Orgeron lets the bodies hit the floor

Scooter Hobbs

Well, that didn’t take long.

Head coach Ed Orgeron said all year that he’d wait until this trying season was over before putting his staff under a microscope.

Saturday night, after finishing on a two-game win streak with a win over Ole Miss, he said he just wanted to “enjoy the victory” for a while.

Both, evidently, were brief endeavors.

By Tuesday he was looking for two new coordinators — three, if you count that odd “passing coordinator” thingie that wunderkind Joe Brady fashioned into a national championship and a plum NFL job with the Carolina Panthers.

There have been retirements, reassignments, even straight-faced renditions of the ever-popular “by mutual agreement.”

There’s probably an out-and-out firing in there somewheres.

But, bottom line: It looks as if at least half of Orgeron’s staff will be new when the Tigers, pandemic willing, take the field again next fall.

Nobody can accuse Orgeron of twiddling his thumbs while Tigertown burns.

Bo Pelini was no surprise. The defensive coordinator, in the first year of his second go-around at LSU, has been the Fan’s Choice Scapegoat almost from the very beginning, which often happens when the beginning is giving up 623 yards to Mississippi State.

Offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger will move into the overstocked analysts role, while 65-year-old defensive line coach Bill Johnson will do the same.

LSU has not confirmed, but multiple sources have led to numerous reports that safeties coach Bill Busch and passing game coordinator Scott Linehan also will not be back.

That’s five out of 10 on-field coaches who won’t be on next season’s staff.

It means Orgeron has a lot of work to do in the coming weeks.

Coaching staffs matter in college football.

Orgeron has never been shy about staff changes he thought were needed.

It’s kind of off the table now that last season’s national championship got him a big raise into the upper stratosphere.

But the original business model for LSU with Orgeron appeared to be that the school got him on the cheap and the master recruiter and motivator would surround himself with rock star coordinators and let them do their magic.

His solutions have been a mixed bag of all or nothing — home runs and strikeouts with little in between.

He caught the proverbial lightning in a bottle with the almost-accidental discovery of Joe Brady for the magical 2019 season.

But he went 0-for-2 — Pelini and Linehan — with the big hires that are inevitable with the kind of success LSU enjoyed last season.

Brady might have gotten more credit than he deserved — mostly, at the expense of Ensminger, who people forget was the actual offensive coordinator and called most of the plays — but there’s no doubt that he brought new energy into the building along with some wicked X’s and O’s.

Pelini looked like a natural choice, even with a hard act to follow when another rising star, Dave Aranda, got the Baylor head coaching job.

Orgeron gushed about the hire and infamously said in August that LSU’s defense was already better than at any point during the national championship season.

Instead, it was historically bad — seven-plagues-of-Egypt biblically bad.

It was Lost in Space … with shoddy tackling to boot.

Orgeron got so exasperated after the Missouri game that he threatened — with only mild doses of sarcasm — to limit the defense to one alignment if that’s what it took to get the young knuckleheads lined up in the same time zone as the offensive intentions.

Sort of like Barney Fife could only be trusted with one bullet.

It never went quite that far, but Orgeron was never hesitant in his criticism during the season.

So the little song-and-dance that the school played in announcing that LSU and Pelini had “agreed to mutually part ways” makes for a nice story. But nobody is buying it.

The language in the news release might have saved LSU a little buyout money as it also said Pelini “will accept a one-time payment in lieu of the liquidated damages detailed in his contract.”

The contract would have paid him roughly $5.2 million for the remaining two years on his contract.

It’s more plausible that Ensminger’s deal was a mutual agreement, maybe even Ensminger’s suggestion.

He’s 62 and he and Orgeron have always been on the same page. If you’re firing a coordinator, you wouldn’t normally keep him around the building as Coach E will be as an analyst.

Linehan was the other swing-and-miss for Orgeron this season, sitting at Ensminger’s right hand where Brady dazzled a year ago.

Even allowing for the absence of Messrs. Burrow, Edwards-Helaire, etc, it worked a lot better with Joe Brady riding side-saddle with Ensminger than Linehan.

It’s never really been detailed how the dynamic of an offensive coordinator/passing game coordinator worked. Supposedly the latter concentrated on third down and red zones, the two biggest bugs in this season’s offense.

So LSU does have a way to go in pin-pointing all that went wrong this season.

But it would appear at least the Tigers have identified all the scapegoats.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU

athletics. Email him at

shobbs@americanpress.comScooter Hobbs (American Press)


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