Les Miles may be coaching his final game at LSU on Saturday when Texas A&M rolls into town.
Riding a three-game losing streak, no longer playing for an SEC championship or a berth in the College Football Playoff — Miles deserves the axe, doesn’t he?
LSU entered the season ranked No. 15 in the AP Top 25 Preseason Poll. The Tigers were expected to contend in the SEC with sophomore running back Leonard Fournette and some talented weapons on the defensive side of the ball.
Instead, LSU raced off to a 7-0 start. Behind a Heisman hopeful in Fournette, the team looked destined to play on Dec. 5 in the SEC championship game in the Georgia Dome.
Then reality hit.
LSU was truck-sticked by Alabama. A truly equal opponent, Arkansas, got the best of the Tigers the following week, and then Ole Miss handed them a third loss in a row to knock them back down to the ranks of mediocrity.
If the schedule hadn’t lined up as it did, perhaps LSU would have never been in the playoff discussion.
LSU skated by Mississippi State in its de facto opener, then beat up on a disappointing Auburn team at home. The same can be said for its game against South Carolina, which wound up being played at Tigers Stadium.
Without question, the victory over Florida was impressive. LSU definitely has the skills to take down any SEC opponent on any given Saturday, but that seven-point win came days after Will Grier was suspended and the Gators were forced to regroup quickly.
LSU looked overmatched against Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, and in each of those three losses, a different flaw was revealed.
Whether it was quarterback Brandon Harris failing to take the next step, struggles in the trenches by both the offensive and defensive lines, or the secondary lacking playmaking ability, this is what we expected out of LSU this season.
The fact that those flaws weren’t exposed until Week 8 is a testament to Miles, not a reason for his departure.
Miles is the second-winningest coach in school history, above some guy named Nick Saban. He’s led LSU to two SEC championships and a national title, and the truth is he is capable of further enhancing his resume.
This year’s early success proved he has a team that’ll be able to compete for an SEC title sooner rather than later. It was a young squad that had flaws, but overcame most of them to surprise the nation at 7-0.
More impressive than any record or championship is that the LSU players believe in Miles. The recruits believe in Miles.
The problem: the boosters don’t.
The Tiger Athletic Foundation was sold by the 7-0 start and believed this was LSU’s year to again vie for a national championship. The members ignored the truth of the matter — that this team was playing over its head — and because of Miles’ coaching, they were overcome with false belief.
Now Miles’ coaching prowess will likely cost him his job. The TAF seems resolute on paying Miles $15 million to go away. For context, that’s more than twice as much as Alabama pays Saban each year.
LSU is on the verge of making a snap decision and is guilty of being a prisoner of the moment. Buying out Miles’ deal will lead to turnover among the staff, a disruption among prospective recruits and perhaps uneasiness with the current players.
There aren’t many coaches out there that would be an upgrade to Miles, so it’ll be interesting to see how the university navigates through its next hire. It will be a tall task nonetheless.
But while Miles and the entire LSU community prepares for Black Friday and perhaps a Black Saturday, there’s still some time to reconsider the decision.
Miles may be a lame duck on Saturday against A&M, and a decision may already be made. And that’s an unfortunate situation because through an objective lens, Miles is the best coach LSU could possibly have for the 2016 season.
However, the TAF may have already written a $15 million check that suggests otherwise.