I’ve long been a fan of Les Miles. His devil-may-care attitude and his gutsy play calls instill a cocky confidence in his kids. He doesn’t have some mysterious X and O system for success; his recipe is so brutally simple: get better players than everyone else and then go out there and just let them play.
It’s gotten the man a ton of wins and a place among college football’s best.
I really can’t be in his corner anymore. Not because of anything he’s done that drew me to him in the first place. No, all of those things still exist in the head coach, even after losing the national title game in ugly fashion.
The reason I’m tapping out on Les Miles is the way he’s handled this Gunner Kiel situation. The video at the fan event was one thing. I wrote that off as a guy pandering to his base. Didn’t like it but it made some sense.
Now, in an interview with Dennis Dodd, Miles revisits the Gunner Kiel situation and has designs on hammering his whole point home about “swagger” and “confidence.” From Miles:
“I don’t mean to demean, he ain’t Joe Namath.”
“Joe is ready to go to Alabama and take on the world.”
“I’m not bitter. I’m glad he stayed there. I really mean it. Here’s the truth: If you don’t have some swagger to you and you can step into this stadium and be able to know the advantage that you’re playing with the Tigers and you’re leading the program that has some real weight and clout, then you really need to stay home with your brothers.”
“I really meant what I said. I was talking more about the confidence and swagger. I was not demeaning.”
“I mean it honestly, if it’s more about family for him, if it’s more being close to home…he would have never been successful as he needs to be. I mean that especially…”
Ugh. For as good as it sounds with the “I was not demeaning” thrown in, it still rings quite hollow. Sort of a “no offense” right before you tell a girl that she’s ugly. No offense, but I’m about to talk bad about you and say some stuff that is not positive.
Losing recruits sucks. It is a plain point of fact. However, that’s part of college football. Nick Saban misses out on recruits. Lane Kiffin misses out on recruits. Brian Kelly misses out on recruits. It happens. Sure it makes folks angry but that doesn’t mean it's good go public with your vitriol. It most certainly doesn’t give license to carry your frustration from January through April.
The kid is gone. He made a decision that best benefited him. Continuously dropping criticism of his fortitude is not the adult response in this situation.
It stinks of sour grapes. It is, in a word, quite “fan-ish” of Miles. This is what fans do when their school doesn’t get a recruit. This is what BayouBengal69 does on a message board and in a comment section. This is not what the leader of a program should be doing.
Brian Kelly lost a kid on signing day, he’s not bashing him. Larry Fedora lost an early enrollee in the same way Miles did, though he’s not talking about him.
You lose recruits, you get recruits. I’m quite certain that when Kiel de-committed from Indiana, then picked LSU later in the process, the coach was not saying Kiel did not have “the chest” for the Hoosiers.
Did Kiel not have the chest to help get Indiana to a bowl game? Did Kiel not have the chest to compete in the Big Ten? Of course not, because Miles thought he was going to get him for his program.
At this point it is just sad. Enough is enough. There’s a coach sitting there on staff who gets it, who understands these things happen. Unfortunately he is not the one whose comments matter right now.
Miles’ rhetoric is sensational, fan-flaming sour grapes. Steve Kragthorpe does get it in Red Stick:
“He woke up Sunday morning and was getting ready to go to the plane and he said he couldn’t do it. I was disappointed he didn’t come because I wanted to coach him. I really liked their family. I think they’re wonderful people.
“The best way to describe it is I understand.”
That’s how this should be done.