Scooter Hobbs column: Coach O’s new title, Lame duck

Published 11:50 am Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Just to clarify here: Ed Orgeron is not making his third foray into the murky waters known as “interim coach.”

What Orgeron is doing would be more accurately defined as a “lame-duck coach” — playing out the string, trying to make the best of a situation gone south.

Semantics, perhaps, but an interim coach would be one who takes over in midseason because somebody else got fired or otherwise gave up the goat.

He might even have a chance to earn the job full-time, as Orgeron well knows.

Coach O went a combined 10-4 in long interim stints at Southern Cal (6-2) and LSU (4-2).

More importantly Orgeron went 1-1 in earning the full-time jobs, the win of course coming for his dream job with the Tigers, in which he gave not a hoot that he wasn’t the first choice.

Orgeron was even once known as America’s Interim Head Coach, one of the few to do it twice.

But Lame Duck is a new gig for Coach O.

We shall see how it works out.

At least LSU has had plenty of experience in the delicate situation.

Of LSU’s coaching changes in the last 40 years, only with Jerry Stovall did the season end before the Tigers knew they were in the market.

They fall into two categories.

Two of LSU’s coaches stuck around for one more game — bowl appearances — after announcing after at the end of the regular season that they were leaving of their own volition.

So two of LSU’s best coaches combined to go 0-2 in the role — Bill Arnsparger lost to Nebraska after the 1986 season and Nick Saban himself lost to Iowa in the Citrus Bowl after the 2004 season.

Pro tip: I wouldn’t ever tell Saban to his face that he was a lame-duck coach — but he was.

Most have gone out on their shield instead of carrying it.

At the other end of the spectrum, the gold standard for lame-duck LSU coaches was set by none other than Curley Hallman after one of the true mercy firings in LSU history.

He was, as he put it so eloquently in a town curmudgeon sort of way at the 1994 news conference, “damn-well fired — I didn’t quit; y’all put that in your papers.” It was a couple of days after losing to Southern Miss.

But he hung around, being delightfully defiant Curley to the end while beating Tulane and Arkansas to finish his fourth consecutive losing season on a 2-0 high note.

Mike Archer went 1-1 after his firing news conference turned into a circus — an angry cameo appearance by Dale Brown is all you need to know. He lost to Mississippi State in Jackson the next day but finished with a win over Tulane a week later.

In 2016, Orgeron was LSU’s first interim head since Hal Hunter took over when Gerry DiNardo was fired in 1999 with a game remaining.

Hunter took down Arkansas, but it wasn’t enough body of work to mean anything and he hasn’t been heard from since.\

Charles McClendon falls into the middle ground. He announced his “retirement” before the 1979 season began, but it didn’t fool anybody. LSU’s all-time winningest coach was forced out by the man he replaced, Paul Dietzel, who had later come back to haunt him as athletic director.

So good ol’ Charlie Mac was allowed a farewell tour of sorts when he went 7-5, capped by a win in the Tangerine Bowl, which later hired him as its executive director to upgrade itself to the Citrus Bowl.

That’s probably the closest thing to what Orgeron is attempting, with almost half the season remaining.

It could get tricky.

Maybe it’s better for Orgeron. Monday during his online virtual new briefing he almost seemed to be relieved that it had gone from rumor and innuendo to done deal.

“The pressure has been let out of the tank,” Orgeron said. “Now we can just play football. I think we’ll play more freely.”

You never know how players will react. Assistant coaches have to game plan with one eye on their next job hunt.

But you know Orgeron will be wringing out every last drop of his dream job.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com