Monday, September 26, 2016

With the Mad Hatter Gone, Who Should Take the Reins at LSU?

Yesterday, LSU fired their eighty games over .500 coach Les Miles after a five point loss to Auburn and, in the eyes of the administration, an unacceptable 2-2 start to the 2016 season, a campaign that saw them open with playoff aspirations and a number 5 ranking.
In doing so, the Bayou Bengals have moved on from one of the most successful coaches in the history of college football. I wrote extensively about the Les’s head coaching future three weeks ago after their abysmal showing at Lambeau Field against Wisconsin; you can find that here. At the time, I felt like moving on from Miles was an extremely tough decision, and one that I probably wouldn’t have made, considering his almost unparalleled accomplishments, which are as follows:
  • ·         114-34 record at LSU
  • ·         National Championship (2007)
  • ·         Two SEC Championships (‘07, ‘11)
  • ·         9 Top 25 finishes (’05, ’06, ’07,’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’15)
  • ·         5 Top 5 finishes (“05, ’06, ’07, ’10, ’11)
  • ·         11 straight bowl appearances
  • ·         Averaged 10 wins a year

I’ve probably gone the other way now, though I do still think Les is fine coach, and deserving of another job somewhere else if he wants one. At some point though, it became apparent that the offense wasn’t ever going to get any better, and Miles’s inability to get consistent quarterback play led to his eventual downfall. Think about it; how many quarterbacks got significantly better from the time they arrived on campus until the time they left during Les’s tenure? I can’t think of one. During his last 8 seasons, even when the Tigers had Zach Mettenberger, an NFL talent, LSU never finished higher than 6th in the conference in passing.
Here’s the Mad Hatter’s legacy; a zany guy who doesn’t know how to clap, a grass eater, and someone who shot from the hip, for better or worse. He was an ace recruiter who won a hell of a lot of games despite consistently taking offensive football back to, at times, the pre-forward pass days.
Then again (and I’ve made this point before), it’s amazing how a few plays or games can completely shape the perception or entire career of a coach. Before Tennessee defeated Florida for the first time in 11 years on Saturday, the narrative with Butch Jones was that he was a choker who couldn’t win the big one. Now he’s the King of Knoxville. In 2013, during Gus Malzahn’s first year, Auburn pulled off two of the most unbelievable and improbable victories in the history of college football; the Prayer at Jordan Hare and the Kick Six. If they don’t win those games, Malzahn finishes Year One with at least three losses, and probably gets fired this past off-season, considering he followed up with less than stellar 8-5 and 7-6 campaigns the following two years. Instead, because of his SEC Championship victory, and narrow BCS Title Game loss in 2013, the administration allowed him a longer leash, which gave him the opportunity to fight for his job against LSU two days ago.
The same goes for Les. If Brandon Harris doesn’t throw the worst interception of all time against Wisconsin when LSU was driving for the winning field goal, and if they were able to get the last play off in time against Auburn, the Tigers are sitting at 4-0, with a top 10 ranking, and he’d still be employed.
But that’s just the way it is, and sometimes, one or two decisions end up shaping where you end up in life. Goodbye Les, we’ll all miss your quirkiness.
So who should LSU hire to replace Miles? I have a few ideas. 
I’m sure the administration and fan base would prefer an offensive-minded coach, considering that side of the ball was the major factor in firing Les in the first place.
So here’s a Top 8 list, slanted towards offensive guys, ranked from most to least desirable.
1.      Chip Kelly
If I was the athletic director of any Top 15 job (which LSU is), Kelly would unquestionably be the first person I’d call. He revolutionized offense across all of football, and presided over the highest highs in the history of Oregon Football. The only caveat is that he’s currently in his first year with his second NFL team, the 49ers, but then again, it’s not like that’s an extremely stable situation. San Fran just fired Jim Tomsula after one year, and they’ve got a terrible roster in a brutal division. It’s at least worth giving him a phone call right? He’d score a ton of points, give Nick Saban fits, and ultimately, win at an extremely high level. Kelly is the pipe dream.
2.      Bobby Petrino
Petrino’s already competed at a high level in the SEC at Arkansas, where he went 10-3 and 11-2 in his final two seasons. He, like Kelly, is an offensive mind who has scored points everywhere he’s been. The issues with Petrino, however, are all off the field. Whenever you have the “Motorcycle accident reveals that you had your mistress on the athletic department payroll at Arkansas”, the “left the Atlanta Falcons in the middle of the night after one season”, and the “During his first tenure at Louisville, he with Auburn boosters at the Louisville airport to negotiate a potential contract after he just signed a contract at Louisville” triumvirate attached to your name, saying that hiring Petrino would be an enormous risk is a vast understatement. But if he’s cleaned up his life like everyone seems to think he has, then he’d probably be a slam dunk in Baton Rouge, for the same reasons as Kelly.
3.      Art Briles
Briles elevated Baylor to levels never seen before at the school, while scoring a ton of points in the process. His problems, like Petrino, are also personal. Though, to be fair to Art, Baylor did pay him to go away, meaning they didn’t fire him with cause, meaning he himself was not implicated in all of the Title IX violations that went on at the school. If LSU can deal with that headache, and they gave Briles a call, I think he’d take the job. What other better things does he have going on?
4.      Jimbo Fisher
I’d have him higher on the list, but he’s already got a great job at Florida State, one that I doubt he’d be willing to leave. Fisher, LSU’s offensive coordinator from 2000-2006, has to ask himself this question: “Would I rather stay at FSU and compete in the ACC, a conference I know I can win 10 games year in every season, or would I rather go to LSU and fight Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, Bret Bielema, and zillion other smart coaches to death every season? Oh yeah, and if I go 8-4 in back-to-back years, I’ll probably get fired”. I think he’ll stay where he is.
5.      Tom Herman
Herman, the head coach at Houston, and the former offensive coordinator at Ohio State, is the hot name at a non-Power 5 school, though it appears that the Cougars might join the Big 12 at some point. Herman is Petrino and Briles, without both the baggage and the experience.  Remember, this is only Tom's second year as a head coach, and he wouldn't be the first guy to be prematurely labeled a "genius" (Charlie Weis and Malzahn come to mind).
I think the next coach will be one of the previous five (my guess: Herman), but, just for fun, here’s three wildcards to round out the list.
6.      Brian Kelly
I don’t think Kelly is coming, but the fan base at Notre Dame is disgruntled after the Irish’s 1-3 start. If he feels unnecessarily slighted by those in South Bend, is it entirely implausible that he could jump ship? And if he were going to, why not head south to Baton Rouge? It’s the best open job, and he’d no longer have to deal with the rigorous academic standards placed on the football program by the school itself. Kelly is a really good head coach, someone that’s won everywhere he’s been.
7.      Bob Stoops
Stoops’s expertise is defense, but there’s no way he wouldn’t excel at LSU. I don’t feel like the Sooner fans have ever properly appreciated him, despite his National Title in 2000, 9 Big 12 Titles, 4 BCS Title Game Appearances, and 180-48 record. Getting Stoops on the sidelines in Tiger Stadium would be a huge win for LSU. The season is spiraling out of control right now in Norman, and if it continues to, Bob might be on the market looking for a job. Or, if LSU offered enough, he might just leave. No current great coach in the country is more hated by the fan base than Stoops. That has to wear you down after a while. Maybe he wants a fresh start?
