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Straight up—Is Les Miles in trouble?

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As LSU's offense has regressed this season, rumblings about the safety of Les Miles have been heard.

 

For instance, on October 11—the day after the Florida loss—long-time Tiger obsessor Dandydon wrote

LSU was not able to generate any kind of consistency on offense because of poor execution at the quarterback position and a very poor job of game management by Les Miles and Gary Crowton. It was very plain to see early in the game that Jordan Jefferson was struggling throwing the football, and instead of throwing the football away Jefferson was sacked six times in the game. It does not make any sense that Les Miles did not play Russell Shepard for one single play when he said before the game that Shepard would play eight or 10 snaps, and it is unbelievable that Miles did not play not Jarrett Lee for a couple of series in the game. It is also unbelievable that wide receiver Rueben Randle did not see any action.

 

But the criticism is not limited to just the bloggers. Gary Laney at the Baton Rouge Advocate claimed in this column that the Tigers were good at everything except offense.

 

So is there a problem at LSU?

 

Is it time for Tiger fans to accept the conventional wisdom, that Les Miles is a 40-watt bulb in a 100-watt conference and that he lucked into a whole batch of wins but will drive a program into the ground?

 

Or is he the coach who had the best three year stretch of any coach in school history, the coach who guided a program through two vicious hurricanes in his first year, the coach who when called by his tradition-laden alma mater expressed his desire to remain on the bayou? Is he the coach who brought us an undisputed national title, or the coach who consistently shows how to turn extraordinarily talented teams mediocre?

 

The short answer is yes. And no. And maybe. All of the above and none of the above.

 

Les is a coach who has shown the school his loyalty—and in today's college football, that means something. His teams have regularly been stellar on defense and very good on offense. After four years, he had the most wins of any coach in school history.

 

So is the problem Miles? First one must decide what criteria define a coach. Of course, wins are a must, but Les passes that test rather easily. Here are some of the numbers through this week: 47-12 overall record; 25-11 SEC record; 4-0 in bowls, including two BCS bowls; Final AP rankings of 6, 3, 1, and NR. By almost any measure, the Les Miles era has been one of unprecedented prosperity.

 

Those numbers are hard to ignore. But fans are fixated on that NR at the end of 2008, and five of those losses came in the same year. The question that is plaguing LSU-nation whether the Tigers are now caught in an irreversible downward slide.

 

Of course, if they are, they must still be near the top of the slide, as the Tigers are currently ranked in the top ten in the country and are 5-1 overall, a loss to top-ranked Florida the only blemish.

 

If the Tigers play poorly, and lose another two or three games, then there will be changes. But I think they will happen at the coordinator level.

 

Les showed no compunction about tossing his two defensive coordinators from last year's failed experiment, and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton could be the next coach sacrificed on the Milesian altar.

 

The bottom line is, at this point, Les has bought himself 2010 at a minimum. And thus far in 2009, he is looking good. But he will not be given JoePa-like patience by the LSU faithful.