For ten months we’ve talked about what Ed Orgeron doesn’t have for his fourth season as LSU head coach. He doesn’t have Joe Brady and Dave Aranda on his staff, nor does he have Joe Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Justin Jefferson, J’Marr Chase and others from the nation’s best offense. He doesn’t have Patrick Queen, K’Lavon Chaisson, Kristian Fulton and others from the defense.
One year after building the best team in college football history, Ed Orgeron doesn’t have a lot through no fault of his own. Thirty-year-old Joe Brady landed an NFL opportunity one year after arriving as an unknown assistant buried on Sean Payton’s staff with the New Orleans Saints. Dave Aranda was finally offered a decent Power Five job, and those seven players (and more than a dozen others) exhausted their eligibility or capitalized on skyrocketing NFL stock. No one is blaming Ed Orgeron for those departures and no one expected him to reload, even with oodles of talent left behind.
Now, we need to talk about what Ed Orgeron does have…or did have. After Aranda left for Baylor, Orgeron held one of the most attractive assistant jobs in college football, one with an annual salary presumably in the neighborhood of $2 million and the resources to reload and rebuild a championship-caliber unit. Orgeron didn’t target Jim Leonhard, Morgan Scalley, Don Brown, or Clark Lea, all potentially attainable assistants with lower salaries. He didn’t promote longtime assistant Corey Raymond, swipe Kansas State’s Scottie Hazelton, or want former Missouri coach Barry Odom.
Instead, Orgeron handed a $6.9-million check Bo Pelini, a former LSU defensive coordinator who pissed off everyone at Nebraska and won 16 games over his final three seasons at Youngstown State. Pelini would become the second-highest-paid assistant coach in the country and was guaranteed every dollar of the three-year, $6.9-million deal. He was making more money than Brent Venables, Mike Elko, Steve Sarkisian, and every other FBS assistant not named Kevin Steele, Auburn’s longtime defensive coordinator.
Bo Pelini wouldn’t have ditched his mid-six-figure salary at Youngstown State for a $1.5-million salary at LSU? Or even, though still outrageously high, $2 million? The hire itself was dumb. The salary was downright insanity. And five games into Pelini’s return to Baton Rouge, both the hire and salary have proven to be catastrophic unforced errors by a coach who hung onto Dave Aranda after Les Miles’ firing and plucked Joe Brady from the Saints. Orgeron proved he can make smart hires, so why did he feel compelled to gift $6.9 million to an old friend with no recent success in his profession?
Ed Orgeron doesn’t have Aranda, Brady, Burrow, and almost everyone else, but he did have an opportunity to land a legit coach. He hired Bo Pelini instead.