8.      Lane Kiffin
Only for offense. Personally, I wouldn’t hire Kiffin to clean toilets, but he certainly knows how to get the most out of his quarterbacks. Hell, he turned Jonathan Crompton into a semi-competent starter during the 2009 season, his one year at Tennessee, despite the fact that Crompton looked completely clueless about how to direct an offense the prior year. Of course, if you hate LSU, this is the person you want them to hire. A sexy name that, at least as a head coach, has been all bark and no bite.

Good luck Tigers on your coaching search. If things go poorly, you can always hire Joey Freshwater.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Thank God It's Over

What a game.
At halftime, Tennessee was down 21-3, and looked about as alive as Hillary Clinton on a “warm” day in New York City. Their three red zone trips in the first half had resulted in only three points, and Austin Appleby was playing out of his mind, and looked like Peyton Manning. The receivers looked terrified of catching the ball, like it was covered in arsenic, and the offensive line was, of course, atrocious. But the most concerning thing was Butch, who had the appearance of a man with the weight of the entire state bearing down upon him. The pressure of 11 years in a row and the magnitude of this game had gotten to the Vols, and they didn't appear to be up for it.
As my father and I sat together in shared frustration, we started to have the, “Well, maybe it’s time to move on from Coach Jones” conversation. I’ve not really ever been that much of a Butch supporter, as I’ve viewed him mostly as just a walking bunch of platitudes and catch phrases. I was tired of hearing “Brick by brick” and “Team 120” and “We just have to learn how to win” and all that crap. At some point, you have to come away victorious in games that matter, and Butch wasn’t great at that. Sure, his teams would beat the Vanderbilts and Kentuckys of the world, but what about Florida and Alabama? Tennessee led the Crimson Tide in the fourth quarter last season, and held two score leads in the 4th quarter of both the‘14 and ’15 contests against the Gators, and yet, incredibly, they lost all three of games. The recruiting was great, and Tennessee was making it into bowls and winning all the games that they were expected to, but they definitely weren’t back yet. And that’s what really matters. Making an impact on both the conference and the national stage. Beating Florida and Alabama. Closing out double digit leads in the 4th quarter.
Clay Travis has a “Dump Truck of Cash” idea that I really like, which is basically this: a big time program that’s down on their luck (like Tennessee) puts $5 million in the back of a truck and drives to a particularly desirable coach’s house, and offers them the cash and control of the program. Obviously it’s a Ludacris idea, but it’s also a bold one, and it tells the coach that they are trying to woo that the administration is serious about winning. Plus, IT’S $5 MILLION.
So, as I remembered this, I turned to my dad and said, “I think it’s time Tennessee loads up a dump truck full of cash, drives all the way to Texas/Louisville, and says ‘Hey Art Briles/Bobby Petrino, here’s a dump truck full of cash, why don’t you come coach us?’” In Petrino's case, I might've even been willing to throw in a twenty-something year old attractive blonde to sweeten the deal. I joked with my friends that I’d purchased the domain name, “”, and I tried to block out what looked like a devastating Tennessee loss by imagining how nice a Petrino or Briles offense would look in Knoxville. I was ready to send Butch packing. Everything I’d ever thought about him was coming true. He was a nice guy who said all the proper cliché’s, but he wasn’t the right coach to restore the Vols to national prominence.
But then, a funny thing happened; Tennessee started looking like the team we thought they were. Despite a potentially back-breaking interception on their first drive, the Volunteers kept coming.
Dobbs played the best game of his career. He was everything I ever wanted him to be in that second half, as he wore the "vaunted" Gators’ defense down with his legs by rushing for 80 yards and a TD. But, even more impressively, he murdered them through the air, tossing four touchdowns to go along with a career-high 319 yards. He erased almost all the doubts about his ability to be a competent downfield passer, while at the same time demonstrating that he was capable of being the best player on the field in a big time SEC game, something he’s going to have to continue to do if the Volunteers want to be players on the national scene the rest of the season.
“Team 120” also got an enormous lift from Jauan Jennings, the only receiver on the entire roster who wasn’t dealing with an extreme case of “my hands don’t work”. He made two ridiculous catches, including the 67 yard touchdown he hauled in that gave Tennessee its first lead.
And then there’s the defense: despite missing three of their best players (Cam Sutton, Darrin Kirkland, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin), they destroyed the Florida offense in second half, keeping them from achieving a first down until well into the fourth quarter. Todd Kelly Jr. made an enormous interception on the Gator drive after Jennings’s touchdown, and Derek Barnett did his best Von Miller impersonation, as he sacked Appleby twice and blew up multiple plays in the backfield.
Mike Debord has taken a lot of heat from Vol fans this season, but I thought he called a really good game throughout, particularly in the second half. Dobbs has to be able to get outside the pocket and take off and use his feet for Tennessee’s offense to be elite, and he was able to do that in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Of course, it helps everything run smoother when the offensive line actually starts to get a push, and when the wide outs suddenly begin to catch the football.
Obviously, Butch, someone who just bought himself a ridiculous amount of good will and time with boosters and fans, deserves a ton of credit. Beating Florida and exorcising ELEVEN YEARS of demons was the final step for him, at least for me.
It’s funny how certain games completely shape the narrative, either positively or negatively, for a coach. For example, in 2013, Auburn won two miracles, the Prayer in Jordan Hare, and the Kick Six. If they lose both those games (and it’s entirely possible that they would’ve), then Gus Malzahn finishes Year 1 with three losses, no SEC Title, no life-long memories, and without the “he’s an offensive genius” narrative. And, during the following two years, when he posted records of 8-5 and 7-6, with no home SEC wins in Year 3, he definitely would've been fired and not allowed within 300 miles of the state of Alabama ever again. Heck, he’s on the hot seat now, and might've been fired tonight if the Tigers weren't able to beat LSU . But because that 2013 season happened, there’s still the hope, no matter how miniscule, that he can recapture the magic of that year, because the fans have seen him do it before. With Butch, we didn’t have that idea until now, because he’d never done it. But now he has, and he’ll forever be able to point to this game, the one we all wanted for so long, and it will be hard for us to say anything against him. He has us all in the palm of his hand. I hope we don't get crushed.
This game, as big and important as it was, is still just the beginning of the Vol resurgence. If Tennessee wants to win the conference and make noise on the national level, going at least 2-1 in their next three games is extremely important. Georgia got blasted today by Ole Miss, but I’m sure they’ll have a better effort for the Vols next week in Athens. Traveling to Texas A&M on October 8th will be a challenge, and there’s no tougher test in all of college football than Alabama, who they’ll play on October 15th, even though they do benefit by having that game in Knoxville. Tennessee can’t let this highest of highs, no matter how amazing it feels, prevent them from showing up and competing next week. I’d like to see this team, who has trailed by double digits in the first half of three of their four games, actually come out of the locker room firing on all cylinders in the first quarter. These first half deficits have already taken like 15 years off my life; if they keep this up, I’ll be dead in three weeks.
