LSU reached two national championship games under head coach Les Miles. Eight years ago, LSU went into Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and defeated the Crimson Tide. The 2011 Tigers played for the national championship in the Superdome.
They did not reach another national title game under Miles, whom they fired three years ago. LSU needed to make a change entering the 2017 season. Ed Orgeron did not seem to be the man who would bring forth that change.
In order for Orgeron to change, he needed to be humbled… but beyond that, when being humbled, Orgeron needed to learn the lesson of his humiliation.
Many people refuse to learn from moments of humiliation. They insist their way is the right way. They don’t acknowledge the talents of other people in the room. They don’t gain knowledge and perspective from outside voices. They aren’t willing to share credit. They aren’t willing to delegate authority.
Those are bad leaders. Those are people who don’t inspire trust or win respect.
Ed Orgeron quickly faced a moment as the head coach at LSU when he needed to prove he was a great leader.
That moment came after LSU lost to the Troy Trojans, a small school from the small Sun Belt Conference.
In a way, the Troy loss was the best thing that happened to O, as the program bottomed out, there were no excuses to make, and he had to re-evaluate what sort of coach he wanted to be and what program he was trying to build.
No half measures.
— Poseur (@ATVSPoseur) November 10, 2019
The lesson of Ed Orgeron’s improbable rise to the top of college football after LSU’s 46-41 win over Alabama on Saturday — eight years after Les Miles toppled the Tide in another heavyweight matchup of elite SEC schools — is that Orgeron learned the lessons human events taught him. Orgeron was a willing student, instead of thinking he already knew everything he needed to know.
It is true that when Orgeron made a bid for the LSU job, he sold LSU athletic director Joe Alleva on the idea that he would hire the best assistant coaches while he recruited (which he has always done well) and performed the public-facing components of a head coach. Orgeron always knew he needed to surround himself with good people… but when LSU lost to Troy, he realized he had, in fact, failed to do that, at least on offense.
Was Orgeron going to study up and find the right offensive assistants to develop players and reshape LSU’s dormant passing game?
It helped that Orgeron found Joe Burrow to quarterback his offense on the field. Burrow took firm hold of the 2019 Heisman Trophy race against Alabama. He is now the overwhelming favorite to win college football’s most prestigious individual award. It is reasonable to say that Burrow has made Orgeron’s season rather than vice-versa, but one also has to be very clear in saying that Burrow was not this level of player in 2018. He did improve over the course of the year — offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger deserves credit for that — but another new Orgeron hire truly put LSU over the top.
The hire of Joe Brady — who had been on the staff of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints — took Burrow and the LSU offense from very good (at the end of the 2018 season, when the offense markedly improved) to stratospherically great this season. LSU has been a point-scoring machine, and on Saturday, it hung 46 on a Nick Saban-coached defense in Alabama.
That just doesn’t happen.
That isn’t supposed to happen.
That isn’t supposed to be remotely conceivable.
Get this: LSU had not scored 20 points against Alabama since 2010, a year in which Alabama lost three games.
LSU had not scored more than 24 points against Alabama since 2007, a year in which Nick Saban was just getting used to life in Alabama. That was Saban’s first season as the coach of the Crimson Tide. Alabama was a 6-6 team in that regular season, a mess Saban had to inherit and then clean up.
LSU’s offenses under Les Miles were regularly dominated by Alabama’s defenses under Saban. Orgeron inherited Miles’ situation and presided over LSU teams — in 2017 and 2018 — which scored a combined total of 10 points in two games against the Tide.
Forget scoring 46 points. LSU would have felt it had achieved something if it scored just 26 points against Bama.
This, on Saturday, was a phenomenal performance by Burrow, by Clyde Edwards-Helaire, by LSU’s elite receivers, by a sturdy offensive line, by everyone on LSU’s offense. The Bayou Bengals answered every challenge and made every essential play. They needed all of those 46 points, too, given that Alabama and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa kept throwing long and scoring big — 41 points — until the final minutes of regulation.
LSU put the “O” in Coach O this year. Ed Orgeron showed America that it’s not enough to change a head coach. The head coach has to be willing to change himself for a program to regain the top spot in college football.