Well, the speculation is already hot and heavy from a number of sources already, and the Mothership has a handy Rumor Tracker that will be well worth following over the next few months. But it’s time for us to weigh in here, so we put our heads together on the chalk candidates that are on everybody’s mind, and a few other names.
For starters, here are the odds from our friends out in the desert (Or wherever Bovada is located. I’ve always wanted to say that.):
Who will be the next Head Coach of the LSU Tigers?
Tom Herman 5/4
Jimbo Fisher 3/1
Larry Fedora 4/1
Willie Taggart 6/1
Ed Orgeron 9/1
Lane Kiffin 12/1
Gary Patterson 15/1
Chip Kelly 15/1
Bobby Petrino 18/1
Art Briles 28/1
So we’ll start with the main chalk candidates:
Reports are that LSU will swing for the fences and push for a big name – that’s no big surprise, because this hire is going to be the move that defines Joe Alleva’s career and legacy as LSU’s AD. Frankly, hiring a sitting head coach from one of the top 10 programs in the country, with a national championship ring and a Heisman Trophy quarterback on his resume, would be one of the biggest, flashiest moves that LSU could make.
But is it the right move?
Poseur, for one, does not think so:
My list has three names on it. But before we get to that, let's go straight to the DO NOT HIRE list. Going from Miles to one of the true scumbags in the profession would be a clear moment of selling your soul. Do not do it. Do not even call Art Briles, Bobby Petrino, or Lane Kiffin. You can call, but probably shouldn't hire Jimbo Fisher or Gary Patterson. I do not want a guy that I have to make excuses for of how I could possibly root for that guy. Programs today, even out of naked self-interest if not basic morality, cannot hire head coaches willing to turn a blind eye to bad behavior. Or worse, enable it. If LSU even contacts Art Briles, every person involved in okaying that decision should be fired on the spot. I don't care if he's the best coach ever. There are things more important than winning.
WatsonTiger has him as his No. 2 choice:
2-Jimbo Fisher- This was all but announced last year and nothing has changed since. Former playcaller and recruiter here, there is a familiarity bond. Plus it's no secret that he's over Tallahassee and competing with Florida and Miami (lol) in-state. Contract is the main issue with getting this done.
I can say that Fisher’s interest last season was very legitimate before the politics led to Miles’ staying. Whether that would still be the case, to me, seems like a very real question. I don’t share Poseur’s strident objections for a number of reasons, but I have to admit, this wouldn’t be the most exciting hire for me. Although I do think Fisher is an excellent coach, and would likely be very successful here.
Drive the money truck up to Tom Herman. If he says yes, you hire him, and that's the end of it.
Watson has him listed as his 1A choice:
Obviously this is everybody's man, and LSU is no different. This isn't called the Tom Herman Sweepstakes for nothing. There are things that would keep him at Houston, like their inevitable Big 12 invite, but LSU has far more resources and a much higher ceiling than Houston does and there is no argument against that. I'd understand if he wants to stay put but him making the jump also makes a ton of sense. He loves Houston and he loves recruiting there, but as of right now LSU has a monopoly on Houston and Houston just steals the occasional recruit. In addition to basically fencing off Houston, he also inherits the entire state of Louisiana, which doesn't produce hundreds of blue chippers like Florida or Texas but produces insane talent that wants to play for LSU by the time they're in middle school.
How many Brinks trucks can we send to Houston? The only logical name that should top the list is Herman. So basically, we need to become Texas and Texas A&M fans the coming weeks just so there's not as many options available to choose from.
I am going to echo just about everyone and say that Herman has to be our top pick. He already has a successful run at a HC position under his belt. He is an offense guy and we can offer him the big bucks. The only problem I see is a potential offer for Houston to join the Big 12.
The top 2 for me are Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman. Probably prefer Herman, but I'll take either one. After those two, if you can't get either of them, I'd genuinely prefer Coach O over anyone else. I'm not sure there's a 3rd option out there better than Coach O considering his recruiting prowess, personality and magnetism and love for the school and team.
