A circle, by definition, has no beginning and no end. However, I like to consider the summer the beginning of the Circle of Les Miles Criticism. The cycle does not start here, but it is easier to understand this beautiful circle of punditry if we start at the beginning, and of course, the end.
The preseason magazines are beginning to trickle out, with their tantalizing predictions for each team that this is the year everything comes together and everyone will realize their potential. It's also a time to put out lists because lists are fun. One of the biggest joys of being a fan of anything is ranking things. One of the things we rank are coaches, and Athlon's preview magazine ranked Les Miles as the 17th best coach in the country.
Only six coaches ranked ahead of Miles have won a national title, and only seven have more career wins. He ranks behind a guy with a career .500 record (David Cutcliffe), a guy who has only won one conference title (Art Briles), two guys who have only been head coaches for three years (James Franklin and David Shaw), and Bobby Petrino. I can't even explain that one.
To recap, Les Miles has won at least 10 games in seven of nine years at LSU (marking exactly half of the 10-win seasons in school history). He's won a national title, two conference titles, and been to three BCS bowls. At Oklahoma State, he had the best record for a coach with multiple seasons at the school since WWII (since topped by Mike Gundy). He had a better record at OSU than Jimmy Johnson. Miles has an incredible track record of success, but he's just the doofus who wins because a bunch of talent magically appears at his school, and then he just gets lucky anyway.
So, LSU only wins because Les Miles is really lucky and of course, the unbelievable talent he has at his disposal. Which moves us to the next step in the Les Miles Criticism Cycle: the players aren't that good. The Maxwell and Bednarik Awards announced their watch list, much to the general merriment of twitter, which has spent the last few days making jokes that the lists are so expansive that pretty much everyone is on the lists, up to your former high school gym teacher. Well, almost everyone, as there are no LSU players.
Watchlist: Every player in the country it seems.— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) July 8, 2014
I get the Maxwell as it's a galmour position award, and LSU lost its backfield and receivers to the draft. But LSU's defense ranked 15th in yards and 21st in scoring last season, in what was widely considered a down year. LSU returns virtually its entire back seven, but none apparently rate a mention as one of the best 76 players in the nation?
It's not just this year. Last year, can you guess how many LSU players were named to the preseason All-SEC first team on offense? Zero. Well, certainly, LSU had one on the second team? Nope. Odell Beckham was first team special teams, but the best LSU offense in recent memory didn't rate having a single player on the first or second team preseason All-SEC teams. Remember that awesome 2011 defense? Yeah, it has one player on the All-SEC preseason first team. For a team so stacked with talent, it doesn't seem to impress the talent evaluators.
Preseason predictions will come out and then some hot team will get picked to finish ahead of LSU, ending our fluky run of success. This year, it's Ole Miss. Last year, it was A&M. Before that, it was Auburn. Well, that got it right that one time.
Then, we get to the season, in which this super-talented team that somehow lacks high end talent will win at least 10 games, like it has for the last four seasons. LSU will play one of the toughest schedules in the country, but when fans point this out, we will be called a homophobic slur. At the conclusion on the season, LSU will somehow get pushed down the pecking order of SEC bowl selection. LSU will finish ahead of that hot team everyone was talking about, but no one will remember. LSU will be called an underachiever.
With another successful season concluded, LSU fans will fire up the circular firing squad and bitch about not winning a national title. The offense is usually up for criticism for not scoring 30 points a game, though we mixed things up last year by complaining about a defense that merely ranked in the top quartile of the nation. Why have the national media dog the coaches when we can just cut out the middleman and do it ourselves?
The cycle continues as we move into the postseason. LSU players will announce for the draft which is proof positive that Les Miles has lost control of the program. I mean, it couldn't be that football is a violent game with an extremely short period in which players have any earning potential, so players go pro as soon as possible. Even guys who decide to come back are later encouraged to turn pro.
LSU now has lost all of this pro talent, which wasn't that great to begin with, which caused the team to win ten games again, overcoming Miles' inability to coach. Now, with this crop of players gone, there is no way LSU can sustain its current success. Miles will bring in yet another disappointing top ten recruiting class, more notable for who didn't sign than who did. Miles is clearly losing his ability to recruit.
This brings us back to the beginning, or the end. Les Miles is a mediocre coach who has been getting by on the awesome talent he has on the team. However, that talent is now gone, and he didn't replace it, so the team is destined to fall back in the standings again. LSU will surely disappoint this year and is that Mississippi State's music I hear?
Les Miles isn't a good coach. We don't have much talent. And we won't keep winning every year. How could we? The cupboard is bare and Auburn is clearly unbeatable, and let's not even talk about Alabama, a team replacing more starters than LSU this season. We might as well pack it in. If only we had a better coach, like Bobby Petrino, to guide us to the Promised Land.
The sky is falling. Just like it has been since 2010. Any day now. You'll see.