5 NFL coaches that could replace Les Miles at LSU
In terms of Les Miles and his job security at LSU, this is what we know with absolute certainty:
The Tigers have lost their last three games after starting the season 7-0 and have fallen completely out of the College Football Playoff rankings after climbing No. 2 as recently as Nov. 3.
That’s it …
What we’ve heard, however, well that’s been a noisy playground of rumor and gossip mongering.
ESPN national college football reporter Joe Schad reported Monday that meetings were going on behind the scenes at LSU discussing whether or not Miles would be retained as coach. Miles took to his Monday press conference and reported he hadn’t spoken to anyone at the university on the topic.
In between those reports and the fallout that’s come since, buyouts have been discussed, players have spoken up, recruits have weighed in and everyone wants to know where Miles will land and who’s coming in to fill his spot.
Remember what we know — Miles still has a job … at LSU.
If that were to change in the near future, and LSU didn’t decide to hire from within the college coaching ranks, could the university look toward the NFL for its next coach?
If history is an indicator, the answer will be no. Of the last 10 LSU head coaches – a fraternal list that dates back to the hiring of Gaynell Tinsley in 1948 – only one came from the professional ranks. Bill Arnsparger came from the Miami Dolphins in 1984 where he was the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator.
Arnsparger spent three successful seasons with the Tigers going 26-8-2 and was the 1986 SEC Coach of the Year. But he lost three bowl games (two Sugar Bowls wrapped around a Liberty Bowl) and bolted for an athletic administrative job at Florida.
Citing LSU’s limited experience and success pulling from the NFL, the odds the university will go the pro route are extremely low. But we’d be remiss not to offer some of the NFL names that might be considered, if Miles were no longer the coach at LSU.
The Most Likely (and that’s not saying much)
Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles – As recently as Tuesday, a discussion was played out in the media involving Chip Kelly and the notion he may not return to Philadelphia after the 2015 season.
After back-to-back 10-win seasons, Kelly has the Eagles currently at 4-6. It’s difficult to imagine the Eagles letting Kelly go. He’s made so many personnel decisions that dramatically stamped his name on the direction of the franchise that team really has a vested interest in seeing how his direction plays out.
That said, if Kelly decided to return to the college ranks (a decision that would instantly make him persona non grata in the City of Brotherly Love), he might look toward the SEC.
For all intents and purposes, Kelly conquered the Pac-12. Outside of winning a national title, he’s mastered the West Coast coaching scene. His formative years – both personally and professionally – were spent in the Northeast, but college football isn’t king in that part of the country. It’s not far-fetched to imagine him inquiring about the LSU gig if it were open, and if he decided to leave the Eagles.
Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans – Citing sources close to the school, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported on Nov. 15 that Bill O’Brien was interested in the open coaching job at Maryland. He has ties to Maryland (he was the running backs coach from 2003-2004) and grew up in the Northeast.
There are a number of reasons why Maryland, or more specifically a move to the college scene, might not work out for O’Brien.
There have been a number of reports from Houston stating that Houston Texans owner Bob McNair does not plan to fire O’Brien after the season. Even more of an issue, the Texans are 5-5, and because the AFC South is in a weakened state this season, Houston’s tied for first place in the division.
If the Texans backdoor their way into the NFL playoffs, that doesn’t leave Maryland – or LSU for the purposes of our conversation – an enjoyable timetable to work with.
Why LSU? O’Brien seems bigger than Maryland. While there are conflicting reports on his interest in the Terps, or the college coaching game at all, the man who was heir apparent to Joe Paterno at Penn State or worked closely with Bill Belichick in New England with the Patriots just has a big-name cache to him.
As it sits right now, LSU would be the biggest job opening in the SEC. And even though he would have only spent two seasons with Houston, those two years would be instrumental in opening more doors to the fertile grounds of Texas recruiting.
Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – It wasn’t even a year ago – back in January to be exact – that rumors were flying with Greg Schiano’s name in regard to LSU. Back then he was a rumored defensive coordinator candidate.
Schiano didn’t land in LSU, but don’t think for a minute his name won’t resurface if Miles is ousted.
Here’s why that’s not the greatest idea:
Go back to 2012-2013 (his most recent coaching gig) and look at his success with Tampa Bay. Not only did he have a pitiful 11-21 record in those two seasons, but he absolutely firebombed the morale inside One Buc Place.
Schiano was controlling to the point where meeting rooms had to be set to an exact temperature. And his rigid and militaristic methods made famous his practice mantra “Toes on the line.” A former player told Michael Silver of NFL.com that playing for Schiano was like “being in Cuba.”
OK. So chalk that up to professional athletes not adhering to the control-freak ways of a new coach. It’s entirely possible Schiano just needs the respect, and possibly fear, only found at the college level. Good theory, except …
As my esteemed colleague Corey Masisak so eloquently proclaimed recently around the virtual water cooler: “They’re really going to fire Les for a guy who won eight or nine games a couple of times at Rutgers?”
Schiano was 68-67 in his 11 seasons with the Scarlet Knights. Even if you only examine his five most successful seasons (2006-2009 and 2011) he was 45-20, his best season was an 11-2 mark in 2006 and a Texas Bowl win.
In Miles’ five worst seasons with LSU (2008-2009, 2012-2014 – this season wasn’t counted as Miles still has games to play) he was 45-20 and won a Chick-fil-A Bowl and an Outback Bowl. It gets grossly unfair to compare apples to apples (Schiano’s best to Miles’).
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints – Any time an opening at LSU happens, Sean Payton’s name will be mentioned just because of the proximity to New Orleans. It’s a fun game to play, but Payton’s not leaving the Saints for LSU. And that’s considering the fact that the Saints are really down right now.
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens – John Harbaugh has a Super Bowl ring, his Ravens, at 3-7, have hit a rough patch, John’s brother Jim has revitalized his career by recharging the electric atmosphere at Michigan. Of course, John’s name is going to brought up with every major college opening in the country. Other than in dream scenarios though, the older Harbaugh isn’t showing up to save LSU.