I’m so glad the streak is over, and I’m really happy that no matter how old you are, as a Tennessee fan, you’ve seen the Vols beat the Gators.

I guess a duck can pull a truck.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Skip Bayless, LeBron James, and Feelings over Facts

Come back with me to June. The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, erased a three games to one NBA Finals deficit against the 73 win Warriors, and won a dramatic Game 7 in Oakland. It’s one of the greatest victories in the history of sports. The city of Cleveland captured its first championship since 1964, the “unbeatable” Warriors were vanquished, and everyone, even the most ardent LeBron hater, finally shrugged their shoulders and admitted to themselves, “Yeah, this guy is really really good. We’ll probably never see someone as spectacular as him in our lifetimes”.
Everyone, that is, except Skip Bayless.
Bayless is the sports version of Milo Yiannopolous, a troll who says intentionally inflammatory things to get a rise out of people. He’s a provocateur, a blow hard, a man with no principle.
To be fair, I don’t think Bayless is an idiot. In fact, he might be the smartest person in sports media, the perfect personality for the low information fan crowd.
Let’s be honest about this; most fans are idiotic meatheads. It’s why media members get death threats from losers when they write negative things about their team, or why the trees at Toomer’s Corner got poisoned, or why a drunk, passed out LSU fan got teabagged at a McDonalds after Alabama beat them in the BCS Title Game. This point couldn’t have been illustrated more clearly than at the Battle of Bristol, the largest gathering of drunk ignorant rednecks the world has ever seen.
Idiotic fans explain the rise of Bayless. Skip knows he can get on television, take ridiculous positions, provide little to no evidence to defend them, and provoke both the fools at home and his co-hosts to get emotionally involved and either scream back, or in the viewers case, tune in again and again to see what nutty thing he’ll say next.
Since I know what Skip is, I generally choose not to tune in. In fact, I don’t think I watched any of First Take for the last two years it was on television, solely because I thought it was terrible, non-analytical, “THIS DEBATE IS A WAR AND I JUST BEAT YOU” crappy television. Skip fancies himself a pro wrestler, and it’s evident when he literally says things like, “You’re scared to come on and sit in that chair and debate me”  Yeah Skip, that’s exactly right, people are scared to death to come on and sit in the comfort of a television studio and listen to you make stuff up for two hours. The most horrifying thing about that would be the brain injury suffered listening to you drone on about your Skipisms like, “Chosen One turned into the Frozen One”, “Clutch Gene”, “Aaron Rodgers sucks”, “I want the entire Cowboys franchise to give me a golden shower” and “TIM TEBOW”.  
Skip has long been known as the most boisterous LeBron critic, a guy who is literally incapable of giving LBJ praise for anything. James certainly hasn’t had a perfect career; his 2011 Finals choke job is still unbelievable to me (he scored 18 points total in the six fourth quarters during the series, and looked terrified at times during the series), and “The Decision”, when he chose the Heat by going on national TV and spurning the entire city of Cleveland, was one of the most tone deaf and poorly handled things a superstar has ever been involved in. But his resume is almost unparalleled: 4 League MVPs, 3 Championships, 3 Finals MVPs, 12 All Star games, 10 All NBA First Team selections, 5 First Team All Defense selections, 6 straight trips to the Finals, 2 Olympic Gold Medals… I mean, come on. He’s, by any calculation, at least one of the three best players of all time.
But that doesn’t stop Skip from dissenting. As recently as a few weeks ago, on his “new” (it’s basically First Take on FS1. Similar font and graphics, same format, similar-looking host, one loud mouth, Stephen A. Smith, replaced by another, Shannon Sharpe, etc.)  show, Undisputed, Skip was continuing to perpetuate the idea that Kyrie Irving, and not LeBron, should’ve been Finals MVP, despite the fact that James led everyone in the series in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. He was as close to a god on the court as we’ve ever seen.
Irving had a great series, that’s undeniable, but no one in the history of the game has been asked, on a game in and game out basis, to carry as much of a load as LeBron. And it was obvious in this series; in the seven games, King James led the Cavs in scoring 5 times, rebounds 3 times, and assists 6 times, and averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists on 49.4% shooting, compared to Kyrie’s 27.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists on 46.8% shooting. Like there’s no comparison, and no way you’d come to any other conclusion besides “LeBron is definitely the MVP” unless you were an idiot right?
And sure, Kyrie hit the championship-winning shot, but the criteria for MVP is broader than “Hit the most important shot of the series”. If it wasn’t, then Vinny Johnson, John Paxson, and Steve Kerr would’ve all had more hardware.
“But LeBron doesn’t have a clutch gene!” Skip would yell. “He stuffs the stat sheet, but they don’t win!” So incredibly lazy by Mr. Baseless. It’s easy push a false narrative and make stuff up when there’s no facts involved, right? Here’s the story of LeBron’s playoff exits throughout his career.
1.      2006. LeBron’s first appearance in the playoffs. After getting by the Wizards in the first round, Cleveland loses in the conference semifinals in seven games to the Pistons, the back-to-back defending champions in the Eastern Conference. LBJ was the best player in that series, but Detroit had the next best five (Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace).
2.      2007. Cleveland, on the back of LeBron, blows through the Eastern Conference, vanquishing the Pistons in the conference finals. LeBron plays one of the best games of his life in Game 5 of that series, as he scores the Cavaliers’ last 25 points, and 48 in all, on Detroit’s home floor. The Spurs sweep them in the Finals, but they only way Cleveland could’ve realistically won that series is if they had five LeBrons. When Boobie Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic  are playing major minutes for you in a championship round, you know it’s going to be a rough series. Merely getting to the Finals with that roster was extremely impressive, and I’m not sure how many other NBA players in the history of the league would’ve been able to drag them that far.
3.      2008. Cleveland loses a Game 7 in Boston to the eventual champion Celtics in the conference semifinals, despite LeBron’s 45 points. Boston had 4 of the 5 best players in that series (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo), and yet, it still went seven.
4.      2009. Cleveland loses in the conference finals in six games to Orlando, despite LeBron’s game winner in Game 2 and his series averages of 38.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 8 assists on 48.7% shooting. James, of course, took all the blame; never mind that his best teammates were Mo Williams (who shot 37.1%), Delonte West, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, Boobie Gibson, and  the cold, decrepit corpse of former U.S. President William McKinley. Makes sense.
5.      2010. Cleveland loses to Boston in six games in the conference semifinals. The Celts once again had 4 of the 5 best players in the series, but LeBron did quit in Game 5 for reasons that still remain unclear. Was he pissed that his best teammates for the first seven years of his career were Mo Williams, Larry Hughes, Ilgauskas, Antawn Jamison, and a three levels beyond washed up Shaq? Or did he go into cruise control once the going got tough because he already knew he was on his way to Miami after the season? We’ll never know for sure, but what we can say is that something was off, and his no-show in Game 5 decimated Cleveland’s chance of winning.
6.      2011. His first year in Miami. The Heat advance all the way to the Finals, and for the first time in his career, LeBron is playing for the best team in every round. Despite this, they lose in 6 games to the Mavericks. I touched on this briefly before, but this is the worst defeat of the LBJ’s career. He was legitimately terrible in this series for someone who is the best player in the world: 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.8 assists, and again, only 18 points total in the 6 fourth quarters.
