"Lessy... you got some 'splainin' to do!"(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Enough is enough and it's time for a change. Sorry, didn't mean to go all Owen Hart on you there, but I'm not sure any other reaction is in order. I always thought the aim of the coaching staff was to put the team in the best position to win the game, not lose it. Yet, our decision making seems more puzzling by the game. We have a feature back we don't use. We have two completely regressed QBs. We are allergic to the good things we do. Hell, we even alternated QBs for about 3 minutes tonight for some unforeseen reasoning. Yet, how can anyone find it within them to continue to blame players for such silly ineptitude? How exactly can this team survive with Gary Crowton running the offense? (I'm not sure I have an answer for that one.) Just how much longer can the LSU offense continue to flounder before Les Miles is forced to take action? What are the coaches seeing that we are not? At what point will the porous offensive play trickle into frustration for the defense? Can we just line it up with Peterson and let him run it every play? (That would be better than what we currently have.)
*Sigh* I'm not sure there's anyone who can't identify with Howard Beale any better than LSU fans right now. If you haven't seen "Network" you should. But I think a full-scale sticking our heads out the windows and screaming in vibrant anger is in order. Don't believe me, just check out this clip:
Let's start with a rhetorical question: Have you ever felt worse about a win? I mean honestly. I can't remember a single time when I've ever come away from a 6-point win over a top 20 opponent feeling more like we just got drilled by some unranked foe. That's how bad this was. Are we 4-0? Yes. But even the most delusional of optimists (I place myself squarely in this category) cannot help but come away from this performance feeling despondent. A win is a win... right?
How perfect is that? Even to the point of... "They are yelling in Baton Rouge!" That... and then some. I hate being "that guy." I've always hated "that guy." I've never wanted to be "that guy." But, unfortunately, tonight, I'm going to be "that guy." Enough is enough... and I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore!
At what point are results less important than performance? The fact is, we all see it. We practice it everyday in our personal lives. Good things don't just magically come about. You MAKE good things happen. How do you do that? Well it's a process. Within that process is the concept that if you keep doing the right thing repeatedly, eventually the good things will come. That means that even a setback won't be too devastating because you realize in the end, the process of doing right will win out and reward you. Anybody can skip work two of five days and kick ass the other three. But those that advance are the ones who put in the time day after day. THAT is the process.
All this rambling nonsense is an abstract (and probably ineffective) way of saying that despite the fact that we are currently obtaining results, there's little evidence to suggest our process will continue to reap the same reward (victory).
So how does all this tie into tonight, you say? Well, obviously, I'm speaking specifically about the offense. Actually what we are putting on the field isn't an offense. It's offensive. (Pardon the obvious pun).
Last season I wrote off JJ's struggles as dealing with the lack of a running game as well as youth. For 2010, we are currently running the ball down the gullets of anyone who shows up. JJ is now a Junior, with over a season's worth of starts under his belt. Something about excuses and assholes, right?
There's really not much to say. After the first half, I found myself saying... "If it's not one thing, it's another." An experienced, talented WR lets an easy catch bounce off his hands for an INT. So the play is there, the throw is there.. but now the uber-talented WR just muffs it. That's exactly what we need. But by mid third quarter, reality set in so hard and fast it killed the buzz I spent the previous six hours building up. Honestly, how is it possible to be... this bad?
Most people look back at 2008 and blame youth or lack of ample preparation time (after all, RP was going to be the man until he done got arrested so many times). So Lee got thrown in the fire, and a porous defense didn't help bail him out. Then in 2009 we're breaking in a new starter and our offensive line is struggling... surely that's why our QB can't consistently produce. But here we are, in 2010... just as woeful offensively... giving a whole new meaning to if it's not one thing... it's another.
The fact is, it all points to one man. I can literally find no other explanation. As of tonight, I have hard time completely faulting Jarrett Lee or Jordan Jefferson for the troubles they've found on the field. After all, they haven't been taught correctly... how should they know any better? It's really simple. If the ineptitude of our offensive coaching isn't glaringly apparent to you, then you haven't been watching. It really permeates into the overall functionality of the offense. It's not just that we seem to insist on running the same ridiculous plays, it's that even when we find a sweet spot (oh like, say, the 9 YPC Ridley seemed to be averaging up the gut tonight), we turn away from it. It doesn't matter that Stevan Ridley has played like a man possessed since opening day (sans two sloppy fumbles vs. UNC). It's best we give the other backs some carries... well cause... we have em... right?