There’s a lot to like about Herman. He just seems like a cool guy, and Houston has been a blast to watch under him. There is a definite feel that he could be the next big thing on the way up. I’m a big fan of longer track records though, and smaller ones make me nervous. I’ve seen a lot of coaches come and go over the years that seemed like the smartest guy in the room for a while, only to be exposed in time: Dirk Koetter, Dan Hawkins, Steve Kragthorpe, Gus Malzah and so on and so forth. Even guys like Kevin Sumlin and Brian Kelly have some bloom off the rose compared to when they first moved into the spotlight.
LSU’s interim head coach appeals to me for several reasons. Admittedly, most of them are emotional. I believe that LSU is his dream job, and would receive a special level of effort. As a Louisiana Native, he understands things here on a level that would be unique. And quite frankly, he’s just fun as hell. And that’s what we all want, right? For this to be fun again.
I believe that Orgeron would bring the best of what we loved about the Les Miles Era and continue to pay it forward. And while I understand that his time at Ole Miss was a disaster, I think the fact that he learned from the experience and applied that lesson to another job, even if it was just as an interim head coach, says a lot about him. And of course he is one of, if not the, most dynamic recruiters in the country. Even if his tenure here didn’t work out, he’d almost certainly leave a very talented roster behind for a successor.
I’m a sucker for a great story, and this has a chance to be an all-timer over the next two months.
But that, and any decision on Orgeron, would also very much be tied to his performance over these next eight games. More than just winning, but how this team plays, both in terms of measurable quality and general enthusiasm level. Do his plans, regarding staff maneuvers and new team activities work? The results should be fairly tangible. And of course, there’s the question of his plans moving forward -- I would not expect that LSU’s current staff would remain totally intact, O’s plan for that would be very relevant. Especially at offensive coordinator.
And to be honest, this option also leaves the least chance of a blunder by LSU leadership in a coaching search.
From a record standpoint, I posed the question to twitter yesterday and got the following responses:
What record would Ed Orgeron have to reach for you to support him taking over as #LSU's coach beyond this season?— Billy Gomila (@ATVS_ChefBilly) September 27, 2016
From within our own staff:
He'd have to get us to 9 wins. Otherwise, what the hell are we doing? Why are we firing Miles if we hire a guy, who was here for the construction of this team, and guides them to a 6-2 record? Over a full year, that projects to 9-3, and isn't winning "just" 9 games what's gotten Miles on the hot seat in the first place? And it's not like Orgeron has no responsibility for the current 2-2. He was here, too.
And getting us to 9 wins is just so I'd consider him as a serious candidate. I don't care how many friendly news stories he gets about how much he's changed: he was one of the single worst coaches in the history of the SEC. He won three conference games in three years at Ole Miss. Hell, even Derek Mason is pulling that off at Vanderbilt. Massive improvement still doesn't get Coach O to elite. Oh, he went 6-2 at USC with a loaded roster? again, isn't that the 9-3 problem again? And it's not like he's a co-ordinator. He's a position coach, and has never been a DC. His resume, frankly, is awful. To be perfectly frank, I wouldn't feel good about hiring Orgeron unless we win out. But I'll spot him the Alabama game.
Eight. I'm resigned to losing to Alabama and Ole Miss will be an uphill battle, but against Florida, Arkansas, and A&M LSU has a talent advantage that a good coach should correlate to wins. And then you have USM and USA, which should be cakewalks.
If LSU loses three of those games and heads to a bowl with a 7-5 record before winning the bowl game, then I'd have to take the performance of the team into heavy consideration. That would make it hairy for me.
But eight (or more) wins to me says that we should throw a hail mary for Herman and if that doesn't land then just keep O.
8-4 with a bowl win
7-1 or 8-0 and I'm in on Coach O. 6-2, 5-3 and I think he's probably out.
For me ultimately, it's not how Orgeron reaches the win total it's how that total is reached, or not reached.