7.      2012. On the way to his first championship, in a win-or-go-home Game 6 in the Boston Garden, LeBron plays perhaps the best game of his career; a 48 point, 16 rebound assassination of the Celtics (No clutch gene, right?) In the Finals, Miami has more talent, and takes care of Oklahoma City in five games, giving James his first championship.
8.      2013. Miami defeats San Antonio in one of the best NBA Finals ever, 4 games to 3, thanks in large part to Ray Allen’s miracle in Game 6. But don’t forget Game 7, where LeBron was absolutely great (37 points, 12 rebounds), or that he hit the series-clinching shot. I have no way of proving this, but if you played that series 10 times, I think San Antonio wins it 6 or 7 of those times. They had it all but wrapped up in Game 6 and choked it away. The teams talent levels were at least a wash.
9.      2014. Miami makes the Finals again and loses to a better, hungrier, revenge-minded Spurs team in five games. Dwyane Wade was falling apart, Chris Bosh wasn’t up for it, and San Antonio passed the ball about as beautifully as humanly possible during the series.
10.  2015. LeBron returns to Cleveland and drags the Cavaliers to the Finals and 2 games to 1 lead against a superior Warriors team. He achieves all this, despite playing for an already inferior team that’s been decimated by injuries. Kevin Love was lost for the season in the first round, and Kyrie broke his knee in Game 1 of the Finals. LBJ, despite a horribly inefficient shooting series (he shot 39.8%), does everything and averages 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists on the way to an eventual 4 games to 2 loss.
11.  2016. As mentioned before, led by LeBron, the Cavaliers defeat the 73 win Warriors in seven games in the NBA Finals, capturing Cleveland’s first title in over 50 years.
So to recap, LeBron has been to the playoffs eleven times, and in his final series of each playoff run, he’s had more talent on his team twice (2011, 2012), less talent eight times (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016), and equal talent once (2013).
Those are the facts, but we can’t let those get in the way of the narrative right? After all, facts don’t matter, all that’s important is how you feel! Skip feels like LeBron is a choker, a sucker, and has vastly underperformed expectations, but the facts, statistics, and realities of the situation tell a different story; LeBron has had less help than any other superstar ever, and despite his superhuman efforts, has been betrayed time and time again by his inferior teammates on undermanned and ill-equipped teams. But Skip doesn’t care about facts, he’s really only concerned with stirring the pot, making inflammatory statements, manipulating numbers, and presenting his spin as the truth.
Bayless is a product of an ever-increasing problem in our society, which is this; your feelings are more important than the actual facts. Feelings over facts explains the rise of Black Lives Matter, a hate group that lies and ignores statistics about police shootings of unarmed black persons. I wrote extensively last week about this, and you can find that here, but two facts completely discredit their argument:
1.      A study conducted by Harvard University found that  there was no racial bias in police shootings, and in fact, that police were more likely to fire their weapons at whites than blacks without first being attacked.
2.      According to Mac Donald, cops were 18.5 times more likely to be killed by black men than an unarmed black man was to be killed by a police officer.
But BLM doesn’t care about that, all that matters is that they feel oppressed, they feel targeted, and even when it appears like a police shooting was justified, like the one that just happened in Charlotte, rioting and looting are acceptable responses to the “racism” in society. It makes a ton of sense to rally against the “racism” of the black officer who shot the guy, the black police chief, the black attorney general, and the black president.

Facts should matter, whether it’s something as trivial as sports, or as important as the debate over race relations in the United States. But they aren’t allowed to exist in a society where the only thing that matters is how you feel. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Ill Omens of Tennessee and Florida

It’s Florida week guys.
Or, in other words,  it’s the worst week of every Tennessean’s year for the past 11 seasons.
September 18, 2004, the last time the Vols defeated the Gators, was a really long time ago. Think about it. "Goodies" by Ciara was the number 1 song in the country, and the “immortal” Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow made the most money at the box office that weekend. Modern smart phones were non-existent, Shaq and Kobe had just broken up, Brad Pitt was still with Jennifer Aniston, George W. Bush was seeking a second term, and Michael Jackson was involved in his second child sexual assault scandal. All of the Lord of the Rings films had already come out, none of the Christopher Nolan Batman films had, the Red Sox were still under the Curse of the Bambino, Kanye West wasn’t freaking nuts yet, and people would still publicly admit to liking Nickelback.
2004 was a long time ago for me as well. Back then I was a crooked-tooth scrawny sixth grader who was immature as hell and enjoyed playing with Legos and blowing my money on 25 cent colas at Wal-Mart. Now, of course, I’m completely different, except for the immature part. That’s probably still true.
But that 2004 victory was one of the greatest moments of my entire sports’ life, an existence that’s mostly been filled with disappointment, heartbreak, the occasional tear, and now, heavy drinking and the excessive use of psychedelics mixed with horse tranquilizers.
The Vols were lucky to escape that day victorious. After UT kicker James Wilhoit missed what would’ve been the game-tying extra point in the fourth quarter, Florida had the ball and was attempting to run out the clock and escape with a 28-27 victory. The Gators gained one first down, but were stopped short on their next third down attempt and were forced to send out the punt team with less than a minute remaining and the clock running. Incredibly though, as this was happening, Tennessee defensive back Johnathan Wade slapped Florida receiver Dallas Baker, causing him to swing back and strike Wade. Even though the official was standing right in front of both of them, and saw the entire sequence play out, he chose only to flag Baker for unsportsmanlike conduct, backing UF up 15 yards and stopping the clock. The Vols got the ball back and quickly moved to the Gator 33 yard line, giving Wilhoit a chance to redeem himself from 50 yards away with six seconds remaining. We all know how that turned out; Wilhoit buried it, the fan base went nuts, and Tennessee hasn’t won this game since.
Whenever you root for a team, it’s inevitable that they’re going to break your heart. In fact, they’re going to destroy you more times than they’ll make you happy. I mean seriously, those of you who are around my age (I’m 23), how many times has Tennessee football made you feel terrible, and how many times has it brought you great satisfaction?
I was only five when the Vols won the national title, and I barely remember that season, considering I was in kindergarten and was probably too busy pretending I was a superhero the entire time. In fact, my loving mother actually sent me to bed during the ’99 Fiesta Bowl because it was past my bedtime…. Thanks mom! There’s not been much joy since then. Basically, all my Tennessee memories involve either gut punch losses, blowouts, or Derek Dooley.
Rooting for the Vols this century is like being in a relationship serial cheater, only you can’t leave because you keep insisting things like “He/she is going to change! Plus I love him/her!”. So you keep going back, and the cycle repeats itself over and over again. They keep cheating, and Tennessee keeps losing in the most excruciating ways possible.
I wrote about the string of devastating post-Fulmer losses after UT lost by five to Alabama last season. Here’s a quick recap:
·         2009: Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 - Terrence Cody blocks Daniel Lincoln’s field goal attempt on the last play of the game.
·         2010: LSU 16, Tennessee 14 - 13 men on the field gives LSU another chance to punch in the game-winnnig touchdown, which they did.
·         2010: North Carolina 30, Tennessee 27 (OT) - Spike?
