LSU fans should be reminded of an old saying: “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”
A vocal group in Baton Rouge, La., is clamoring for the end of the Les Miles era. But they might be shoving away the most successful coach in program history. Sure, Miles has lost three in a row this season and may not even match last season’s 8-5 campaign. But The Mad Hatter deserves at least one more chance to turn it around.
The college football landscape is as cutthroat as ever, with fans seeking immediate, long-lasting success the same way they expect the immediacy of same-day shipping. College football is not Amazon Prime. Les Miles does not deserve to be fired because of a couple of down seasons. Here are four reasons why he should stay:
Miles is the most successful coach in LSU history
A 110-32 record in 11 seasons is nothing to scoff at even if the Tigers have gone 15-8 the past two seasons. Miles has recorded seven 10-win seasons during those 11 years. Mark Richt — who has spent 15 years at UGA and has remained safe despite less success than Miles — has just nine 10-win seasons.
Miles has not only maintained the program that Nick Saban left behind, he’s improved it. He has gone 6-4 in bowl games and can match Charles McClendon for the most bowl victories in program history with a win this season. His two SEC titles are as many as Richt, Urban Meyer and Saban (while at LSU) and only one fewer than Saban’s three conference titles with Alabama.
Miles’ impact on this program exceeds far beyond the field. LSU had 40 players in the NFL in Week 1 of the season. Miles gets players to the NFL, which should be a point of pride for LSU fans.
Part of the reason Miles has generated so many pros is because of his excellent recruiting ability. Miles has reeled in nine top-10 recruiting classes during his tenure at LSU. The three classes that weren’t ranked in the top 10 each finished inside the top 15. Miles has drawn top talent to the Bayou.
LSU is a year ahead of schedule
Many people won’t forgive Miles for a three-game skid after a 7-0 start, but taking a deeper dive into the roster proves that LSU is ahead of schedule. Keep in mind that LSU received nine out of a possible 225 votes to win the SEC in the preseason and was picked to finish third in the toughest division in college football.
Expectations were not and should not have been that high for this Tigers team. LSU has just four starters who are seniors. LSU’s quarterback, running back and leading receiver are all sophomores and the Tigers have started two freshmen along the offensive line. Three members of LSU’s starting defensive front seven are sophomores or younger and safety Jamal Adams, arguably LSU’s best defensive player this year, is only a sophomore.
Of course, LSU will likely lose a few would-be starters to the NFL Draft, but don’t worry. Miles will replenish with the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports.com.
Next year was supposed to be the return to glory for the Bayou Bengals. But a 7-0 start immediately increased expectations. LSU’s hot start may be a bit deceiving because everything went its way.
LSU blew out an Auburn team that wasn’t nearly as good as its preseason expectations. The Tigers faced backup quarterbacks against Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, South Carolina and Florida. They spent four consecutive games at home before traveling to Alabama during the first weekend of November. LSU’s advantageous circumstances were an integral part of the 7-0 start.
LSU’s collapse appears brutal, but the long-term scope reveals a relatively young team that hit a wall against three teams that were probably better.
The Nick Saban comparison is overrated
LSU’s well-documented struggles against Alabama might be the biggest reason Miles’ seat is burning up. The Tigers have lost five consecutive games to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide beginning with the 2011 BCS Championship Game.
Pundits and fans expect Miles to measure up to Saban, but no coach measures up to Saban. It’s tough to compare Miles to one of the most dominant coaches in college football history. Miles might actually beat Saban in one category, however.
Miles is 48-15 over the past five seasons. Saban went 48-16 during his five seasons with the Tigers. But people weren’t running Saban out of Baton Rouge; they were begging him to stay.
The grass probably won’t be greener on the other side
Chances are, Miles’ successor won’t last 11 seasons and won’t win 110 games. The same people willing to write a check to help buy out Miles for $15 million better be more diligent when trying to find his potential replacement.
Quite frankly, there aren’t many coaches out there that fit LSU’s criteria. Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher might be first on LSU’s wish list, but there’s no guarantee he can translate the success he’s had in the ACC to the SEC.
Dabo Swinney may lead Clemson to the College Football Playoff, but he has won only one ACC Championship since 2009 and has often failed to win the biggest games.
ESPN analyst Jon Gruden? Forget about it.
The grass might not be greener on the other side, and there’s a good chance the program regresses in the post-Miles era.
There’s no doubt Miles will have to tweak his coaching philosophy. There’s even less doubt that Miles will have to perform better against the SEC, particularly Alabama. But Miles deserves a chance to make those adjustments and “resurrect” the program.