Just 21 months after winning a national title, LSU has announced that it is parting ways with Ed Orgeron at the end of the season. Since the 2019 championship, the Tigers have dropped off considerably, having gone 9-8 with their only wins over ranked teams coming against Florida.
Still, one would expect a coach less than two years removed from a title would deserve a little more of a grace period, right? Not necessarily. Here are five reasons LSU was justified in its decision.
1. Gene Chizik
There is precedent for firing a coach less than two years after he won a national championship. In 2010, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik caught lightning in a bottle with junior college transfer quarterback Cam Newton and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, going 14-0 and winning a national title. The next season, the Cam-less Tigers went 8-5 and Malzahn left for the head coaching job at Arkansas State. Auburn then went 3-9 in 2012, including a winless record in the SEC, and Chizik was fired with Malzahn brought back as head coach. While some of the circumstances are different, LSU's decline following the departure of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow and passing game coordinator Joe Brady feels familiar.
2. Ole Miss tenure
Ole Miss' firing of David Cutcliffe and hiring of Orgeron is considered by this writer to be the worst head coaching move in college football history. Cutcliffe had led the Rebels to five straight winning seasons, something no coach in Oxford had done since Johnny Vaught. After Ole Miss went 4-7 in '04, Cutcliffe was fired and replaced with Orgeron, then the assistant head coach and recruiting director for USC. Showing a penchant for being a control freak with a hot temper, Orgeron won 10 games in three seasons and was fired in 2007. He declared that he had changed, but signs seemed to indicate that he had reverted to his old ways when the chips were down.
3. NCAA investigations
Under Orgeron's watch, LSU ran afoul of the NCAA. The most prominent story came when LSU alum and Cleveland Browns star receiver over Odell Beckham Jr. was caught on video handing out cash to Tigers players after the CFP National Championship Game win over Clemson. This led to LSU instituting a one-year bowl ban in 2020 (a huge sacrifice for a 5-5 team during a pandemic), a loss of eight scholarships over two years, limited recruiting visits, and a two-year ban for Beckham from LSU's football facilities. To make matters worse, a November 2021 USA Today investigation reported that Orgeron and LSU officials had mishandled sexual misconduct complaints, most notably two allegations of sexual assault towards former running back Derrius Guice. Orgeron has been added as a defendant in a Title IX lawsuit alleging that the coach was told Guice had raped a student but did not report it.
4. Questionable hires
During its 2019 national championship run, LSU had two of college football's best assistants in the aforementioned Brady (who also was the wide receivers coach) and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Brady left in early 2020 to be the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, and Orgeron brought in longtime NFL offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to replace him. Aranda also left to be the head coach of Baylor and Orgeron hired former LSU assistant and Nebraska/Youngstown State head coach Bo Pelini to replace him without an interview. LSU's wide-open, up-tempo offense went from averaging an NCAA-best 48.4 points per game in 2019 to 32 in '20 and the defense gave up 492 yards per game. Both Linehan and Pelini were fired after the season, meaning the Tigers would have to reshuffle coaching staff again.
5. Poor leadership
COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd required strong leadership from all head coaches. Some, like Nick Saban, rose to the occasion. Others, like Orgeron, did not. He was unable to pull his players together during this time and in one instance, did not even realize they were skipping practice to take part in a nationwide protest and march on LSU's campus. As things got worse, public confrontations with fans and private stories of him throwing temper tantrums seemed to indicate that he had lost control of the program.
— 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.