·         2011: Georgia 20, Tennessee 12 - Caused me to mutter about a million times afterwards “Man, we suck….”
·         2011: Kentucky 10, Tennessee 7 - The ‘Cats end Tennessee’s 26 game winning streak starting a wide receiver at quarterback who completed 4 of 6 passes. FOUR PASS COMPLETIONS??!! FOUR!!! AND A WIDE RECEIVER??? AWESOME!! CLASSIC DOOLEY!!!
·         2012: Florida 37, Tennessee 20 – more on this in a moment.
·         2012: Georgia 51, Tennessee 44 - After scoring at will all day, Tyler Bray ends back-to-back potential game-tying drives with turnovers.
·         2012: South Carolina 38, Tennessee 35 - After holding Jadeveon Clowney in check all day, he bursts through the line on the Vols’ final drive, stripping Bray of the football to secure the Gamecocks’ 3 point lead.
·         2012: Vanderbilt 41, Tennessee 18 - This one wasn’t close. And that’s a huge problem when you’re playing Vandy.
·         2013: Florida 31, Tennessee 17 - The Nathan Peterman game. (more on this in a moment).
·         2013: Georgia 34, Tennessee 31 (OT) - Pig Howard fumbles through the side of the end zone as he attempts to dive for the go ahead touchdown.
·         2014: Georgia 35, Tennessee 32 - Vols upset bid spoiled by Justin Worley’s elbow injury which caused him to miss three crucial possessions in the second half. His replacement on those drives? Nathan Peterman…. Need I say more? (Also, how the hell did Peterman, the starter at Pittsburgh, turn half decent? The Panthers were 8-5 last season with him under center. Where was this bizarro Peterman when he was in Knoxville? And why is Tennessee so unlucky? AAAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!)
·         2014: Florida 10, Tennessee 9 – more on this one in a moment.
·         2015: Oklahoma 31, Tennessee 24 - Still unbelievable. Tennessee dominated for 45 minutes, led by 14 entering the 4th quarter, got tight down the stretch (a common theme), and lost. You haven’t forgot this one yet, and you never will.
·         2015: Florida 28, Tennessee 27 – more on this in a moment.
·         2015: Arkansas 24, Tennessee 20 - Vols jump out to early 14-0 lead, before the offense went into the tank and scored a paltry 6 points in the final three quarters.
·         2015: Alabama 19, Tennessee 14 - The Tide dropped three potential interceptions, had more than a few drive-killing penalties, forced only one turnover, and still found a way to win. Of course, it’s not all that shocking when you remember that Vol kicker Aaron Medley missed all three of his field goal attempts, or the fact that the ‘Bama receivers won every jump ball and converted on almost every big play.
I mean seriously, has there ever been a team in the history of sports that’s had this many screw-ups/gut punches/”how the f*** did we just lose?” games in that short of a time? Aren’t we as Vol fans owed a break from the football gods after all of this? If Auburn can have The Prayer at Jordan Hare and the Kick Six in the same season, can’t Tennessee beat Florida once? Is that too much to ask?
I don’t think I’ve ever felt worse about a Tennessee game in my entire life. Sure, there’s been games I went into thinking, “Yeah, they don’t have a legitimate shot to win today”, but this one is different, because on paper, they should win. Tennessee has a ton of defensive injuries (Cam Sutton, Quart’e Sapp, and Darrin Kirkland are all out), but they’re a more experienced team playing at home against a new quarterback for the Gators, graduate transfer Austin Appleby, who has a 1-5 road record as a starter.
But think about these two ill omens that have arisen in the past few days for the Volunteers:      
1. ESPN’s College Gameday will be in Knoxville on Saturday.
The last time Gameday came to Knoxvegas was in 2012, for, you guessed it, the Florida game. Tennessee was fresh off a blowout win over N.C. State and had achieved their first top 25 ranking since 2007. The Vols played extremely well for the first forty minutes, and actually took a seven point lead in the third quarter on an A.J. Johnson touchdown run. That would be the last Vol highlight of the night, as they collapsed almost immediately after that and allowed the Gators to go on a 24-0 run over the last 20 minutes, turning a 7 point advantage into a 17 point beatdown. Ouch.
2.  Backup and inexperienced Florida QB’s have destroyed Tennessee in this series.
For the fourth straight season, UF will play this game with a different quarterback than the one who started for them on the opening Saturday of that season. In 2013, Jeff Driskel broke his leg against Tennessee and was replaced by senior Tyler Murphy, who made a few nice throws and guided the Gators to a 14 point victory. This was the game when Butch inexplicably thought that Nathan Peterman was a capable SEC starter, and decided that it would be a good idea to stick with him throughout the first two quarters, allowing him to put together the worst half of quarterback play in Tennessee history: 4 of 11 passing for five yards and 2 interceptions, and no points. By the time he replaced him with Justin Worley at the start of the third quarter, it was too late.
In 2014, Driskel was replaced by Treon Harris after he threw three interceptions and produced zero points through three quarters. Luckily for them, Tennessee was absolutely abysmal on offense all day, blowing multiple opportunities and chances to drive a stake through the Gators, as they managed just 9 points themselves. Harris led a touchdown drive on the first possession of the fourth quarter, and then another one that ended with a field goal that gave the Gators a 10-9 lead, and eventually, a victory against the Vols for the 10th straight year.
In 2015, Will Grier didn’t start the year but Florida, but took over for Harris a few weeks before the Tennessee game. In this heartbreaker, Tennessee led 26-14 with 10:19 to go after a Jalen Hurd rushing touchdown. However, Butch inexplicably decided to not go for two after Hurd’s TD, which would’ve given the Vols a 14 point lead, and instead opted to kick the extra point. So stupid. What did he think, the Gators were going to have time for three scoring possessions in 10 minutes? Being up 13 in that situation is no better than being up 12, because Florida realistically only had time for two possessions. So you have to go for two and try and take a 14 point lead, because that way, if UF does manage to score two touchdowns, they’d only be tied instead of ahead by one. But nah, screw it, let’s kick it! Florida scored a TD with a little more than 4 minutes left, and then, with under two minutes to go, converted a 4th and 13 to Antonio Callaway that turned into an absolutely back-breaking 63 yard touchdown, which gave the Gators a 28-27 lead. Tennessee drove down the field quickly, but Vol kicker Aaron Medley missed a 55 yard field goal by a foot and a half as time expired, ensuring another Gator victory. I literally think this game took five years off my life. My chest and brain hurt afterwards.
This season, Florida will trot out Appleby, a guy making his first SEC road start, after former starting quarterback Luke Del Rio suffered a knee injury on a low hit last week against North Texas. Under normal circumstances, Tennessee fans should feel great, but with their track record against Florida backup QB’s, this actually might be the worst news of all time.
