In defense of Les Miles

Published 9:37 am Thursday, July 31, 2008

Numerous people across the nation including many football fans right here in Alabama have joked about LSU coach Les Miles. People have criticized him for being crazy and being way too risky with his play calling.

I admit that our sports editor Stephen Dawkins and I have not been Miles’ biggest fans. In fact, that was usually the first thing we would talk about Monday morning during the football season last year. We would say Miles is probably the luckiest coach in the history of college football or that Miles nearly blew another one. We actually had a field day when Kentucky and Arkansas beat the Tigers last year.

Even with all of that, I realize that there’s no reason to bash Miles anymore. While he is unorthodox in his decision making, that living-life-on-the-edge mentality has undoubtedly made LSU the team it is. Although they lost two games last year, they still wound up being the National Champions. And that is something a team from our state hasn’t done in more than a decade.

It is arguable that Miles wouldn’t have been successful if he hadn’t followed Nick Saban, but even with that, Miles still had to coach his team. Over the last three years, Miles has an astounding 34-6 record. Three of those losses were in overtime, two of which were in triple overtime. Another was a very controversial 7-3 loss to Auburn.

Also, Miles had to deal with the unfortunate happenstance of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm ravaged Louisiana and caused all kinds of problems for his team – both on and off the field. That’s probably a reason why LSU lost to Tennessee, but instead of going in the tank, the Tigers came together and had an outstanding season.

Last year, LSU had devastating losses to Kentucky and Arkansas, but the Tigers bounced back and was the last team still standing.

Oh, and the risky play calling – sure Miles does it all the time, but that’s who he is. LSU had 16 fourth down plays this year and converted all but three of them. That’s an 81-percent conversion rate, which was the best in the NCAA. LSU’s opponents only converted fourth downs 29 percent of the time.

Let’s face it. Les Miles is a great coach. His record has earned him that recognition. It’s tough to say if he is the best coach in the nation, but I wouldn’t let him go if he was coaching my team.