If Les Miles was “coaching for his job” on Saturday against Ole Miss, the results suggest his time at LSU may be coming to an end, but that end will not happen until after the season. Miles addressed the media on Monday and along with throwing some subtle hints at the Kirk Herbstreit claims many years ago, said he is going about his business as usual: “If someone asked me if I’m coaching for my job, I think I’ve done that for 11 years.”
There are two ways to look at Les Miles’ time at LSU. One is to look at his overall record and the numbers that go with that while the SEC West was down. The other is to look at the things that haven’t improved since Miles arrived in Baton Rouge and have now become the reason he most likely won’t be back.
As far as overall record goes, Miles is 110-32 in his 11 years at LSU. That’s roughly an average of 10-3 every year. Miles has won two SEC Championships and one BCS title, and also led the Tigers to a second BCS title game 2012. This year will be his 11th-straight bowl appearance.
Miles has had seven top 10 recruiting classes, according to 247Sports. His incoming 2016 class, at present, is ranked No. 1 nationally. If you watch NFL games on Sundays, you will most likely hear a former Les Miles player mentioned. All of those things scream, “DON’T FIRE THIS GUY!”
Even though the above numbers and wins and bowl appearances are great, they are not what those who wear purple and gold colored glasses see. It’s not what the LSU administration sees. Those who want Miles gone understand that there are larger issues that go beyond the numbers that haven’t been addressed and have suddenly become glaring inefficiencies in the much tougher and deeper SEC West.
The number one issue that has LSU fans and board members clamoring for Miles’ departure is quarterback play. Miles has not found a quarterback to fit his system. It’s not clear there is a system that would set up a quarterback to succeed.
Incoming talent has not been the trouble. Miles has had 11 former four or five star quarterback recruits on campus. The one success, Zach Mettenberger, came already developed. Miles has rebooted with three different offensive coordinators – Gary Crowton, Greg Studrawa (replacing Steve Kragthorpe), Cam Cameron – since Jimbo Fisher left. The result has been a steady retreat from the passing game, despite ample, high NFL draft pick-level receiver talent.
Passing attempts per season under Les Miles:
2006 – 56th
2007 – 45th
2008 – 65th
2009 – 91st
2010 – 104th
2011 – 111th
2012 – 98th
2013 – 109th
2014 – 120th
2015 – 119th
There has been one constant amidst the litany of failed quarterbacks and dud coordinator hires: former offensive coordinator Les Miles.
Compare this to another Big Ten-reared power enthusiast Bret Bielema. Bielema likes to pound the rock. He has had a lot of success with it. He’s also deployed quarterbacks effectively when he has one. Brandon Allen is in the top six in yards/att and passer rating this season. Russell Wilson had the highest QB rating a college quarterback has had since 2008 under him at Wisconsin.
Coupled with the quarterback play has been a downward trend in the SEC. Citing Miles’ overall record? Look at his recent one…
Miles’ record within the past five seasons:
2011 – 8-0
2012 – 6-2
2013 – 5-3
2014 – 4-4
2015 – currently 4-3
Records by SEC teams since start of 2014:
Alabama – 22-3
Mississippi State – 18-6
Georgia – 18-6
Ole Miss – 17-7
Florida – 17-6
Texas A&M – 16-8
Missouri – 16-9
LSU – 15-8
Auburn – 14-10
Tennessee – 14-10
Arkansas – 13-11
Kentucky – 10-13
South Carolina – 10-14
Vanderbilt – 7-16
Is 13-10 in the SEC the past three seasons success LSU can’t afford to part with?
The major point in Miles’ favor is the public perception about paying a $15 million buyout, when the school itself has a crippled budget. In a vacuum, the money is not an issue, as several sources have pointed out. The Tiger Athletic Foundation and its boosters would pony up the $15 million, but how does that look when the school itself is struggling financially and would that be a consideration AD Joe Alleva takes into account? Probably, but according to LSU beat writer Randy Rosetta, Alleva may be the guy pushing stories to the forefront so that he can have an option of cutting Miles loose.
If what Rosetta says is true, consider Miles gone at the end of this season regardless of whether or not he loses to Texas A&M.
If LSU were to move on from Miles, where do they look? Whoever takes over will have a team loaded with talent, so there should be no rebuilding process. The first glance should be within their own division in the SEC at Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, who recruited Dak Prescott as a quarterback when the Les Miles regime recruited him as a tight end. Other options should include Dabo Swinney at Clemson, Tom Herman at Houston, Kirby Smart, another Nick Saban protege, Mike Gundy, and maybe even Jimbo Fisher.
In a perfect world, Miles would retire with fans thanking him for a national title and sticking with the program even when Michigan came calling twice. But it’s not a perfect world, and Miles has millions of reasons to stick this out to the bitter end.