Look, unless the Smokey Greys (crafted by Butch Jones himself in the Smokies) are enchanted with Native American shaman magic, which magically fixes all the ills on this team (terrible offensive line play, inaccurate passing from Josh Dobbs, and a zillion defensive injuries), I don’t think it actually matters. If the Vols couldn’t consistently block Appalachian State and Ohio, what makes you think they’ll be able to do it against the quick, physical, and explosive front seven that Florida will be trotting out? The Gators haven't allowed more than 187 yards in a game this season, and they held North Texas to just 53 last week. Make no mistake, the trenches is where this game will be won, just like it has been the last 11 years. In those meetings, UF has outrushed the Vols by an average of 179.5 to 68. If that’s the case again on Saturday, Tennessee won’t break the streak. Dobbs has proven he’s not a reliable and consistent passing threat; they won’t be able to win on the strength of his arm. Hurd needs to play great, but he can only do so if he has holes to run through. And when Dobbs does pass, he needs time. Can the O-line hold up? I have my doubts.
And if they do lose, what are the long term implications? Is Butch on the hot seat? Does the season spiral out of control? Don’t forget about this; Tennessee’s next three games are at Georgia, at Texas A&M, and Alabama in Knoxville. Yikes. I always felt like the Florida game would be the truth serum game for this iteration of the Vols. We’ll know by 7:30 on Saturday if the Vols are actually back, or if they’re just posers again.

My gut says posers. I hope I’m wrong.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Colin Kaepernick, "Racism", and the Continuing of National Anthem Protests

Yesterday, the first Sunday of the NFL season, and the fifteenth anniversary of September 11th attacks, was once again riddled with various “protests” by football players all across the league about “racism”. We all know how this started; Colin Kaepernick, a black person who was taken in and raised by white parents, and who made $19 million last season to be legitimately terrible at football, on the backs of a mostly white fan base throwing their hard earned dollars behind him, sat down during the national anthem a few weeks ago because he was upset about there being “bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”.
Geez. That’s a pretty heinous accusation, particularly without any evidence or specifics right? And it brings to light a larger problem in the “racism” debate in this country, which is, “I don’t need to name a person, an institution, or a law. I’ll just cry “institutional racism”, it will make me feel better, and everyone will pat me on the back because that’s an approved viewpoint. Forget actual solutions, let’s just scream buzzwords!”.
Institutional racism is silly, and it’s what Kaepernick and those across the NFL are espousing. It’s a nonsense phrase, and it doesn’t identify any problems that we as a society can actually fix. I think racism is evil and terrible and vile, but where is the actual evidence of this vast racist plot in American society? The police have been getting battered recently, painted as anti-black murderers (by people like Kaepernick), but a recent study by Harvard University actually found that there was no evidence of the police shooting blacks at higher rates than whites.
Truthfully, the black community has a lot bigger problems than the police, like the extremely high murder rate (Blacks committed 52% of the murders in the United States from 1980-2008, despite being 13% of the population, and 93% of blacks were killed by other blacks), single motherhood (72% of blacks are raised by one parent), failure to graduate high school (only 69% of blacks graduated high school, as opposed to 86% of whites), the astronomical abortion rate (between 2007 and 2010, 36% of abortion deaths were black babies), the unemployment rate (during the third quarter of 2015, the black unemployment rate was 9.5%, as opposed to 4.5% of whites), and the high crime rate (25% of black adults have a felony, as opposed 6.8% of non-black adults). All of these problems have nothing to do with the police shooting unarmed black men, and they have a significantly larger impact on the day to day lives of those in the black community. But to hear Kaepernick tell it, the police are murdering blacks because they enjoy it, and then all of society makes sure they cover it up so they can continue the carnage. It’s an absolutely ridiculous position, one that isn’t based in fact.
 Is racism the reason the single motherhood rate is so high? Is racism the reason blacks are graduating high school at significantly lower rates than whites? Is racism making blacks murder each other? No, of course not. The culture in the black community needs to change, and destroying and slandering the police won’t do anything to solve that. It starts at home, with fathers choosing to stick around and be good dads, and an enormous part of that is guiding your children through life and helping to morph and mold them into productive citizens . You encourage them to be respectful, care about their neighbors, value the right things in life, and make something of themselves. So many black kids have their legs cut out from under them from the start because they have a poor foundation at home. Mom and Dad are not united in the raising of the child, oftentimes because dad didn’t bother to stick around. That simple decision to be present in the life of the family would do wonders to help fix the black community. Families led by a black single mother on average made 36% as much money as two parent black families. That’s an incredible statistic that also makes this huge point; dad sticking around is the number one way to lift the black family out of poverty. But no one says that because you get painted as a racist if you actually suggest ways to improve the black community, instead of just blaming white people for all the problems black people have.
And the protests themselves are silly, and do nothing to actually solve the “problem” that Kaepernick is attempting to fix. How does kneeling during the national anthem stop the police from  “getting away with murder”? It…. doesn’t.
“Oh, but Matt, it’s starting the conversation about it!” So we need to have a conversation, one that’s not based in fact, about how Kaepernick and others across the league feel oppressed, despite there being no evidence of it? Makes sense.
I’m not anti-protest, but what I am against are dumb protests. Kneeling during the anthem because you feel like blacks are being unfairly murdered by the police does nothing. This is not the lunch counter protests from the Civil Rights Movement, when the United States government was literally actively participating in racism against African-Americans. We aren’t living in the Jim Crow South anymore, when there were laws on the books that were designed to oppress blacks. It’s actually incredible that Kaepernick and others are protesting their existence in society, considering 2016 America is literally the best place in the history of the world for black people to live.
Here’s an example of a good, worthwhile protest, and one that actually involves racism. Back in March of 2015, a video surfaced of members of the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chanting about how they’d never allow a “nigger” in their frat, and talked about they’d hang them from a tree. Gross stuff, right?. Oklahoma’s football team, a group that is majority African-American, was of course pissed, and basically said, “If this group is still on campus come the start of the football season, we won’t play”. Perfectly reasonable. They identified a specific organization that was racist, and their protest was a legitimate one that put pressure on those in charge to respond to what was happening. They weren’t interested in having a “conversation” about feelings, they had evidence of racism and acted in a way that would actually make a difference and solve the problem, because again, racism is evil, and unacceptable in American society. I don’t have a problem with Kaepernick, Doug Baldwin, Arian Foster, Denver’s Brandon Marshall, or whoever else kneeling during the anthem, but I’m also allowed to say, “That protest is dumb, and does nothing to actually solve any problems”.  Kaepernick, unlike the Oklahoma football team, doesn’t have any evidence of racism, he just feels oppressed. I’m sorry, but your subjective feelings aren’t a good enough reason for me to jump behind your cause. Just because I feel something doesn’t mean it’s true, valuable, or helpful. For example, I might feel like I have superpowers, but if I didn’t have any evidence of that, you’d rightly say, “Hey Matt, you’re crazy, you don’t”. If I had a mental illness, and I felt like the radio was talking to me, would it be better for society to say, “Yes Matt, you’re right, the radio is talking to you”? No, of course not, they should say, “Hey man, that’s crazy, let’s get you some help”. Making black people feel like their victims does nothing to help them, it just continues to perpetuate the false narrative of a racist America that will do everything to keep them down.
Why isn’t Kaepernick protesting the real problems in the black community, like the single motherhood rate? Why isn’t he using his platform to encourage fathers to stick around? Why isn’t he pleading with black America to value life and education? Because those aren’t media approved positions to hold, and if you say anything about those problems, you’re a racist.
