Les Miles was fired last night. LSU’s coach with the second most wins in their program’s history is gone. The Tigers only lost 34 games from 2005 to 2016 while under Les Miles, but a stagnant offense and archaic schemes cost Miles in recent years. LSU made the right move to fire their head coach as the program was regressing. But that doesn’t mean that schools and fans all over the nation will come calling.
Enter the Dan Mullen hot seat weirdness. It’s hard for anybody to dispute that Mullen is under pressure. An inability to crack the ceiling in the SEC West and a failure to beat Ole Miss in recent years has put a strain on the fanbase’s relationship with the guy that is arguably the greatest coach in Mississippi State history. And now many fans are calling for Les Miles to move to Starkville.
While Miles is a better coach with more prestige and long term success than Mullen might ever achieve, the refusal to improve upon his faults wound up costing Miles his job. The Mad Hatter lost his magic somewhere along the way, and the Tigers have been regressing since 2013. And so, while Miles is a better coach than Mullen, there is no recent evidence to show that Miles would be an immediate improvement.
If the change was made, the win totals year in and year out would not improve upon what Dan Mullen has brought us. If anything, they would likely decrease at first. As we’ve seen with Arkansas and Bret Bielema, to attempt to use an archaic offense that is predicated on running right at opponents in today’s game takes years of building depth before you can truly compete in the SEC West.
Any potential gain would take a few years and Les Miles isn’t getting any younger. Miles is entering into the home stretch of his coaching career. The trend of college head coaches of moving away from established coaches and on to younger guys isn’t slowing down any time soon. Teams are hoping for more long term potential. That will likely keep Miles, at 62, from getting a job where a team wants a long term coach.
Mississippi State needs a long term answer, and ultimately that may not be Dan Mullen either. He’s lost three of the last four Egg Bowls, has failed to consistently compete against the upper echelon teams in the SEC West, and is currently struggling against inferior opponents. The program can’t afford to regress and lose any momentum. There’s a chance that he might leave after this season, as he’s reportedly looked at doing previously. And with the possibility of Scott Stricklin leaving for Florida, things could get really weird really quickly in the athletic department.
And so, even though I’m not against pursuing Les Miles (I think it’d be fun to watch), the benefits do not outweigh the costs. They’re about equal. The program would gain a recruiting boost but would also lose out in offensive efficiency and output for the foreseeable future.
The hire would be exciting, anybody who says otherwise isn’t looking at all that Miles has accomplished. It would be fun. But the overall outcome would not be a significant improvement upon what we have now. And a marginal benefit would not do anything to improve the future of the program. It’s possible that the team would get a few more upsets a year, but they’d also likely get upset a few more times a year.
If the roster was filled with more experienced talent (particularly the offensive line) or if Les showed the ability to reinvent himself, then an argument could be made that the benefit could potentially be greater than what it appears to be at the moment. But Mississippi State’ offensive line struggles and there’s no evidence that Les Miles wouldn’t be stubborn in the future as well.
Exchanging Dan Mullen for Les Miles would be exciting, but it’d also be a mess.