Leslie Miles – the 2008 view

As the guy still holding the No. 3 spot at Google for Fire Les Miles, I feel a need to re-address my feelings toward Leslie. Googlers will continue to arrive at pieces I wrote three years ago, but for those of you who manage to find this piece, my current view of the guy standing at the front of the 2007 National Champions is as follows: – Winning isn”t what makes somebody a good coach, and losing isn”t what makes somebody a bad coach. Good coaches tend to win and bad coaches tend to lose, but the measure of that comes over many seasons and depends on circumstances. I think Mark Richt has proven himself a good coach for building Georgia back. Ray Goff showed himself to be a bad coach for letting Georgia slide to mediocrity. But is George O”Leary a bad coach because he went 12-24 in his first three years at Central Florida? His 10-3 record this year would suggest otherwise, but if you are to deem Les Miles a good coach simply for going 34-6 in his first three years at LSU, you have to call O”Leary a bad coach – at least until this year. It”s more complicated than that.

- I believe Leslie was ill-prepared to take over a program like LSU when he arrived. He talked nonsense when he was hired, he lacked good judgment early on, got completely outcoached in his first SEC Championship Game and was fortunate to draw an uninterested Miami team in the 2005 Peach Bowl. The 2006 season was frustratingly successful.

- It”s a bit of an understatement to say LSU was fortunate to play in the BCS Championship Game this season. Leslie had his share of moron moments all through the season as well. Holding that Crystal Football will silence a lot of critics, and that”s understandable.

- That said, I think Leslie is growing into the job. Compare Leslie”s first game in Tiger Stadium – where his Tigers sat on the ball with two minutes left to force overtime with Tennessee to five-for-five on fourth down against Florida and the surprise touchdown pass to beat Auburn this year. Much of that could be the difference between Jimbo Fisher and Gary Crowton, and Fisher wasn”t Leslie”s man. But while Leslie still seems to be dumber than wood much of the time, the overall execution has improved tremendously. The Florida and Auburn games this season were the first performances that left me respecting Leslie, so that”s progress.

- Leslie is making the transition from winning with Nick Saban”s players to recruiting and winning with his own. LSU is a powerhouse program again, which gives it a huge advantage in recruiting. If Leslie can keep winning and keep recruiting, that”ll show him to be a great coach. So far he”s won and he”s recruited well. But it takes time to prove his greatness.

- And for better or worse over time, Leslie is LSU”s man now. Do I buy this “loyalty to LSU” stuff as the reason he”s still in Baton Rouge? No. He wanted to go to Michigan, but the Wolverines and Leslie both were incapable of not bungling their talks, and the timing sucked. He”s right that LSU is a great job and he”s lucky to have it, but he”d rather be in Ann Arbor right now. Michigan”s big hire of Rich Rodriguez, though, means we have Leslie for as long as he keeps winning or until the Michigan job opens up again.

I support LSU, and I”ll support Leslie. He”s shown me signs of promise this year, and you can”t deny the power of the Crystal Football. I don”t consider him to be a great coach yet – but I”ll call him good. But every game is a chance to show what a coach is made of, so I won”t hesitate to criticize or praise in the future.

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