How about the gloriously beautiful JJ/Lee switcheroo... not so fast moment in the 3rd quarter? Oh but wait, then we decide it's time to play Lee... in the 4th with a not-too-comfortable lead... for a series... only to go back to Jefferson. What, exactly, is the logic? Or how about throwing three consecutive passes late in the 4th quarter whilst trying to ice a victory and milk the clock? Brilliant.
Just what then, is the process? What are we trying to accomplish? It appears, nothing. Two games ago, I wrote that we may have found an identity. Glance at the boxscore, and you'd think that would support my idea. But if you watched the game, you knew well enough that the zone blocking/power running scheme was hardly the "feature" of our "offensive attack." Surely Ridley carved them up nicely. But for every 9-yarder up the gut, we followed with a -3-yard option play. Or desperately obnoxious pass attempt. How about trying Ridley on a sweep play? Because Lord knows with a
scat back speedy burner outside runner it's always a good idea to try and get them on the edges.
The sad thing, this is what we have. It's not like we're a young offense trying to iron out the kinks whilst showing tremendous promise (read: Florida). No, we've shown next to shit nothing. How is it possible that a player has gotten worse the more he's played? I'm not entirely sure, but that seems to be the case with Jefferson. The tipping point for me was the 2nd interception, which yielded their 2nd TD. Through the first three games, I accepted JJ, arguing that he was merely a game manager... like our Trent Dilfer. Run the offense, don't turn it over, and let your sick-ass defense win you a bunch of games and a ring. Yet that interception brought that crashing down in a hurry. Beyond the fact that he struggles to consistently hit WRs with good passes, a flippant turnover only condemns the entire game manager concept. If it had solely been a single poor game, all can be forgiven, but we're talking consecutive quarters of lack of production.
So what's the answer? Do we go back to Lee? We may as well give it a shot, but I doubt it yields the results people want. As I said above, it all returns to one man: Gary Crowton. Lee and Jefferson have both been tragically mishandled. They both severely lack essential fundamentals which are the basis for any type of success. Further, the mish-mash bullshit multiple offense we run only over complicates and irritates the players playing within it, not opposing defenses. Take a look around, the best offensive teams build their offense around their personnel, not vice versa.
But really, all of this is most frustrating because we all see the potential that exists. In 2008 I think the fanbase as a whole realized that team just wasn't nearly good or experienced enough to be a threat. 2009 we were the "almost there" Tigers that kept every game close but couldn't close them out. Now in 2010 we're sporting a kick-ass defense and dominant special teams that will keep us in (if not win) quite a few games. Offensively, we see the weapons and the talent. Yet... nothing comes of it.
What's most disheartening is watching a National Championship caliber defense being repeatedly asked to carry the slack for our woeful offens(ive). Beyond that, exactly how long can they keep this up (since many of our best offensive foes are still ahead of us)?
It was a poor performance in many phases tonight. The defense played well, sans the excessive penalties, which reared their heads for the first time tonight. Yet, the unit seems to dominate on a weekly basis and spent the better part of the night abusing the speedy, diminutive weapons West Virginia sported (body bags weren't quite necessary, unfortunately).
The thing you'd like to see is the offense getting steadily better each week. Last year, we struggled to run the ball. This season, we have that capability. Why not keep it simple? Run the shit out of the football and make our opponents stop us... yet we seem to be allergic to success. Once we find what's working, we largely ignore it until we are desperately clinging to victory at the end of the night. We need a purpose offensively and until we find one, it won't matter if Dan Marino is running our offense, we aren't going to excel.
West Virginia is a very respectable opponent. Beating them isn't just some throwaway. But the manner in which we accomplished it can hardly be applauded. At one point in this game we lead 17-0. Hard to believe we closed out with a narrow 6-point victory after only tacking on three additional points. That is bad.
If we don't, by some miracle, improve offensively, we'll fall short against Florida, Auburn, Bama and Arkansas. I know our defense is probably the best in the conference, but each of those teams can and will score points.
Until then, we are just like Bon Jovi...