
Seen that. Didn’t work. Cost a ton.