I've been meaning to write something like this, but Randy Rosetta beat me to the punch.
If I recall correctly, the season, while it had its share of disappointments and letdowns, wasn't horrible.
Those four losses came to teams that combined to go 47-7, win the BCS National Championship Game, the Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl and the Capital One Bowl.
Those same four losses were all competitive games, and LSU took the lead into the fourth quarter in three.
Last year was a disappointment, and there's no getting around that, but it's a sign of the program's health that 9-4 is seen as a disappointing year. It wasn't all that long ago that 9-4 was a pipe dream. But Les Miles is paid a lot of money, and he's not paid a lot of money to have a lead going into the fourth quarter. He's paid a lot of money to have a lead at the end of the fourth quarter.
It's a nice excuse to say Miles lost to some pretty good teams, and while that's true, it's also important to beat some good teams, too. I don't buy the Miles is a Moron meme anymore than I bought the Miles is a Crazy Gambler meme, but Miles can no longer trade on the goodwill of winning a national title. The subject of the exact temperature of Miles seat has been fodder for around the SEC media during these dog days of spring. The criticism has been especially harsh:
Now, everyone in Baton Rouge with a working brain has come to the same conclusion: Miles' first three years were due in large part to what Saban built and left behind. With Saban recruits, Miles went 34-6 with three straight top-5 final appearances in the polls.
I don't really put a whole lot of stock into anything Finebaum says because it's his job to write things like this. He's a professional agitator and let's be honest, he's good at it. It's just a mistake to go looking to one of his columns for logic, but I find this standard line to be especially annoying because of the new hammer with which to club Miles: LSU players under-performing in the NFL.
I'll let Rosetta defend Miles on this front.
The other thing is, name me a program that churns out players who all thrive at the NFL level. Miami had a pretty good run for a while, but there are not the kind of football factories that used to exist out there anymore, in large part because there are a lot more solid programs now.
The biggest feeder programs for the NFL are easily recognized and LSU is prominent on the list.
None of them is hands-down dominant when it comes to developing All-Pros, though. Not anymore.
LSU produces plenty of players ready for the NFL Draft. If they're not ready to play when they get to the league, it's hard to fault their college coaches.
Or, to put it another way, was Spurrier a bad coach because his quarterbacks and receivers constantly bombed out of the NFL? Or is it Mack Brown's fault when Ricky Williams cares more about smoking pot than playing football? Maybe, maybe not. I don't really think so, but that's not what really gets me about this new storyline.
What bothers me is that when the players succeeded, they were "Saban's recruits", but when they failed, they suddenly are Miles' players. Well, which is it?
This seems to be the dominant theme of analysis of Miles' tenure at LSU. Anything good is attributable to someone else, usually Saban, and anything bad is because Miles is, as Finebaum says, a boob.
Honestly, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If Miles wasn't brining in top recruits, I'd understand the "winning with Saban's recruits" line, but Miles has proven to be a terrific recruiter in his own right. He's hauled in lots of heralded talent. I'd understand this line of attack a lot more if the talent pipeline had dried up under Miles, which it hasn't.
Miles was the coach for three years before winning a national title. He doesn't get any credit for coaching them up? It's all just reflected glow from the previous regime? Miles doesn't even get credit for winning while relying heavily on Jacob Hester, hardly a blue chip recruit (though his status as an unheralded recruit is rather overrated).
I just think people are so enthusiastic to jump on the Miles is a Moron bandwagon, that no one thinks about the essential disconnect inherent to the argument. Miles couldn't help but win with all of that incredible talent. But that same incredible talent couldn't make it in the NFL. Which is also Miles' fault.
I don't think Miles is above criticism. The offense was inexcusably terrible last season. The offensive line, supposedly a field of Miles' expertise, was the root of the problem. The team has fallen behind Alabama in the pecking order in the SEC West. And, yes, it is concerning that LSU boasts some high profile busts and a sudden drop in high draft picks this season (though, in fairness, LSU did have more players on NFL rosters than any other college last season, so LSU is doing something right).
I just think the criticism should be fair. If you're going to blame Miles for how his players do in the NFL, then you must give him credit for winning the national title with those players. You can't just count the bad things against him and ignore the positives entirely. That's just dishonest.
Les Miles is likely on the hot seat this year. He's paid too much money to not at least be contending for the SEC title. But we can't evaluate the Les Miles Era if we refuse to talk about it honestly*.
*EDSBS is obviously exempted from this. They should continue with their Miles is a Moron meme because they are really, really funny.