I hope LSU fans were paying attention.
The "Fire Miles!" crowd gets smaller and quieter every year, but they still exist, and their ranks always swell whenever Miles dares lose a single game. But the unspoken assumption of the modern day Help Mac Pack cabal is that LSU could just go out and hire a great coach.
Arkansas, Auburn, and Tennessee show the dangers of this assumption. Let me first say that I don't think any of their hires are bad, even though Tennessee's hiring process was an unmitigated disaster. But I think each of these coaches could have a successful run at their new schools or they could be the next Ron Zook.
The point here is that each of these schools started with wish lists that included guys like Gary Patterson, Mike Gundy, Jon Gruden, and Chris Petersen. Those were the marquee names and each school took their turn getting rejected by the A-list (or in Auburn's case, realizing none of those guys were coming and moving directly to the B-list).
Here's the thing about a new coach. No one knows. I'll be honest, I thought the Derek Dooley hire was a great one for Tennessee and I thought he was going to right the ship up there. Instead, just about everything that could go wrong, did. And don't pretend you didn't think Rich Rod was going to crush it at Michigan. On the other hand, I remember remarking to a friend of mine the day LSU hired Saban, "Why the hell are we hiring a guy who couldn't beat Dinardo?"
The best you can hope for in a new coach is a good fit. A guy who just seems to belong in your culture. Say what you will, but Les Miles fits LSU and Nick Saban fits Alabama. It's just kind of perfect. So, how will these new guys do? Hell if I know. And neither do their new employers.
However, I do believe the worst thing you can do is just try to win the press conference. As much as Vol fans were pining for Jon Gruden, he's a win the press conference kind of hire. Sure, you'd all go nuts for a week, and then after the dust settles, you have a coach who has no experience recruiting and hasn't coached a game at any level since 2008. As much egg as the Vols have on their face right now, it's actually a good thing Gruden didn't get that job. He had a high potential for absolute disaster.
While Vol fans are getting out their DIY suicide kits, Butch Jones isn't a terrible hire. He's won at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, two places that aren't exactly cakewalks to compete at. He also gives Tennessee ties to Ohio, and Tennessee's unique position on the map makes them the rare SEC school that can poach recruits from Big 10 country on a regular basis. Now, the actual search was terrible and their AD should be cleaning out his office right now, but the hire itself could actually work out.
By contrast, Arkansas won their press conference. They stole a big-name coach from a Big 10 program that has gone to three consecutive Rose Bowls. This allows Arkansas fans to rightly puff out their chests and call themselves a Destination Program. After all, the guy dominating the Big Ten just bailed on his program to come down south. That's a huge get.
There's also some huge red flags there. Two of Wisconsin's three Big Ten titles were a direct result of a team being ineligible. Bielesma only won seven regular games this year. He's never been known as a top notch recruiter, something Arkansas really needs to survive, and for a guy who complained about Urban Meyer's recruiting tactics... well, say hi to the rest of the lions. You're in our den now.
But for me, the biggest worry for Arkansas is that the best way to compete in the SEC, especially in the West, is to play a different style than LSU and Alabama. LSU is built to beat Alabama's power run game and vice versa. These are big, powerful teams that knock the crap out of you and play "big boy" football. You think you can beat the top dogs by playing the same style only with slightly inferior athletes? Good luck. But the teams that have had success in the Miles-Saban era have been spread teams who force Bama and LSU out of their comfort zones. They play differently and exploit their weaknesses. They also go after a different kind of player, which helps recruiting.
Which means that Auburn may have made the best hire, even if it seems like they are just running in place.
There are no sure things in coaching hires. Any of these hires could turn out great, and any could blow up in their faces. But despite what anyone says, none of these schools got their first choice. LSU fans should remember that when they gaze out their window and look at the other side of the street. The grass isn't as green as you think it is.