Ed Orgeron

LSU football coach Ed Orgeron

It’s not the kind of thing you’d call a news conference to announce.

You know how coaches are. Got to stay focused on this week, even if it’s an open date, and by all means take them one game at a time.

So, no, Ed Orgeron hasn’t publicly stated that LSU is … “Playing for next year.”

It’s just not done in his circles.

But he might as well have.

Maybe it really is the bill coming due for last year’s unbelievable run.

But halfway through, this season is basically unsalvageable.

This is when coaching really gets tough.

Face it: whatever goals LSU may have set are long gone.

If there was anyone foolish enough to think the Tigers were going to duplicate last year with only a few leftovers from that team back, those delusions were pretty well dashed when LSU lost the season opener.

It was a buzz kill, although not a season killer.

But, truth be told, in a shortened 10-game season, whatever the goals were adjusted to, they probably disappeared the day after Hurricane Delta (that’s how we keep dates straight around here now) when the Tigers belly-flopped at Missouri.

There was another tease when LSU rebounded from that to rout South Carolina, another little glimmer of hope that the light bulb had gone off.

But when LSU showed up at Auburn seemingly disinterested in playing Saturday, this season was officially in the dumpster fire.

Now at 2-3, with the soft underbelly of the schedule already spoken for, I’d say a winning season is a pipe dream. Even 5-5 would be something of a miraculous turnaround.

Maybe a 4-6 record ­— which would be the first losing season this century — is possible. But, honestly, looking at the schedule, I’m not sure you can pick out a third victory with any confidence.

There’s always next year.

Maybe 2020 is a good year to sit it out, treat it as an exhibition, a learning experience. This year hasn’t been good for much of anything else. Why should LSU football be any different?

You don’t even need a winning season to go to a bowl game and pick up a participation trophy.

“In my mind, we’re building a championship program,” Orgeron said. “We’re going to be a championship team. We’re going through some growing pains. I know it.”

Obviously, he wasn’t talking about a championship for this year.

“I know the people surrounding me are very supportive,” he continued. “We just had one of the best teams in college football last year. We’re not that far away.”

Well, there’s always next year.

As for this year, Orgeron keeps saying they’ve got to coach ‘em up better, correct those persistent mistakes and get back to work and harder.

Noble intentions.

But he might have a tougher task than that on his hands.

And it’s probably not as simple as firing defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, no matter how much it might temporarily appease the fan base.

You can point to the usual array of miscues during the 48-11 Auburn debacle, LSU’s worst loss since 1998.

But maybe the worst look came in the fourth quarter when, with the game well out of hand, CBS’ cameras spotted a group of LSU players laughing and hamming it up on the sideline.

“That’s been addressed,” Orgeron said on a Baton Rouge radio show Tuesday morning. “I was unaware of it (during the game). It’s been addressed with our football team and hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”

Maybe.

But from the start this has had the look of an entitled team — most of which tagged along as innocent bystanders to pick up a national championship ring last season — that felt like it could roll the helmets out there and stay in the national conversation.

The disinterest at Auburn wasn’t the first eye-opener.

There was the eyesore of a season opener when Orgeron admitted the next week several players were prescribed extra running for lack for effort. There were reportedly a few after the Missouri game, too.

It might explain why a team with athletes as good as LSU’s — inexperienced or not — is, on top of everything else, a very poor tackling team.

“You got to come with your hands up to fight,” Orgeron said on that same radio show Tuesday. “Auburn did. We fought for a little bit but after a while we gave in to it.”

In Orgeron’s new book “Flip the Script” — which could not have picked any worse timing than to be released this week — the coach recounts how he saw all of the telltale signs of last year’s historic team coming toward the end of 2018 and the ensuing offseason.

He saw the talent that was there, sure, and a strong ending to the 2018 season. But most of what he was feeling concerned the attitude of that bunch, the offseason work ethic, the chemistry, the confidence and leadership. In short, he recognized the winning culture that had developed in the program.

That culture apparently all but disappeared with the 14 draft picks the Tigers lost to the NFL, not to mention the handful of opt-outs who could now be helping on and off the field.

Somehow Orgeron has to get that culture and chemistry back in place before this season ends, a tricky chore since it has to start with the players.

They may now be playing for next year. But it has to start this year.

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

More from this section

So, as I understand it, this isn't about Drew Brees, this latest Saints push for the Super Bowl that begins today in a near-empty Superdome against the Bears or somebody.