A football coach's hiring is always a breathless event, with people rushing to judgment on the selection pro or con.
So after a little time and space has passed, here are a few observations on the whole process that led LSU to name Ed Orgeron to lead the program that is the school’s pride and passion:
Ed Orgeron isn’t eloquent, but underestimate him at your peril.
Orgeron is one crafty Cajun. He curried favor with boosters in the two months he served as LSU’s interim coach. He impressed athletic director Joe Alleva and the members of LSU’s search committee with his organization, punctuality and zest for coaching, the first two qualities at least things they found lacking in Les Miles. The words “culture change” have become as much a part of the LSU landscape as “one heartbeat” and “Tell the Truth Monday.”
Coach O played the political game to the hilt, winning this job in part on his campaign promises. He promised to keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda (with some help from LSU’s hefty checkbook) and bring in a dynamic offensive coordinator to finally bring the spread offense to LSU. The person at the top of that list is, of course, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Orgeron hasn’t mentioned him by name, but this is the worst-kept LSU football secret going.
Orgeron basically promised to cut taxes. If he can deliver Kiffin to pair with Aranda, he’ll win a lot of votes. For now.
If he can’t, he will be like a politician who went back on one of his primary campaign planks.
Ed Orgeron has delivered on his promise to keep defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
Can LSU get Kiffin?
Kiffin has spent three seasons with Nick Saban. A lot of other Saban assistants have tired of Saban’s browbeating in less time, much less a guy who has been a head coach at three different stops.
Kiffin and Orgeron are friends from when Ed worked for him at Tennessee and Southern California. He wouldn’t stay long, probably, but it would be seen as a mini-win to get him here in the first place.
You've heard about the two binders LSU coach Ed Orgeron brought with him to his job interview.
Should LSU have made a more dynamic hire than Orgeron?
Apparently unlike last year, Jimbo Fisher was never LSU’s top target. It was Tom Herman. But once the Texas job opened, it became clear that Herman was only playing LSU for leverage.
After Orgeron, LSU’s next tier of candidates was North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck and Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre. Other than perhaps the up-and-comer Fleck, these weren’t blockbuster names.
Ed Orgeron's first full day as LSU's full-time football coach was a busy one.
Why did Orgeron get the job?
When Orgeron was named interim coach, he was hardly the favorite. But he grew on LSU’s decision makers with his aforementioned culture changing and charisma to the point where Orgeron became the measuring stick for all of its other potential candidates.
There were low expectations at first. It’s human nature for someone to exceed your expectations, even a little, to suddenly think they’ve exceeded them by a lot.
Culture change or not, bottom line it was wins and losses, and Orgeron almost certainly would have been impossible to hire if he’d lost to Texas A&M to finish with two straight “Ls” at 4-3. Just like he would have probably trumped Herman if he had pulled out a last-second win over Florida and positioned LSU for the Sugar Bowl.
Events on and off the field on Thanksgiving night turned the tide in LSU’s coaching search a…
Does he have what it takes to beat Saban?
It’s a difficult standard, especially next year when LSU goes to Tuscaloosa, as it would have been for Herman or Fisher or anyone. Saban is THE best coach in the Southeastern Conference, the country, maybe ever.
Ask yourself this question, especially if you don’t think Orgeron was a good hire: Who is the second-best coach in the SEC? Orgeron has as much of a chance to be that as anyone, and no one LSU hired was going to outshine Mr. The Process. The only other coach on Saban’s peer level in college coaching right now is Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, and maybe Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. Neither of those guys was walking through Alleva’s door.
Did Alleva handle this search well, especially the seeming knee-jerk decision early Saturday morning to cut things off with Herman and hire Orgeron?
According to our reporting, Alleva and LSU really, really thought they had a deal with Herman, and they may have gotten him had Texas not fired Charlie Strong. But early Saturday morning, when Herman's agent called Alleva to say they wanted to talk to Texas, Alleva cut things off.
Should Alleva have buried his hurt feelings, hopped on a private plane Saturday morning and flown to Houston to full-court-press Herman? Probably. But at that point it had to be clear to Alleva and LSU that Herman was going to go to Texas, his dream job. So he opted hastily for Orgeron, for whom LSU is his dream job.
It was that or start vetting other candidates — Fedora, Fleck, MacIntyre, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy even — who wouldn’t have moved the needle for most LSU fans or LSU critics anyway.
Can Orgeron win enough to be considered a great hire?
No one can. I once wrote that the only way every LSU fan is happy would be to win every game, shutting out everyone by at least 50-0, winning the national championship and still changing coaches every year to keep things exciting in the offseason.
I have also long said this, and it goes for Orgeron as it would for anyone who replaced Les Miles: Good luck. Good luck having a decade or so like Miles did, where you win a national championship, a pair of SEC titles and average 10 wins a year. Because that’s LSU’s standard now. Like Miles or not, and clearly it was time to make a change with him — last November — but it will be tough for Orgeron to match his level of success.
But the notion that Orgeron is the worst hire in SEC history, as some in the media have suggested, is asinine. LSU has too much momentum, become too much of an NFL pipeline, is willing to pay assistants too much for that. But Orgeron needs those high-quality assistants to keep it going. And no one was wondering who Herman or Fisher would have gotten to come with him; it was all about getting Herman or Fisher.
Is Orgeron a gamble?
Certainly. But other than a Saban or a Meyer or a Harbaugh, anyone would be.
Consider this name: Dabo Swinney. Swinney was Clemson’s wide receivers coach and, like Orgeron, had never been a coordinator when Clemson made him its interim coach after the end of the 2008 season. (He went 4-3, including a bowl loss after he was named full-time coach.) He’s got the Tigers rolling now, in the CFP final last year and a top four team again this year.
Can Orgeron be LSU's Swinney? Sure. It’s hardly a given, but again, people underestimate him at their peril.