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Play Your Best and Forget the Rest

Compete, compete, compete!

Missouri v LSU Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Back in October, a month before Orgeron would officially be named the new head coach at LSU, we talked about how O flexed Carroll’s philosophies as he sought to build LSU in his own image. It’s easy to see how Orgeron implemented many of the principles taught by Carroll as he took over leadership at LSU.

Yesterday, the Advocate’s Ross Dellenger dove into the same topic, with quotes from Pete Carroll. While O pulls pages directly from the Carroll playbook, he’d molded them into his own:

“Eddie understands it. He’s put, of course, his own touches and own ways to it. When we were at USC developing the whole principles, Eddie was right there, in on everything. He kind of grew up with it as we were putting things together.

“It’s become him,” Carroll continued. “Now it’s really his deal.”

The piece goes into greater detail, but the ending nicely summarizes the principles he’s taken from his two primary coaching mentors:

“CEO” Jimmy Johnson

Motivator: When Johnson talked, folks listened. That Texas twang of his reverberated with coaches and players. “His motivation is second to none,” Orgeron said.

Promoter: Johnson was accessible to media and boosters, promoting the Hurricanes in every way. Former assistant Tommy Tuberville called him the team’s “true spokesman.”

Evaluator: Orgeron claims his best coaching advice came from Johnson. “Go get the best players, Ed,” Orgeron says Johnson told him. “His evaluation skills were amazing.”

“Fun” Pete Carroll

Recruiter: Carroll’s bedrock at USC was “local recruiting” in talent-rich Los Angeles. “He wanted to visit every single (high school),” Los Angeles Times writer David Wharton said.

Psychologist: Carroll was big on giving his players a fun and relaxing environment, something he took from psychology books, Wharton said.

Competitor: No starting job was safe. Competition, on and off the field, was essential. Carroll held short but intensely competitive practices where freshmen could win jobs.

One of the essential elements to the Carroll style is competition. The article details how Carroll competed in everything, including pick-up basketball, to the fullest extent. He and O clicked when both showed up at a random HS football game before Carroll was hired at USC. Both there to check out recruits.

The competition mantra is something Orgeron preached early on since taking the job. Orgeron, himself, took to the podium last night to discuss the team, ahead of the final scrimmage, as we transition away from Fall Camp and into regular season preparation. Nothing he said was more noteworthy than this:

No, it’s not over yet. Do I think Danny is gonna be our starter? Probably. But it’s not over yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if something happened.

This aligns with most of what Orgeron has said throughout the Spring and Fall, keeping the QB competition open. We’re two weeks away from kickoff and O is continuing to trumpet the idea of an open competition at quarterback. He’s been trigger shy at naming Etling the starter in press conference after press conference. Perhaps it’s a motivational tactic? Perhaps they are realistically considering a change? It’s hard to know. He’s intentionally vague, but for what reason?

Here is where it is time to truly flex his philosophies. If you are going to preach a bottom-up competition model, you can’t crater at arguably the most important position on the field.

Last season, Miles and Cameron moved forward with Brandon Harris as the starter, in what clearly proved to be the wrong decision. A week later, and one loss down, he yielded the job to an injured Etling, who never gave it back. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear the staff probably knew Etling was the best option, but Harris represented a safety net of comfort. Better the devil you know and all that. It was the wrong decision and likely cost Les his job. The staff knew the right choice. The team knew the right choice. And the wrong choice was made.

Fast forward to 2017 and the new coaching staff seems to be back at that same decision point. Some will trot out aphorisms about the dangers of playing young QBs. Yet, yielding to that mentality actually subverts your entire message. It’s not time to turn on your principles because of fear of the unknown. It’s not time to abandon your core philosophies because anecdotal evidence suggests it hasn’t worked well for LSU in the past.

If Etling is the clear cut best player on the field, then give him the job. But if there’s even a sliver a doubt, the coaching staff cannot back down. It will be no secret. The locker room will know. If you preach competition at every turn but fail to implement that in your quarterback decision, the team will take notice.

Orgeron’s model is competition. Play the best players, regardless of experience, history or irrational fear. Failure to do so is abandoning your core principles. Once you’ve casually eroded the foundation, the house will inevitably crumble.