I think he has proven himself as a position coach, but his head coaching track record is terrible. I am not really sure how to feel about his short stint as interim HC at USC. Instead of getting into all his wins and losses there, I will wait to see how he fares for the remainder of this season. Alleva does not want to keep O, but if he beats Alabama, I think it'll be considered.
I would say he has to get to an 8-4 season and a bowl game win
After these chalk candidates, there are the more obscure names:
If Herman says no, you toss the hail mary and ask David Shaw of Stanford. He almost certainly says no, but I couldn't in good conscious not check his interest. If he says no, then I hire Jeff Brohm of Western Kentucky. He took over a middling to bad Sun Belt program, and turned them into a powerhouse at that level in no time. It's also the bonus of the Petrino offense without, you know, Bobby Petrino. I'd much rather take a chance on an up and comer than hire a retread. Brohm has been successful at the lower levels, and while he's not my first choice, I'd like that kind of call. Orgeron and Aranda should both get interviews, but unless they blow me away, they are In Case of Emergency: Break Glass candidates.
Ed Orgeron, PJ Fleck, and Pat Narduzzi are three names that could be good fits, depending how 2016 turns out. Narduzzi in particular has a deceptively awesome resume as a head coach so far, even if the record doesn't reflect that. As for Fleck, this appears to be "his year" to do something at WMU so waiting until it has a bowl locked up will probably provide a good indication of his ceiling as a head coach. Orgeron is a wait and see for obvious reasons.
Guys who absolutely not be considered are Lane Kiffin (or just most ex-Saban assistants), Art Briles, Bobby Petrino, and let's throw in James Franklin, both of the Arizona coaches and Steve Sarkisian.
Garry Patterson, Jimbo Fischer and Dan Mullen bring up mixed feelings.
Bryan Harison and Willie Taggart could also be some guys to keep an eye on.
Pat Narduzzi- I ****ing love Duz. He's gone from one of the best DC's in the sport at Michigan State to quietly building Pitt (PITT!) into a solid program with a lot of excitement around it. Same caveat with O applies though, he's going to need a good OC to be successful. Also, I'm worried that he won't be familiar with the recruiting of the area, but with Raymond and O still on staff that may not matter.
Jeff Brohm-Western Kentucky can easily win six games in the SEC East and has probably the best offense in the nation and it's all Brohm's working. The only thing keeping from being higher on the list is that ideally you want some experience at a bigger program. Recruiting isn't a problem for me here because look at what he was able to do at Western Kentucky.
David Shaw- He's 1) at his alma mater and 2) winning there. I don't see him leaving, but backing up the dump truck of money is worth a shot.
The only other person who hasn't been named yet who I'd be down with is Holgorsen
Look, this won't be a popular opinion, but I wouldn't honestly be surprised if Alleva was intrigued by other SEC coaches - Malzahn, Bielema and Freeze. They check his experience box AND know the conference. And that sort of rival leaping is something we've seen Tuberville do before. Nothing like trying to get a leg up on your division foes by stealing their coach.
My other wild swing, pie-in-the-sky dream choice, would be Jim Harbaugh.That’s right folks, THAT Jim Harbaugh. He’s not real popular in this part of the country, but that khaki-clad, milk chugging bastard is a damn strong coach who runs an appropriately mansome offense -- the very kind we’ve been trying and failing at for years -- recruits like a demon, surrounds himself with great assistants and would take extreme pride in sticking it directly to the rest of this conference. Particularly on behalf of his good friend Les Miles.mansome offense -- the very kind we’ve been trying and failing at for years,-- recruits like a demon, surrounds himself with great assistants and would take extreme pride in sticking it directly to the rest of this conference. Particularly on behalf of his good friend Les Miles.
Imagine James Joseph Harbaugh, eye-to-eye…okay, eye looking down on the top of Nick Saban’s head, in a post-game handshake and tell me that wouldn’t be eight different kinds of fun?
It’s going to be a long two months as we watch this process play out, but we’ll stay on top of the candidates and the news as it comes.