(This article is essentially Part 2 to this piece about the Ole Miss debacle)
If the game against Ole Miss did one thing for Tiger fans it’s this: Their real feelings for Les Miles came out.
There are basically three camps:
1) Miles Haters
This camp is broken up into two sub-groups:
A) Those who have always been vocal and are now just louder because of perceived vindication. They are unable to give credit to Miles for anything.
B) Those who were quiet because he has had success in Baton Rouge but are now starting to grumble.
2) Miles lovers
This group for the most part will defend every move made by Miles no matter what. Sometimes disagreeing with Miles lovers may get you branded unfairly as a bad fan. This group is pretty quiet right now and rightly so.
3) The Middle
The middle is made up of what I would think to be the majority of fans.
The middle also has two sub groups:
A) People who genuinely like Miles and wish him best but sometimes question what he is doing.
B) People who have always been on the fence about Miles. They like one second, they think he’s a knucklehead the next.
It’s at this point I’d like to stop and share something with you before we move on.
Yesterday was a payroll Monday here at my job (whoo hoo a payroll story, Justin! I can’t wait to hang on every word! Please do continue!!).
My HR representative/payroll lady came looking for my time sheets. I put them in my boss’s mailbox for approval, but they were supposed to go to her first.
She asked, “Why didn’t you put them in my box first?”
What I would’ve said a week ago or a month ago had this happened would have been, “I guess I just wasn’t thinking.”
But what I said really without much forethought was, “Sorry I guess I just had a Les Miles moment.”
And there it was.
Before Saturday, Les Miles’ perceived coaching blunders (some deserved, some unfairly attributed) was a back burner tidbit. Something that would just come out every once and a while.
“Can you believe Miles mismanaged the clock before the half against Georgia?”
“Yeah but we won.”
Saturday’s game against Ole Miss and the aftermath have changed things. Miles’ game management deficiencies have cost this team a game.
Those groups above are shifting in population in the purple and gold nation.
I honestly didn’t think the backlash would be as bad as it has been.
This game, in the grand scheme of things, meant very little. Bowl positioning, ranking, and pride was at stake and little more. A chance to still win 11 games is now gone but really the season for Tiger fans was over when Alabama clinched the West.
Because that’s what this fan base has become. You win us division, conference, or national championships or we’ll lose interest.
There’s nothing wrong with having high expectations. Lord knows, Miles’ performance Saturday couldn’t have met the lowest of expectations.
But the grumblings going around call in shows and message boards are venomous. There isn’t talk of “Miles better deliver next year or he’s gone.”
There’s “Fire him, now!”
And it’s everywhere.
I honestly thought Miles could do nothing to get himself fired before 2011 (which incidentally is the last year on his current contract).
I thought the 2007 National Championship bought him a get out of jail free card until 2011.
But Saturday night erased 2011. Don’t be a fool, Miles isn’t being fired at the end of this season.
But now, Miles will be forced to deliver at least the Western division crown next year. At the very least he’ll have to beat Alabama in Tiger Stadium, as a three year losing streak to Nick Saban and Alabama might be the decisive blow in the Miles versus Saban contest and Miles’ ticket out of the Bayou State.
Les has a contract that would make Jimmy Sexton pee his pants with excitement. Miles and his agent George Bass have an $18.50 million dollar buyout in place.
There isn’t a contract in college football that protects its coach more and leaves a school in a more undesirable monetary position if it seeks a change.
My feeling is though that if things don’t change by the end of next season, AD Joe Alleva’s hand will be forced by the fans to make a move.
Ask yourself this, if Pete Carrol, Urban Meyer, or Nick Saban made the gross misjudgments that Miles’ compiled against Ole Miss, would the fan bases be asking for their jobs??
Probably not (although I hear all of you who say those coaches would never make those mistakes).
Before this there was only one moment that brought out fans true feelings about Miles.
And as a guy who comes to the Mad Hatter’s defense a lot, I’m not ashamed to tell you my feelings.
The morning of the SEC championship in 2007, the Internet was abuzz with rumors of Les going to coach Michigan.
It circulated on local news stations here in Baton Rouge and was confirmed by ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit.
At that moment most fans knew their opinion of Miles.
The haters were about to do a dance.
The lovers were crushed.
And the middle wasn’t sure.
I’ve always considered myself in the middle but honestly I was more worried about the conference championship game over the future of LSU football.
Take into account Miles was going to his alma mater and only the truly selfish could spite the move.
I always use the example of if the roles were reversed I would want the LSU alum to come home to coach his Tigers.
But there I was, not disheartened at all. Already thinking about who we could get to replace him and whether or not we’d win the game that day despite the news.
And that was it, I was in the middle. I’ve always liked him and sometimes wonder to myself “what the heck is he thinking?”
You may have someone in your life that you like or love and they have their shortcomings but you always try to believe the best of them. However, one day they do something that ruins all of that and your trust in them starts to falter?
Well luckily in my life I don’t have someone like that but in my football life I do. And he’s on thin ice.
Realistically Les, the clock on you has started and what you have to do in 2010 to win your fans back is win the West in 2010. Right now in 2009, finishing the season strong may snag a couple of swing votes here and there, but you’ve done your damage.
I can only imagine what everyone would be saying if this happened in a game that mattered more.
The :01 spike ball stuff garnered more headlines but in the end was pretty much void. The game was over, the play no matter what was called wouldn’t have counted.
Miles’ sins were letting time slip off the clock inexplicably and before that allowing offensive coordinator Gary Crowton to call pass plays once the Tigers had first and 10 at the 30.
Both were pretty awful.
Are they unforgivable?
Not if you like Les Miles.
But the Ole Miss game uncovered who exactly that is as “the middle” starts taking sides.