I'll get to the Music City Bowl tomorrow or Friday, but in the meantime, reports broke yesterday pre-game that LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis was a "done deal" to leave and take the same position at Texas A&M. Chavis' contract with LSU runs through December of 2015, and while there's an extension offered and reportedly agreed to, it has not been signed.
Per multiple media reports, including this one from The Advocate, the sticking point has been a clause that LSU included in the most recent round of coaching extensions for Chavis, Brick Haley, Corey Raymond, etc...that would tie the deal to Les Miles himself. If Miles leaves LSU for any reason, the contracts would be null and void. Essentially, it's insurance that if LSU does have to hire a new head coach they're not financially tied to the previous coaching staff while hiring a whole new one. It's a smart financial move in theory, but the reports are that Chavis took the clause as a "slap in the face," probably because it's not his offensive counterpart's deal.
Opinions will vary on the situation, and I'm off two minds on it, but I know this much -- neither side should be willing to walk away from a deal over a clause like that. It's a negotiating point. You work through it. Being upset is understandable, but letting it compromise your work in bowl prep or letting it drive you away from a good job that has paid you very handsomely is childish, at least in my opinion.
But a day later, reports have also leaked out that late last night Miles and LSU officials met with Chavis for one last pitch. And while yes, Chavis is currently relaxing at his ranch property in Tennessee and didn't return to Baton Rouge on the team charter, it's not the first time that's happened. He also took such a break after the 2012 Chick Fil-A Bowl as well.
This morning, Football Scoop reported this:
John Chavis: Per source, Les and the administration met last night and then Les met with Chavis. The team is headed back to Baton Rouge today; but we understand that Chief is headed to his ranch up near Knoxville to think about some things. As of 7am this morning, per sources, he had not informed LSU or A&M of a final answer. Sources we have spoken with believe that Chavis' buyout at LSU drops from $400,000 to zero at midnight tonight.
My honest opinion: I don't particularly care for how this whole process has played out on either end, and cooler heads should prevail. It's probably for the best if LSU can hold on to Chavis, for the sake of the 2015 team and recruiting class. That said, this whole situation has definitely soured my opinion on Chavis. While I can understand finding the reported negotiating tactic a slap in the face, it's still just a negotiating tactic. Work through it like a professional. Damn sure don't let it affect your bowl preparation. LSU has been very good to John Chavis over the last six seasons. He's been given every resource he can ask for to succeed made as much money as any assistant coach in the country. His job deserves some respect and LSU deserves some benefit of the doubt.
However, should Chief decide to leave, LSU will have plenty of options. Here's my best guess at a list of names that will come up -- realistic, unrealistic and otherwise.
Way-to-Awesome-to-Happen Pipe Dream
Will this ever happen? Probably not. But hot damn would it be fun.
The now-deposed New York Jets head coach has a reputation as one of the game's best defensive minds. He's a pretty good head coach too, and I would expect him to find another one quickly. The chances of him coming to coach college are certainly slim to none, but he does have some history with Miles from the two working together at Oklahoma State in the 1990s. And while he doesn't have known recruiting chops, his personality and NFL bonafides would certainly sell with kids. Although that personality may also land him in a television analysts chair until the right job comes along.
Potentially Realistic Options
You could say there's a definite "want" among fans to bring BeBe to Baton Rouge. He's currently unemployed but still getting some money from USC on his contract. With two sons entering their senior seasons of high school, Orgeron has been in no hurry to just take any job, certainly not another position coaching gig. But a coordinator job would certainly draw some interest. The holdup will likely be Brick Haley's future. I'm told that Orgeron wants to coach defensive line wherever he goes, so that position has to be open. If Haley follows Chavis to College Station that could certainly be the case here.
Orgeron has never served as a DC, but between his stints as a head coach and his reputation as a top recruiting coordinator indicate he'd have the necessary skills. Plus his 4-3 Over front style would certainly mesh with LSU's current talent. The other wild-card here could be...
Orgeron's defensive coordinator from his USC days, Pendergast is currently available after taking a year off. Working with Coach O in some capacity could be appealing. Pendergast has a reputation as a creative mind that has worked with multiple fronts based on the talent available. But he's also largely worked on the West Coast, so that could also be a possible sticking point.
Michigan's defensive coordinator -- at the moment it's unclear whether he's former or not -- is very similar to Chavis. A steady hand that may not be young and flashy, but has led strong defenses everywhere he's worked, from Florida, to the Baltimore Ravens and back to Michigan. He has a history with Miles and Cam Cameron from previous stints at Michigan (and with Jim Harbaugh as well, hence the unknown as to his availability), and would likely be able to hit the ground running in Baton Rouge.
Florida's ex-coordinator is reportedly in contention for the Michigan DC job as well, and was also mentioned for A&M. He's a young up-and-comer with a strong recruiting rep, and has worked at a number of high-profile jobs in the last 10 years.
Hot College Names
Jeremy Pruitt & Brent Venables
Georgia and Clemson's defensive coordinators, both riding high after big seasons. Whether either is available is a pretty big question mark. Both make big salaries already, and Venables reportedly turned down Texas A&M for the same lateral move. Whether they would jump for a lateral move is a big question, especially since both schools would likely match any salary boost LSU could offer.
A former Auburn defensive coordinator and NFL assistant, Gibbs spent the last year at Houston, where he coached the Cougars to the 11th-ranked scoring defense in the country, and 17th in yards per play (ahead of LSU, in point of fact). He has a solid rep in terms of his contacts in the Southeast Texas area. He's not what you would describe as a "hot" name, but he could be on the rise at just 46 years old.
Stanford's defensive coordinator just led a unit that finished in the top 10 in every major category.
Kevin Steele & Gene Chizik
Steele's name will almost surely come up in speculation, as he's been rumored to have interest here for previous openings. The name will likely draw some groans due to his last game as a coordinator being the Clemson-West Virginia boat-racing in the 2012 Orange Bowl, but Steele's reputation in the coaching community remains strong. Chizik, while a relative failure as a head coach, has always had a strong rep as a coordinator and recruiter. Neither hire would set the world on fire, but both coaches could be successful here.
Available NFL Names
Whether any of these names are true candidates or not is just speculation on my part, but they could all be available and have ties to LSU or the area, which could lead to some interest.
The San Francisco 49ers coordinator had followed Harbaugh there from Stanford, and could conceivably do it again to Michigan.
The former Tiger defensive lineman and line coach on Miles' first staff is currently unemployed after spending the last year on the New York Jets staff. He'll likely have NFL options though, and seems to prefer the NFL coaching lifestyle compared to college.
The former LSU all-american has coached the 49er DBs for the last few years.
Former LSU defensive backs coach has an uncertain future in Chicago after spending the last year as DC there.
The Atlanta Falcons' DC is on the outs as well after Mike Smith's departure.