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This Was Jayden Daniels’ Moment

But his defense and coaches failed him

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Back in August I sketched out what a Jayden Daniels Heisman season would probably look like.

To give a quick recap, I averaged out the seasons of quarterbacks that Jayden compares most similarly to (Lamar, Manziel, Mariota, etc.) and got these numbers: 3,200 passing yards, 1,000 rushing yards, and 47 touchdowns combined.

Through nine games Jayden Daniels is on pace to hit all those numbers we’ve seen from the true dual-threat Heisman winning quarterbacks. He is (was?) having a season just as good as RGIII in 2011, Kyler Murray in 2018, Manziel in 2012, or any of those guys.

And none of it is going to matter because Brian Kelly, Matt House, and this 2023 LSU defense has failed Jayden Daniels in spectacular fashion. They’ve cost Jayden Daniels a Heisman trophy. They’ll probably cost Malik Nabers a Bilentikoff trophy too and maybe the offensive line the Joe Moore, too. Even worse, they’ve cost this football team—because it is a team sport after all—a national championship.

Make no mistake, this LSU offense is worthy of hoisting the trophy in Houston this January. If the world was fair, this 2023 LSU offense would have a legitimate case to go up against the Joe Burrow offense of 2019 as the best in college football history. Instead, this ‘23 team is going to be remembered as a supercharged version of the 2013 LSU Tigers: awesome offense, and an abomination on defense. Mett-Hill-OBJ-Landry and JD5-Diggs-Nabers-BTJ are two sides of the same coin.

Somehow someway, we’re seeing a defense worse than the 2020 Tigers and after last night’s 42-28 loss to Alabama I’d argue that House has finally taken the crown from Bo Pelini.

If LSU’s defense was just bad they’d be in playoff contention; if they were okay they’d be in the top-four of this week’s CFP rankings; and if they were good I’d be looking at hotels in Houston right about now. Instead we have a group that’s either the 1A or 1B worst defense in program history and their postseason reward will be a trip to Tampa or some other second-tier bowl.

To make matters worse, we likely won’t see Daniels this week against Florida after he was knocked out of the game by a pretty deliberate cheap shot by Alabama’s Dallas Turner. Turner led with his helmet into Daniels’ chin and drove him into the ground with his full body weight. Roughing the passer was called but officials somehow didn’t even initiate a review for targeting.

That hit was damaging in more ways than one. Daniels’s name now isn’t even listed on DraftKing’s Heisman odds. And while Daniels almost certainly won’t win the Heisman, hopefully he’ll at least get invited to New York.

The 2023 football season might be one of the biggest what could have been years in LSU history. What if guys from last year’s team like Mekhi Garner and Jarrick Bernard-Converse had an extra year? What if the defense was just average? What if Brian Kelly had moved on from Matt House after the Ole Miss game?

Matt House won’t be back next season, and I’m not sure any defensive coach on this staff is worth retaining. But no matter what changes Kelly makes to his coaching staff it will be too late because he’s wasted a national championship offense led by a Heisman-worthy quarterback.

Jayden Daniels deserves the Heisman trophy. At the very least his coaches and teammates should apologize to him.