This is Kansas football, we’re talking about. Kansas. Football.
It’s been atrocious for more than a decade and through three of the most absolutely miscast coaches you could ever imagine: Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and David Beaty.
Look at those names again. Look at them long and hard. And you tell me whether any of those fine men (but awful coaches) had a snowball’s chance of succeeding at Kansas.
Of course not. Sure, easier to say in hindsight, but really not all that tough to forecast before they were hired. After dismissing Mark Mangino after a rough 2009 season, just two years after a Mangino-led Orange Bowl championship team, the Jayhawks entered college football’s abyss.
Escaping an abyss can never be taken for granted. But finally, KU seems to have regained its coach-hiring sanity by giving this job to Les Miles, a fun-loving, say-anything coach who had winning seasons in 15 of his 16 years as the head guy at Oklahoma State and LSU.
Miles’ only losing season, in fact, was his first at Oklahoma State in 2001. At LSU, the Tigers reached double-figure wins in seven of his 12 seasons and won a national championship in 2007.
The last coach to win a national championship for Kansas is Bill Self, and he ain’t the football coach.
It’s always interesting to see what the so-called experts say about these kinds of hires, and nobody has been shy about weighing in on Miles and Kansas.
The most common theme among the detractors is that Miles hasn’t proven himself to be an innovative offensive coach and that he’s 65 years old. He’s washed up, the critics say and write. LSU was a shell of itself when Miles departed after four games in 2016.
Well, Kansas football fans wouldn’t know what to do with a team that won 37 games over a four-year stretch, which is what LSU did in Miles’ final four full seasons. Surely, I don’t need to remind you that Miles and the Tigers did that in the SEC, which last I checked is a decent little football conference.
Those “down” seasons at LSU everybody points out about Miles, from 2012 through 2015? Well, yes, the Tigers did lose 14 games in those four seasons. Nine of those were to ranked teams and seven were to teams ranked inside the Top 10. Eight were by a touchdown or less.
According to NCAA.com, there were 40 former LSU players on NFL rosters at the beginning of the 2018 season. Only Alabama (44) had more.
Miles gets players. At LSU, nine of his 11 recruiting classes from 2006 through 2016 were ranked in the top eight in the country by Rivals.com. During that span, he convinced 22 five-star recruits to play for the Tigers.
It would take Jesus preaching from Mount Oread to convince a five-star recruit to play for Kansas.
Miles has a pedigree. And if you compare him to Weis, a disaster of a coach for KU from 2012 through four games of the 2014 season, you’re as lazy as he was.
Weis never had a chance. He thought he was too entitled to do the dirty and hard work necessary to make the Jayhawks a winning football program. The job simply overwhelmed Weis when it dawned on him he wasn’t sending plays in for Tom Brady.
Miles was unceremoniously dumped at LSU four games into the 2016 after, frankly, fans there had become sick and tired of watching the Tigers’ unimaginative and unproductive offense. Ranked No. 5 in the preseason, LSU lost its opener to Wisconsin and was beaten by Auburn the day before Miles was canned.
If there is a cause for concern, it’s that Miles did allow the LSU offense to stagnate. The team’s quarterback play deteriorated and Miles seemed incapable of fixing things.
But, again, this is all relative. Even with a lackluster offense, LSU was banging out winning seasons one after the other. And because of the way it ended in Baton Rouge, one would expect Miles to be cognizant and motivated of the need to produce something a little more electric on offense.
He’s coming back to a conference where he excelled at Oklahoma State from 2001-04. His Cowboys teams upset Oklahoma couple of times and Miles wasn’t averse to mixing it up verbally with Bob and Mike Stoops in those days.
He’s as colorful as any coach in the country, doesn’t take himself too seriously, and will amp up a fan base – and donor base – that has not been very giving for the past decade.
Of course, he does not come with a money-back guarantee. There is risk to hiring Miles as there would have been for any coach KU athletic director Jeff Long picked. Maybe he is too old. Maybe he is out of ideas.
Kansas needed to strike a match with this hire and Miles is a coaching wildfire. He can’t be worse than what the Jayhawks have had and history indicates he’ll be a whole lot better.