Coach O gets an ‘A’ for his honesty, renewed passion at LSU
Everyone appreciates anyone who is candid, upfront, revealing, genuine and honest.
I always laugh, sometimes cringe when I hear any statement begin with the prefix of “to be honest with you.” It gets even more peculiar when the statement is enhanced to “to be perfectly honest with you.”
The supposition is that whomever utters that opening has not been honest previously.
While he says things that you sometimes have a hard time understanding due to his thick, gruff, accented voice and he says things that you have a hard time understanding due to the nature of the statement being too bold, make that way to bold on occasions, the sincerity of Ed Orgeron is refreshing. He is apt to bare his soul in front of the masses.
That was the case Wednesday.
“Tell the Truth Monday” became “Tell the Truth Wednesday.
In the process, Orgeron won the press conference, popular vernacular in our business for when a coach acquits himself well in a mass media setting in his comments and with how he answers questions.
Orgeron uttered a truly off-the-mark, if not plain ignorant statement last September about his defense going into the 2020 season being much better than it was in the midst of a national championship season.
The statement was meant to prop up Bo Pellini. It was a blatant put-down of Dave Aranda, who was part of a national championship staff.
Yes, Pellini employed an attacking style, which was to the delight of Orgeron.
It was also the delight of opponents, who shredded the Tiger defense which gave up the most passing yards in the nation per game.
In the words of Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin, the LSU defense, aside from physical shortcomings, looked dazed and confused throughout the 2020 season.
Then, there was the offense.
While LSU scored points and did good things with three different starting quarterbacks, the fit was not obvious or comfortable with Scott Linehan.
Joe Brady was superb.
Brady’s performance earned him a promotion to the NFL.
Linehan basically was in the midst of a demotion from the NFL.
While that characterization may not be fair, there is a perception attached to the optics.
In a startling revelation Orgeron admitted that he did not interview Pellini, Linehan or Kevin Faulk, who had been promoted to running backs coach.
To be fair, Faulk was already part of the LSU football program as the Director of Player Development and he was well known and widely accepted with those in and around the program.
Still, who hires coordinators to run a program without speaking with the hires personally, particularly at a school coming off of a national championship?
The concept smacks of perhaps being a big lazy.
While teams at every level guard against becoming comfortable, lackadaisical and overconfident following championship seasons, we often see the following season fall short, sometimes well short of expectations.
It is hard to match the highest level of intensity, commitment and passion annually to be a championship team.
Of course, it starts with talent and with good leadership.
Orgeron was a superb leader in 2019. He was a flawed leader in 2020.
To be perfectly honest with you, Orgeron has his faults. He has had his hits. He has had his misses.
When you hit on a perfect season and national championship, it most certainly buys you insurance, equity. Orgeron has and deserves that and he deserves the benefit of the doubt, despite any lingering doubt regarding who he is and what he is capable of.
On a personal level, I like Orgeron. It is hard not to like him.
Orgeron is personable, welcoming to all, easy to engage in conversation with.
Orgeron is one of our own, a native of Larose, out of South Lafourche and Northwestern State.
I was blessed to do play-by-play for a few Ole Miss games on television for COMCAST when Orgeron was the coach of the Rebels.
In hotels and outside of stadiums, Orgeron greeted everyone warmly and enthusiastically. He recruited pretty well.
Inside of stadiums, his teams were capable but were a tease, just falling short.
Those failures went a long way in shaping the man and coach Orgeron is today. He learned from his mistakes in Oxford. The end result was a national championship in Baton Rouge.
Now, he must learn once again following a tumultuous year in his personal life, with social justice issues, with the Husch Blackwell Report, with a team that fell way below expectations and with bad hires.
Orgeron has taken steps to do so.
He addressed changing his staff. With a defensive background, he vows to get more involved on that side of the ball, lending his expertise to new defensive coordinator Daronte Jones.
Orgeron, in another blunt, candid moment, admitted that Jones was his fourth or fifth choice while quickly pointing out that he, himself, was a fourth or fifth choice. Orgeron also praised Jones in believing that his new defensive coordinator will prove to be a very good hire.
Matt Canada was a miss. So were Pelini and Linehan.
Joe Brady was a hit. So were Aranda and Greg McMahon. Steve Ensminger was solid.
How will Jones, Jake Peetz and DJ Mangas work out?
Time will tell.
He addressed his obviously short-sighted, off-the-mark statements prior to last season. He has addressed his players, who played very hard for him at the end of last season in truly inspiring, encouraging wins over Florida and Ole Miss, despite being short-handed.
It is a very quick path, a quick trip from the penthouse to the outhouse.
Ask Gene Chizik. Ask Mack Brown. Ask Philip Fulmer. Ask Bobby Bowden. Ask Larry Coker.
All were fired after winning national championships, some sooner, some later down the road after reaching the top of the mountain.
The climb is treacherous but fun. The descent is terrible and miserable.
Orgeron got the job after Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman decided to opt out of the process.
After the 2017 season, Orgeron was deemed by many observers on a national level to be on the proverbial “hot seat,” perhaps about to get burned and discarded by LSU.
Instead, he was on top of the college football world two seasons later and LSU was as hot of a destination for recruits as any spot in the country.
It is refreshing to hear anyone admit his or her shortcomings.
As I have learned over the course of a lifetime, recognizing failures and weak spots is the first step toward erasing those errors and correcting them.
Coach O appears to have that mastered.
Now, it is all about mastering the business of getting it right—again.
To be perfectly honest, it can happen.
It is more likely that LSU fans will be saying “Go Tigers” as opposed to saying “O must go” in the near future, based on the talent on hand, the fixing of perceived problems and the attraction of the program to prospective recruits, who are responding quite well.
Orgeron is passionate about Louisiana. He is passionate about football. He is passionate about LSU.
Remaining in the theme of being perfectly honest, here’s hoping we see the version of Coach O defiantly, even with vulgarity, screaming in the locker room following a big win over Alabama which the fans loved as opposed to the subdued version after a loss to the likes of Mississippi State or Missouri.
That is the real Orgeron, the one LSU needs moving forward, to be perfectly honest.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…