When it comes to football I'm conservative. I'm all about organization. I'm a firm believer in systems and the use of these systems to institutionalize best practices. I'm a Nick Saban guy. I'm a Jim Tressel guy. I'm a Kirk Ferentz guy.
Smart. Safe. Predictable. Disciplined.
That being said I cannot for the life of me explain my affinity for Leslie Miles, head football coach at Louisiana State University. Outside of being predictably the opposite of every quality I listed above his lone constant is being wildly inconsistent.
Sloppy. Undisciplined. Dangerous. Risky.
However, the man isn't all bad. As I wrote in last week's al.com Blogger Roundtable last week; from the wide angle lens Miles is a no-brainer elite coach but at the case by case level he becomes a disastrous caricature.
However, you leave the macro-view to examine the situation in the micro and you see the Andrew Hatch-Jarrett Lee debacle of 2008. You see the 2009 mishandling of Russell Shepard. You see the 2009 Ole Miss clock debacle. You see the 2010 West Virginia and UNC contests where Miles' teams took their foot off the throat and tried with all their might to give the opposition the game. And yes, you see the 2010 Tennessee "almost" catastrophe that was saved by Tennessee being so flummoxed by Miles' decision making that they confused themselves.
That's Miles in a nutshell, he's "good from far but far from good" as a coach. Many a person has called for the "Mad Hatter" to be fired as a result of the Tennessee debacle and more jumped on the train after his team pulled out the Florida game. Plenty of folks screaming fire a coach who has his team sitting at 6-0 and sharing the lead in the Murderer's Row that is the SEC West.
You can't fire Miles. Not now, not yet. He's done too much to justify firing him due to mismanagement of end game scenarios.
Read more as to why it is pointless to pile on Miles...
Yes, the man has cost his team in spots. The Jordan Jefferson-Ole Miss clock mishap was a joke that was the difference between a 9 and a 10 win season. The disappearance from Russell Shepard from all but the Auburn game in any legitimate capacity in 2009 migh thave been the difference between beating Florida or Alabama and losing to them.
Those are all valid reasons to consider firing Miles. Absolutely they are. However, using those as grounds for dismissal would be ignoring what has been painfully evident for quite some time; Les Miles is the same guy who was frantic and haphazard at Oklahoma State. He's the guy who worked under Bill McCartney and Gary Moeller before being tutored by Bob Simmons.
Show me their brilliant coaching trees.
That's not to discount those coaches rather to explain that Les Miles is doing what was to be expected of him. He is no "game revolutionizing" coach. He's not Urban Meyer and the spread offense. He isn't Nick Saban a defensive guru. LSU didn't sign up to get a Mack Brown styled politician at the helm. Hell Miles' wasn't even the hot shot coordinator that Charlie Strong, Gene Chizik or Dan Mullen were. No, LSU got a guy who was an offensive line coach, spent his time in the trenches and rose up the ranks.
Keep that in mind as he has not allowed recruiting to flounder as we've seen with other coaches. He has improved his staff when given the opportunity, see adding Gonzalez and Chavis to the mix in recent years. He has not pulled the Dan Hawkins ultra flame out during his six seasons in Red Stick.
While that isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of Miles the fact is the guy is doing his job, remaining steady and, as I tend to always harp on whenever folks discuss firing a coach, is the best, most sure option at the moment. In other words, who else are you going to get?
Chris Petersen? Are you sure he can handle the pressure of LSU, the south, the recruiting landscape and the shark tank that is the SEC? Given how we've seen Hawkins fail he doesn't seem to be a "sure thing."
Kyle Whittingham? He's already said no to Tennessee. Sure LSU is in a better position but is he a sure bet to say yes?
Will Muschamp, Brent Venables or your coordinator du jour? Great coordinators are a risk. These appear to be safe risks but they are risks nonetheless.
The fact is there are few coaches out there who will be available that are definitively better for LSU than the coach they currently have. What Miles needs isn't to be fired. What the Mad Hatter needs is some help.
Immediately following Nick Saban the discipline remained ingrained in the players; peaking with the 2006-2007 seasons when Saban's players were experienced veterans controlling the team. Yet, without Saban's discipline Miles has top level players on every level of the field. He has an elite defensive coordinator. He has talent rolling into the program.
We know what he has, what he doesn't have is strength and organization from the offensive side of the ball. While John Chavis has returned discipline to the defense the offense has continued to languish since the departure of Jimbo Fisher after the '06 season.
Is Crowton to blame? Who knows, but what is clear is the team has lacked offensive identity since 2007's title as they opened 2008 with the Andrew Hatch-Jarrett Lee interception-fest. Shuffling in quarterbacks, poor quarterback development, misuse of an elite receiving core and atrocious mishandling of end game scenarios. I'm not one to point at a coach to be fired, I hate the idea of a guy losing his job, but in this scenario there need to be steps taken to improve the most glaring difficiency for the Bayou Bengals, the offensive side of the ball.
Do I have a plan? Not really. I like Miles and I think the guy has done plenty to keep his job right now. The folks calling for his head have clearly forgotten the period between Bill Arnsparger and Nick Saban that saw the mighty purple and gold post a winning percentage of .517. Saban might have been responsible for the resurrection of this program but Miles' .791 is the best of the modern era and before you say "he did it with Saban's players" the Mad Hatter has posted a .719 from 2008-present when he was getting it done with his own guys.
Does he need help? Absolutely but firing Miles isn't the answer, not with what he's got brewing down in the Bayou right now.