And think about this: what if Kaepernick kneeled because he was upset about America legalizing gay marriage, or the continued assault on the unborn through abortion? Would the media be on his side then, holding him up as the moral intelligent all-knowing God-King? Or would they be denouncing him as a bigoted homophobe woman-hater, and demanding the NFL suspend him? I think we know the answer. The problem is, deep down, we as Americans really only believe that speech we agree with should be protected. Heck, Paul Finebaum of ESPN was basically forced to apologize because he said he didn’t think blacks were oppressed in American society. So it’s now an indisputable fact that blacks are oppressed? Based on what? Because feelings? Come on.
One more thing: the worst response to Kaepernick has been this; “Well if you don’t like America, you can leave”. I hate that line of argument, because complaining about America and the government and our society is the most American thing possible. It’s what allows our democracy to exist. Imagine if Trump just stood up there and said, “Yeah, everything’s great here, and Hillary and I agree on everything. However, you should vote for me because I can stand outside on a warm day without having a medical event”. That would be ridiculous right?  Disagreement is what enables democracy to flourish and exist. But if you want everyone to fall in line and never disagree, I’ve got just the place for you! It’s called Soviet Russia. And we all know how that turned out, with millions either being murdered by the government or sent to Siberia. People who say, “If you don’t like it, leave” have definitely complained about American society before. Would they think,  “Well you can leave” was a valid argument if it was used against them? Of course not. So just don’t.

I’m interested to see how long these protests will go on. Even if they lasted the entire season, the “problem” won’t be solved, probably because kneeling on the sidelines literally does nothing.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Should LSU Pull the Plug on the Les Miles Era?

LSU’s less than stellar opening weekend performance up at Lambeau Field against Wisconsin was probably the worst thing that could’ve happened to their embattled and eccentric head coach, Les Miles. Miles, who is famous for such strange acts like eating grass, or clapping his hands like this, came into the 2016 campaign on a seat so hot it would make Satan sweat, despite the fact that he has averaged 10 victories a year at LSU and won a national title.
Despite all the success, the fans in the Bayou have always wanted more from him and the program. It doesn’t help that he’s spent the last decade in the same division with arguably the greatest coach in college football history, Nick Saban, and that the fans see the Crimson Tide’s wild success and expect the same at their school. The Tigers have been the second best program in the SEC West during that span, but that hasn’t been enough for the LSU diehards.
Firing a coach is difficult, especially when you’re considering pulling the plug on someone as successful as Miles. In general, it takes a lot of screw ups for me to become a, “This guy should be fired” person, because it’s oftentimes a lazy, not thoroughly thought out point of view perpetuated by “RUN THIS JAMOAK OUT OF TOWN!!!!” guy, who is also the same person that calls Paul Finebaum’s radio show like three times a week and incoherently babbles about nonsense before angrily hanging up the phone.
About two years ago, I created four rules to help everyone determine when it was appropriate to fire your head coach. They are, as follows:
1.      They suffer from a severe case of Wade Phillips Syndrome (meaning they look lost and completely out of control of everything that’s happening involving the football team. Basically, to quote Colin Cowherd, if your coach looks like a marshmallow in a headset, it’s probably time to make a change).
2.      The players are starting to tune out both the coach and his message.
3.      The program/organization needs a culture change.
4.      The teams’ record  was significantly worse than the level of talent of the field.
I suppose I could’ve included things like “Coach is a drunk” (The Steve Sarkisian Corollary); “Coach freebases cocaine” (The Ron Washington Rule); “Coach loves strippers and prostitutes” (The Mike Price Amendment); “Coach lies to NCAA about hosting a barbecue for recruits at his house” (The Bruce Pearl Anomaly) or “Coach wrecks motorcycle, revealing he had his mistress on the payroll” (The Bobby Petrino Exception) and about a zillion other personal issues that have afflicted coaches, but those aren’t really relevant to Miles, unless he’s doing something like drinking blood in his basement while sacrificing goats to the gods of Germanic Paganism.
So let’s run through the checklist and see where Les comes up short:
1.      Wade Phillips Syndrome- Miles has plenty of personality quirks, none of which manifest themselves in any way  similar to the way Wade Phillips looked when he was “coaching” Dallas during the late ‘00s. Phillips looked completely clueless and over his skis as the head man for the Cowboys, and he’s much better suited at being an assistant, like a defensive coordinator, something he’s actually quite good at. In the coaching profession, some guys are 1’s, meaning head coaching material (think Belichick, Saban, Popovich, etc.), some guys are 2’s, meaning capable upper level assistants (think Phillips), and some guys are 3’s, meaning they should be coaching wide receivers somewhere and staying completely out of sight, for fear that their presence could negatively affect everything going on and absolutely torpedo a season (I’m looking at you Derek Dooley).
2.      The players have tuned him out- This one is hard to say. It’s much harder for a coach to wear down and cause negative reactions within a college team  with his  personality/message than it is for him to do it with a pro team, because his players are only with him for three or four years before they graduate/get drafted. So if they do get tired of him, it won't matter, because they're gone, and there's a whole new team to take their place. I haven’t read any stories or heard any reports about the players disliking Miles, probably because he’s one of the most lovable guys to ever coach in the SEC. He’s a great soundbite, he does ridiculous of-the-wall things, he’s got a great sense of humor, and from what I can tell, is a good, decent human being who cares about the well-being of his players. I pretty much hate everyone and everything in the SEC that doesn’t involve Tennessee, but even I have a hard time working up any resentment towards him. He’s just a likable guy, a good ole boy, along the same lines as someone like a Charles Barkley, where the only thing you can do is roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders, and say, “That’s just Les being Les”.
3.      The program/organization needs a culture change- In order to say that the culture needs to be changed, we first need to define what the culture in Baton Rouge under Miles has been. The Tigers, since he took over, have been heavily layered with super physical athletes who play great defense and incorporate a smash-mouth, aggressive style of football. Tiger Stadium, particularly at night, has been a nightmarish location for many a challenger, and Les’s propensity to shoot from the hip has made the Tigers one of the most difficult programs to play year after year in the sport.
However, just because the players like Miles, it doesn’t mean the boosters, higher ups in the athletic department, the media, and the fans haven’t grown tired of his antics. Miles’s unpredictability is charming when LSU was winning, but when your coach is freaking nuts and the losses start to pile up, those who have been around him for years start to get tired of it. I think the Les hot seat talk has a ton to do with the Tigers’ on-field slippage, but I think it would be naïve to dismiss the “We need a more stoic, steady figure in charge of things” segment that has bubbled up as a result of the decreased level of excellence on the field. 
When Rex Ryan first arrived in New York, he became one of the most braggadocios set of swinging balls to ever pass through the NFL. People loved him because he took shots at the Patriots, talked trash to them, and acted like he was a heavyweight boxer at a pre-fight press conference who was ready to absolutely pummel his opponent. And for a while, it worked. The Jets made back-to-back AFC Championship Games (eliminating New England in 2010) on the strength of a great defense and an undeniable swagger that they drew from their head coach. But eventually, as the team started to take a turn for the worse in the following seasons, Ryan’s routine became tiresome. He began to be negatively compared to Belichick, a guy who is more mysterious with the media than an episode of Stranger Things. Belichick was seen as a smooth sailor, someone who never rocked the boat and did everything to keep the press from creating controversy on his football team. Ryan did the opposite; he embraced the madness, and turned the Jets into a reality TV show. Eventually, it just became too much to handle, and a change had to be made. Les isn’t Rex, but he certainly isn’t Belichick either. 
