Despite 9 wins in 2017, LSU football is on the verge of irrelevance. The problem begins at the top: the AD is ineffective and the coach is a caricature, leaving little hope for the fans that were promised excellence but have been dealt incompetence.
The dysfunction starts with LSU AD Joe Alleva, a capable administrator but always a step slow in personnel matters. Alleva was prepared to dismiss Les Miles after the 2015 season and replace him with Jimbo Fisher. But he miscalculated Miles’ ability to gather political support.
“Step Slow Joe” leaked his plan weeks before the season ended allowing Miles to work his contacts and outwit the AD. Miles ended up keeping his job after Alleva got punked.
A shaky 2-2 start in 2016 enabled Alleva to fire Miles. Ed Orgeron was named interim coach while Alleva plotted for the upcoming Tom Herman sweepstakes.
Immediately, Orgeron energized the fan base by firing two unpopular coaches: special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto and OC Cam Cameron. He promoted Austin Thomas to General Manager to run recruiting and manage the roster. Orgeron shortened practices, brought cookies back to the training table and showed a playful side as he became a media darling during his 6-2 interim run.
Around Thanksgiving, LSU offered the job to the Houston coach who turned around and used Alleva’s proposal as leverage to get the Texas job. Armed with an eight-week head start, Step Slow Joe struck out again.
Alleva panicked and hired Orgeron fulltime after the coach presented the infamous “building a championship program” binder. Orgeron pitched an idea where he would accept less money as the face of the program but leave much of the coaching to two highly-paid coordinators. Caught without a backup plan, Alleva accepted the clearance rack deal. Orgeron retained sought-after DC Dave Aranda and eventually hired Matt Canada as his OC. The duo were the highest paid coordinators in the country.
Once hired full time, the lighthearted, fun Orgeron disappeared. He morphed back into the micro-managing Ole Miss coach he was a decade ago. Last summer, he used his clout to deny out of state coaches access to Louisiana satellite camps. In Ed O’s world, he was “Protecting Louisiana” by limiting exposure for hundreds of Louisiana high school football players.
What did Orgeron gain by this nonsense? Not much. Instead, he offered a glimpse of the paranoia that would loom over the 2017 season. Ed O’s antics prevented Belhaven, a tiny college in Mississippi, from hosting a camp in Hammond, prompting Belhaven coach Hal Mumme to dub Orgeron “Paranoid Ed.”
Paranoid Ed’s heavy-handed approach ran off one coordinator after the 2017 season and nearly cost him the other. Orgeron and Canada butted heads as the CEO couldn’t help but meddle in the offense. Ed O inserted himself into the offensive game plan for Troy leading to a predictable result: just 144 yards for the Tiger offense in a first-half shutout.
The next day, Joe Alleva forced the Orgeron and his coordinators to clear the air in hopes of salvaging the season. Canada was given autonomy again leading the Tiger offense to build confidence and win 6 of the last 7 SEC games.
Ironically, Orgeron saw Alleva’s meddling as a rebuke of his coaching ability. Paranoid Ed began plotting to dismiss Canada with 2 years left on his contract. On January 5, 2018, LSU announced Canada would be paid $1.7 million just to go away. The press release was framed by a wide-angle photo of a near-empty Tiger Stadium – a chickenshit move meant to diminish the former OC.
There are other examples of talented people fleeing the program. DL coach Pete Jenkins retired and OL coach Jeff Grimes became the OC at BYU. And Austin Thomas left LSU in mid-December for the same job at Tennessee only to renege a few days later. Thomas bailed on Orgeron in such a hurry that he never nailed down his new title and responsibilities in Knoxville. Why would a valued part of Orgeron’s regime leave in such a sloppy and haphazard manner?
Aranda Strikes It Rich
Dave Aranda’s agent, Patrick Strong, began looking for a way out of LSU before the season ended. Strong started negotiations with Texas A&M’s AD and new coach, Jimbo Fisher. The move would require Aranda to leave a very talented LSU squad for a mediocre A&M defense.
With dysfunction all around him, Aranda must have been queasy about the direction of LSU football. He couldn’t allow Paranoid Ed to sabotage his promising career.
The drama with Alleva and Orgeron is typical of LSU in the last several years. The Tigers make headlines but not by competing for championships. Step Slow Joe and Paranoid Ed have proven themselves incapable of running a big-time program.