LSU has lost three games in a row, something we haven't seen since the death rattle of the Gerry DiNardo Era. They have lost all three by double-digit margins, something that hasn't happen in nearly 20 years.
Barring a complete reversal of course next week against Texas A&M, we have likely seen the end of Les Miles as LSU's head coach.
Saturday was, ultimately, fairly emblematic and representational. LSU certainly came out with enthusiasm. These players want to win for their head coach, of that I am sure. But wanting it isn't enough. Thirteen penalties and a pair of interceptions were too much to overcome, and as I suspected, LSU's defense couldn't contain the Ole Miss passing attack enough for the offense to keep pace.
When the emotion is there, but the focus isn't, we saw what happens. One mistake becomes mistakes, the pressing continues and things are too far downhill to climb back from. I liked the gameplan LSU had on offense -- trying to push that Ole Miss front around was going to be their best bet. But between sloppy offensive line play (coupled with just absolutely brutal officiating) and a quarterback that just isn't at a place where he can be counted on consistently, it just wasn't enough.
And that will fall upon the hat of the head coach.
If you want to know why I ignore things like total offense and time of possession for the most part, this box score was a great example. LSU out-gained the Rebels 508 yards to 432 and dominated time of possession by 13 minutes. But Ole Miss averaged nearly a yard more per play (6.6 to 5.7) and were 5-for-5 on redzone scoring opportunities. Big plays, and the ability to finish drives matter much more than the mere ability to gain yards.
Ironically, I think the defense did enough to give LSU a chance in forcing six punts. Not to say that they played well, but had the offense been up to the task, the opportunity was there to keep pace.
The Tigers' final goal-line sequence, in which they arrived on the Ole Miss 1-yard line with more than 9 minutes left to play (this game took FIVE HOURS of our lives -- CBS can go to hell), ran four plays, ate up another three minutes off the game clock, lost six yards and turned the ball over on downs. That's simply unacceptable, and it shows that the Tigers just aren't equipped with the ability to pull themselves out of this flat spin.
Much like the jetwash, we didn't see November coming.
I'm not sure what more needs to be said about the game, so I think I'll move on to what happens next. I'll try to give the most educated guesses I can based on my experiences with the university power structure and knowledge of how these searches tend to go.
I'm not sure whether there's going to be any hard discussions between Les Miles and LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva today or not. Alleva's refusal to comment to Scott Rabalais of The Advocate suggests that some wheels are already in motion, as does Miles' cryptic comment about a meeting with the team on Monday regarding his status.
The best-case scenario, I think, would be that Miles announces a retirement, effective following whatever bowl game LSU makes. That would A) allow for some sort of farewell for a coach that has absolutely earned it, and B) create the least amount of uncertainty for both the the current team and the recruiting class, while LSU figures out its next move. An amicable separation could also, possibly, provide an opportunity for some negotiation on the $15 million buyout Miles would be owed. I doubt the number would go down, but perhaps it could be spread out over a longer period from LSU's end. At Miles' age (62) I would not imagine he seeks out another coaching job, or that he would get one.
If there is a true firing, Frank Wilson would be the most likely serve as interim coach through said bowl game.
Alleva will lead the search for LSU's next coach, with influence from Tiger Athletic Foundation leadership and other power brokers. As has been reported, there's already some squabbling behind the scenes. Namely (and I'm not linking to the two articles because fuck Gannett), past and present members of the Board of Supervisors. These things aren't so much about the coach, but who has influence and who doesn't. Charles Weems has always had Miles's ear, current board members, not so much. That doesn't sit well with the current board members, especially given who appointed them and who previously appointed Weems (that's not an opinion on past, present or future governors, just pointing out that these things do matter to these people).
There will be some concern regarding the optics of LSU spending somewhere around $40-50 million in total on football just six months after the university spoke about financial exigency. The two piles of money aren't really linked, and nobody's going to really stop the powers in play from spending it, but there will be some talk about how it looks. Honestly, LSU's president F. King Alexander wasn't brought here to interfere with the other power brokers of the university, he was brought here to be a front for them, as he uses LSU to raise his own national profile (he's angling to be Secretary of Education for whomever wins the presidency in 2016).
Alleva will keep a council of a couple of people, such as TAF CEO Rick Perry, the most influential boosters, other members of the TAF board of directors and the Board of Supervisors' athletic committee, which I believe is still led by Stanley Jacobs. Those people will influence the decision, but it will ultimately be Alleva's (partially because somebody has to also take the blame for this if it doesn't work out, and boosters, etc..., don't get fired).
Hopefully, the search will be a short one. Alleva and the rest likely have their list of candidates in mind, and should know a little more about realistic options before the move is made to open the job up. I feel pretty safe in saying that they will focus on current head coaches with a proven track record. A prolonged search, or talk of using official committees or search firms will be a bad sign, and indication that there are too many people trying to force a particular decision (the dueling Weems/Ronnie Anderson quotes are already a bad sign, to be honest). There has got to be a united front on this moving forward.
I'd like to avoid speculating on a bunch of names at the moment at the moment, out of respect for Miles and the job he's done. Plus, we still don't know that there is an opening for candidates yet. I can say that I've been told by multiple independent sources that Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has told people in Baton Rouge, both inside and out of LSU, that he would take the job if offered. Does that mean he'll be the next coach here? I don't know. I think it's easy to say something like that (and I started hearing this last spring) when you don't have to actually make that decision. People say lots of things about their job situation when they don't have to back the talk up. I also know that Fisher is represented by Jimmy Sexton, the Jedi Master of getting coaches paid by their current job after flirting with another. So that's something to keep in mind.
We'll do our best to stay on top of this situation here at ATVS and keep you informed as this all starts to unfold. But I'd plan to buckle up and keep your arms and legs inside the internet at all times until the ride comes to a complete stop.
Because shit's about to get bumpy.