Yup, I was awesome. You may praise me now. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Les Miles constantly bucks orthodoxy. It's his defining characteristic, other than his mangling of the English language and poor clock management. But usually, his bucking of orthodoxy involves wacky play-calls or going for it on fourth, but he's now upping the ante to longterm strategy.
"If you have two quarterbacks, you have none."
Les is trying to prove that old adage wrong. Honestly, he's not off to a bad start. Jarrett Lee had a rough first quarter, but after that he had perhaps his best game as a starter. Lee went 13-17 for 138 yards and 3 TD. Not a bad day at the office. All four of those incompletions came in the first quarter, by the way.
There's no other way to say it, Lee had a great game. Simply great. After the first quarter, he was damn near perfect. When did Lee suddenly flip the switch?
Right before Jordan Jefferson came in the game.
On the first four drives, LSU ran 16 plays for 38 yards, though there was a five-yard TD drive. Instead of pulling Lee right then, Miles left Lee in for a pretty 12-yard pass to Randle. It was only after the successful play that Miles then pulled his starter and put in Jefferson.
JJ came in and ran a few successful plays, but a Tennessee timeout allowed Miles to put Lee back in. Lee promptly threw a touchdown. So much for ruining a guy's confidence.
The second half was a thing of beauty. That first drive might be one of those things I watch on DVR forever. Jefferson took LSU from the 34 to the cusp of the red zone, and then Lee took over and brought the team in for a score. It was just an amazing drive and testament not just to the two quarterbacks' teamwork, but Miles' willingness to do, well, whatever the hell he wants.
Are there going to be fans and media who complain about this? Undoubtedly. Will it be a story for the rest of the year? Probably. Does anyone affiliated with the team really care? Definitely not. And, despite what you've heard, having two quarterbacks does seem to be better if they each play like this.
Coaches do not always play to win, they play to minimize criticism. High risk strategies are great for drawing media attention and loud criticism. Even when the moves work. Miles still takes crap for daring calls that worked. Forget about the ones that didn't.
So Miles jumps in with both feet and commits to a longterm strategy bound to wind up anyone predisposed to second guess. The Columnist Who Must Not Be Named probably has his "failed two QB system" column spooled up and ready to go, just waiting for something to go wrong.
Hell, everything went right, and where is the praise? Where is the cacophony of voices praising Miles to high heaven for getting the most out of both of his QB's? Lee was on his way to having a terrible game, and the moment Jefferson started adjusting his chinstrap, he turned the game around to turn in a truly great game. Jefferson, in relief, guided LSU on one of its best drives in seasons. He also got about half the snaps in a second half that was just crazy dominant. Miles got the most out of the position because he's getting the most out of these quarterbacks.
Miles is bucking orthodoxy again. Let's give him credit, LSU is winning not in spite of the QB rotation, but because of it. He took a risk and deserves credit now that the risk is paying off.