Requiem for The Hat


There will be no more eating grass in the SEC. No more distinctions between the “hammer” and the “nail.” No more use of the word “want” as a noun, or the phrase “just so you know” in every other sentence.

The Hat has been shown The Door.

And I must admit: I’ll miss Les Miles. If you’re an SEC fan, you should too.

This league is about to get a lot less interesting without Leslie Edwin Miles in Baton Rouge. He never seemed to take himself too seriously. He stood up for his players. He mangled the English language in new and interesting ways.

And he loved his job. Asked by Dan Patrick this week how tough a job it was to coach at LSU, Miles was having none of it. “I think it’s a blast,” he said. “If you’re a competitive man, if you enjoy competition, I don’t think this job’s hard. I think it’s a joy.”

Miles, for the most part, was pretty good at his joyful job. You know the numbers: 114-34 at LSU with one national title and two SEC titles in just over 11 seasons at LSU. That’s right at 10 wins a year. Those numbers should have been enough to at least earn Miles the right to finish the season, to avoid the indignity of coaching a team on a Saturday night and showing up the next week to clean out his office.

At other schools, numbers like that might get you a statue on the quad. At LSU, there are other numbers that are more important right now: Five straight losses to Alabama. Two straight losses to Ole Miss. Four years since the Tigers’ last SEC title.

Coaching is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately profession. Ask Gene Chizik, who was fired at Auburn two years after winning the second national title in school history. Of course, that happened because of a 3-9 implosion in which Chizik clearly lost control of the locker room.

There was no such cataclysmic event at LSU. Miles never won fewer than eight games in a season in Baton Rouge. His players seemed to genuinely enjoy playing for him as much as he enjoyed leading them. His recruiting never seemed to suffer.

The timing of his ouster might lead one to come to the conclusion that had Miles not suffered through his latest misadventures with clock management in Saturday’s 18-13 loss to Auburn, he might have survived. But this isn’t about one loss. The wheels have been in motion for this since last year. Barring 10 wins or better that this team appears entirely incapable of, this was going to happen sometime this year regardless.

The steadfastness that was Miles’ biggest asset was also his biggest fault. While the highly-rated recruiting classes and the seasons of eight-plus wins kept rolling in, Miles either saw no need or had no idea how to open up the offense, to follow the leads of defensive-minded coaches like Nick Saban and Gary Patterson who acquiesced to the trending philosophies of football and shifted to more up-tempo, wide-open offensive attacks.

Couple that with a frustrating inability to develop a quarterback, and you have a recipe for a level of offensive ineptitude that not even Leonard Fournette can fix.

Saturday’s loss gave those at LSU who believed it was time to move on an excuse to go ahead and do so. Dropping the hammer now and not waiting until the end of the year may give the Tigers a head start in the looming race to hire away Tom Herman from Houston.

Beat the rush. Fire your lame duck coach today.

It may have been time for Miles to go, but he deserved better than the way he went out.

For his first Saturday away from coaching, he told Patrick that he’ll probably hit up his son, North Carolina quarterback Manny Miles, for tickets to the UNC-Florida State game. Some network would be wise to sign him up to be an analyst for the rest of the season. But Miles left little doubt as to his future plans.

“I don’t golf. I play no tennis,” he told Patrick. “I enjoy shooting the gun; I don’t necessarily like to point it at animals. I play cards, not very well. What I have done for probably 12 to 14 hours a day for the last, I don’t know, number of years, is coach football. So I would have a difficult time not being involved in the game and not being a coach.”

I’m betting The Hat won’t be out of a coaching job for long.





Categories: College football

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