To the casual observer, LSU’s decision to fire head coach Les Miles four games into the season may seem like just another absurd move by another SEC school with no perspective. Miles was 114-34 and won two SEC championships and a national title in 12 seasons in Baton Rouge. Many schools can only dream of that type of success.
Only time and the next coaching hire will tell if LSU made the right decision in firing Miles when it did. One thing is for certain, though. LSU was justified in its decision. Here are five reasons why.
5. College Football’s Only Two-Loss National Championship Team
Yes, Miles does have one national title and his 2007 team was the most talented in college football that season. However, it remains the only two-loss national champion since the polls began naming them after bowl games. Granted, most SEC champions usually suffer one loss during the season and LSU’s loss to a ranked Kentucky team in overtime in Lexington was not highly criticized. Then the Tigers closed the regular season with another overtime loss to Arkansas, prompting Miles’ famous, “We’re undefeated in regulation” line. Fortunately for the Tigers, West Virginia and Missouri lost and the BCS average vaulted LSU back to No. 2 in the rankings. The Tigers then dominated Ohio State in the national championship game. That being said, if 2007 had not been one of the wackiest seasons in college football history, it would have been considered just another disappointing season for LSU.
4. LSU 30, Auburn 24
Oct. 20, 2007 – Baton Rouge, La.
Many would list this moment in LSU’s championship season as one of Miles’ greatest, but it actually was more of a sign of things to come. Down 24-23 on Auburn’s 22-yard line with the clock winding down, Miles chose to forgo a game-winning field goal and last timeout and instead have Matt Flynn throw a fade pass to Demetrius Byrd as time expired. Byrd caught it in one of college football’s more dramatic finishes. After the celebration died down, fans began to ask, “Is he gutsy or just not good at managing games?” Many similar decisions that blew up in his face would prove the latter.
3. Auburn 18, LSU 13
Sept. 24, 2016 – Auburn, Ala.
Years of poorly managed endings came to a head this past Saturday night. As he did many times over the last several years, Miles let too much time run off the clock as his team tried to eke out a last-second win. This time LSU threw the game-winning touchdown AFTER time expired. For SEC fans, it was not surprising. For LSU officials, it was the last straw.
2. 2012 BCS National Championship Game vs. Alabama
Jan. 9, 2012 – New Orleans
After going undefeated and beating eight ranked teams, the Tigers met Alabama in a rematch in the BCS National Championship Game. There, one of the best regular seasons in college football history ended with a whimper in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. LSU made it across the 50-yard line only once and was shut out 21-0 by the Crimson Tide. The moments before the game seemed to be the high water mark for Miles’ tenure in Baton Rouge and today the date of Jan. 9, 2012, lives in infamy in the western part of the Deep South.
1. No Offense
Miles consistently brought in great recruiting classes, but you wouldn’t have known it by watching his offense. Over the past five years, he only had one offense that ranked higher than 57th in the nation in productivity. That was in 2013, when he had a receiving corps that included Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. LSU finished that year ranked 33rd in total offense. Critics of Miles expected more.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.