4.      The teams’ record was significantly worse than the level of talent on the field- This is the potential nail in the coffin for Miles, depending on how you look at it. On the one hand, they’ve spent the last decade competing in what might be the toughest conference in the history of college football. Two conference championships, a national title, a bowl game every year, and 10 wins a season is pretty impressive, and would make him the second best coach in the conference over the last decade. I know as a Tennessee fan I’d kill to have that level of success over the last ten years, but some LSU fans act like Les’s tenure has been about as painful as forced fingernail removal.
So what’s not to like? Ask any Tiger fan what their biggest gripe during the Miles era has been, and I’d be shocked if they said anything besides the offense. That side of the ball has vacillated from “average” to “what the hell are we doing?” to “do we have a four year old calling plays for us?” during the entire time Les has manned the sidelines, oftentimes changing  wildly from game to game or possession to possession. Part of the problem has been Miles’s inability to either recruit a blue-chip, capable SEC level quarterback, or his ineptness at “coaching them up” once they arrive in Baton Rouge. You may have forgotten the names, but that doesn’t mean jokers like Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, Anthony Jennings, and Brandon Harris haven’t stood under center and taken important snaps in many SEC games over the years.
In case you were curious, here’s the Tigers conference rankings in total passing yards, along with their completion percentage, since 2005, Miles’s first season:
2015: 12th, 2,165 yards on 53.6% completions
2014: 14th, 2,118 yards on 50% completions
2013: 6th, 3,263 yards on 62.9% completions (this was Zach Mettenberger’s second season, but even with his NFL talent,  LSU was an average passing team)
2012: 11th, 2,607 yards on 58.4% completions
2011: 9th, 2,135 yards on 62% completions
2010: 11th, 2,023 yards on 57.5% completions
2009: 9th, 2,363 yards on 58.9% completions
2008: 6th, 2,617 yards on 54.7% completions
2007: 4th, 3,154 yards on 57.9% completions
2006: 4th, 3,272 yards on 66.6% completions (this was Jamarcus Russell’s last season, and he ended up being the number one overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Whoops!)
2005: 3rd, 2,192 yards on 60% completions
Sheesh. Talk about abysmal. Some of those numbers, particularly the last two seasons, are an absolutely brutal snapshot of the Tiger offense under Miles. Yes, I realize Les has never been a guy that likes to drop back and throw 40 times a game, but even when they had a talent like Mettenberger under center, the offense wasn’t anywhere close to being elite. Things aren’t likely to get better this season either, as LSU is still short on quarterback options and will inevitably being trotting out Brandon Harris (or worse) for the rest of this season. Harris’s interception at the end of the Wisconsin game was one of the worst passes I’ve ever seen in my life. It literally looked like he was aiming for the defensive back. If I was a team, I’d put 9 guys in the box every single time to stop Leonard Fournette, and beg Harris to beat me through the air, knowing he’s completely incapable of doing so. I don’t see the Tigers being able to score enough points all season to do better than 8-4.
Then again, despite all the inefficiencies on the offensive side of the ball, it’s hard to say Les’s teams have underperformed. 7 of his 11 seasons ended with at least 10 wins, they’ve made a bowl game every year, finished in the Top 25 nine times, and the top 10 five times.
Then again, they’ve lost to Alabama four straight times, and came apart at the end of the season two straight years as the offense began to betray them. Of course, the easy counter is, “Yeah, but everybody struggles with Alabama”, and in regards to the collapses, I think you have to weigh those against the nine previous seasons, when, again, LSU won more than 10 games seven times.
There aren’t many coaches who can step to what Les has done at LSU. The talent has always been off the charts. If the critique is, “Yeah, but look at Alabama!” then Miles is shot. I don’t blame fans for having high expectations (frankly I wish Tennessee fans had higher expectations for the program. It’s a joke that so many of them would make excuses for the team after they barely squeaked by and should’ve lost to Appalachian State in Knoxville. Come on guys), I just wonder if those expectations are realistic.
If you want to fire Les because you’re tired of his personality and quirkiness, and frustrated by the lack of offensive explosion and fire power, I understand it. It’s been 11 years, and in his twelfth, it again looks like the offense is going to be backed up worse than a toilet after an “All You Can Eat” hot wing night. Just don’t expect that you’ll be able to hire someone that steps in and wins at the same level he did.
Think about this; this century, how many times has a college football coach been hired, and everyone instantly thought, “Oh my gosh, that guys is going to be a roaring success. Like, there’s no way his program doesn’t take off”? I’d say three times: Nick Saban at Alabama, Urban Meyer at Ohio State, and Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. Every other coach hiring at every other school has involved an varying degrees of mystery. Jim McElwain may end up being excellent at Florida, but we don’t know. Mark Richt had a lot of success at Georgia, but hiring him was still a toss up when it happened. The same with Bob Stoops at Oklahoma and, frankly, Les at LSU. Those guys ended up being really good to great coaches, but for every Stoops or Miles, there’s a trillion guys like Derek Dooley, Brady Hoke, Ron Zook, Charlie Weis, Mike Shula, Rich Rodriguez, and Steve Sarkisian.
Fans have the illusion that just because they have a job opening, it somehow means that the coach they hire will be a wild upgrade over the guy they had before. Sometimes? For example, I understand you can’t have Sarkisian, a guy with alcohol problems, being in charge of more than a hundred 18-22 year olds, but is Clay Helton, (a guy with a bit of Wade Phillips Syndrome potential)  really that much of improvement at USC? And was Sarkisian really an enormous upgrade over Lane Kiffin when he was hired to replace him? I know Kiffin wore out his welcome quicker than your racist uncle at Thanksgiving, but Sarkisian did go a paltry 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6, and 8-4 in his five years at Washington, winning one bowl game while never finishing inside the Top 25. Compare that to Kiffin, who went 8-5, 10-2, 7-6, and 3-2 in three and a half seasons as the head man of the Trojans. Lane was 28-15 (65%) at USC, and Sark was 34-29 (54%) at Washington. Great. Then again, I guess when you have the opportunity to hire someone with a worse winning percentage at their school than the guy you just fired, you have to do it.

If I were the Tigers, I’d be mindful of this: Going from Saban to Miles or Bobby Bowden to Jimbo Fisher is rare. Oftentimes, you might hire several Ron Zook or Brady Hoke types before you end up landing the right guy again. It could be 3 years, 7 years, or even a decade before you end up with the coach you want. Heck, look at Tennessee. I was in favor of firing Fulmer in 2008 when it happened, but we’re now 8 years and three coaches later and we’re still not sure if we’ve found the right coach or not. If you keep Miles, you know what you’re getting: a great defensive team that can compete for an SEC title every season despite middling quarterback play. If you deviate from that, who knows? Where’s the Saban/Meyer/Harbaugh home run this off-season? I don’t think there is one. It’s a gamble, and one I’d think about for a long time before I made it.