When Ed Orgeron completed the first head coaching stop of his career at Ole Miss in 2007, the results were disastrous.
A 10-25 record barely told the story of a failed three-year experiment that doubled as a new low for a program that had endured a decade of mediocrity prior to his arrival, and many more years of futility before that. The dismal performance was largely (although not entirely) a reflection of a head coach who simply was not prepared for the big stage.
Some coaches would like to forget such an eyesore in a career, but as Orgeron is well aware, there is no avoiding the topic as he gears up for his first official second chance — and probably his last shot — in the collegiate head coaching community.
Fortunately for LSU, its newly minted head coach prides himself on his evolution since those horrendous three seasons with the Rebels.
As Orgeron took the podium on an emotional Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge to take the reins of the program and have “interim” finally removed from his title as head coach, the event began to feel more like a celebration than an announcement.
The Cajun-born longtime position coach had won over the hearts of the players as an interim head coach some time ago — just as he did at USC in 2013, only to miss out on the full-time head coaching job to an offense-minded hot commodity in Steve Sarkisian. This time around, he took the crucial next step of securing the faith of the administration — and it has led to the opportunity of a lifetime for the Larose, La., native.
Now that the elation has subsided, it is a fitting time to dissect Orgeron’s Ole Miss debacle. What were the roots of the problem in Oxford? More importantly, how has Coach O changed in ways which will enable him to make the most of this unlikely break in Baton Rouge?
Orgeron’s tenure with the Rebels filled pretty much every negative stereotype one could expect from a defensive line coach assuming a head coaching role.
“In over his head” summed up this impossible-to-forget three-year stretch… at least to a point.
Orgeron meddled with position coaches, a critical mistake for someone who made his name as a defensive line coach and recruiting madman — not a delegator. His lack of delegating experience shined through most prominently when he brought in Noel Mazzone as offensive coordinator, who was fresh off turning Philip Rivers into a star at N.C. State, and demanded that he install USC’s offense.
Unsurprisingly, and like most of what he did in Oxford, this venture was met with an abundance of futility. Another notable misstep was attempting to coach his team like a defensive line unit — to no shock, the practice of ripping his shirt off and challenging his players in a three-point stance did not translate well to his new duties overseeing an entire football team.
The excerpts above lay out a smorgasbord of material for naysayers, but they also set up a narrative that could play out in sweet fashion for the Tiger faithful and their bayou-bred coach in the coming years.
More important than any of his shortcomings is an ability to adapt, something that has delivered Orgeron his dream job.
He allows position coaches to handle their respective areas of expertise. He does not run interference with the offense. The team motto of “One team, one heartbeat” has done wonders compared to his incompetent, bare-chested motivation tactics at Ole Miss.
In short, Orgeron has evolved into everything he was not at Ole Miss.
He is not the rising star that Tom Herman is, nor is he an established offensive guru like Jimbo Fisher… and that is okay.
Orgeron is a humbled man who has learned from his mistakes. He has spent the past nine years bettering himself so that someday he could get another shot. That moment arrived on Saturday, and to the chagrin of doubters, it is setting up to be far from a rerun of his Ole Miss nightmare.