By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Steve Myers, the founder of Tiger Rag, said it often and said it best: “No one leaves LSU happy.” With few exceptions, that rule has held up over time, and LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada appears to be its next victim.
After just one year of a three-year deal worth $4.5 million – all guaranteed – Canada and LSU are set to part ways following the Citrus Bowl, per multiple reports. The two sides have begun negotiations on Canada’s buyout, which, if fired without cause, will net him the rest of the $3 million he’s owed.
Emotions are running high, while information is running low. With that in mind, let’s parse out the facts and the opinions.
OPINION: Ed Orgeron made a mistake with Matt Canada
The nature of that mistake is up for debate, but I think it’s pretty fair to say there was a mistake made at one end of the process or the other. Either Orgeron screwed up by hiring Canada in the first place, not realizing the shift-heavy offense he’d bring to the table would clash with his vision of a pro-style attack similar to what he ran at USC, or not realizing that he simply wouldn’t get the job done to Orgeron’s expectations.
Otherwise, he’s now screwed up by firing an elite offensive mind because of a clash of personalities – “irreconcilable differences,” if you will.
Either way, Orgeron’s plan for restoring LSU to the top of the SEC was predicated on two pillars: enhanced recruiting and enhanced investment in coordinators. Time will tell how the first pillar plays out – LSU’s 2018 class sits at No. 12 nationally currently, its lowest ranking in a decade, but is also built on needed linemen and around a down year in Louisiana talent, while the state’s 2019 class is loaded – but the second pillar is half-wobbly, for the time being, with Canada set to leave town.
FACT: Orgeron tweaked Canada’s offense against Troy
Orgeron said this after LSU’s loss to Troy earlier in the season, in which the Tigers scored zero first-half points while using fewer of the motions and shifts Canada’s offense is predicated upon:
“I wanted to simplify only the shifts in motions. I knew we were going to start two freshmen (offensive) linemen, so I wanted the guys to be in place so we knew how to block them…I stepped in last time for the first time. And I wanted to simplify things in order for us to have less penalties, better execution.”
OPINION: Orgeron is done playing PR
Firing Canada is bad PR. Hiring Steve Ensminger to replace him would be bad PR, too, despite Slinger’s success in the interim role last year.
But it’s clear to me Orgeron is done playing that game. He won enough favor in the press and the public to get the job without LSU fans reacting to his hire as Tennessee’s did to Greg Schiano’s. PR is of far less value once you get the job than before.
Getting rid of Canada is, in Orgeron’s mind, the right football move. He needs a coordinator he can trust, the offensive version of Dave Aranda, who yesterday Orgeron called “loyal” and someone who “couldn’t work harder.” He apparently doesn’t see Canada in that mold, and he’s paid – and paid well – to make those calls, no matter the public price he pays on message boards, comment sections, and from Twitter eggs.
FACT: Canada’s LSU offense wasn’t great
The numbers on Canada’s lone year at LSU don’t jump off the page.
Stat, 2016 Ranking, 2017 Ranking
Scoring Offense,68, 70
Yards Per Play,13,28
Red Zone TDs,55,70 [/table]
Slightly better in total offense and passing offense, slightly worse in scoring, yards per play, rushing, and red zone. All at the price of $1.5 million.
OPINION: Canada’s offense was better than its stats
I thought Canada squeezed as much juice out of LSU’s offense this year as could’ve been hoped for, giving the following limitations:
- His best offensive player, Derrius Guice, was banged up most of the season
- His offensive line featured, at times, a majority of freshmen and was unprecedentedly young
- His depth at wide receiver was limited
- His quarterback, while consistent, tough, and accurate, had neither a huge arm nor excellent mobility
Canada’s play calling in big spots was decisive in big moments. He used jet sweeps early to jump ahead of Florida despite missing both starting tackles. He dialed up a doozy against Auburn, starting with a 4th and goal jet sweep to Stephen Sullivan for the first score in a massive comeback win over the SEC West champs. He orchestrated an offensive attack that outgained Alabama in Tuscaloosa and could’ve done far more, if not for some missed throws by Etling to open receivers.
He was no miracle worker, and you want more than middling production from the highest paid OC in the country, but given the talent at his disposal. I thought Canada did a pretty good job and showed his X’s and O’s acumen.
Some advanced stats seem to support this, too. (Click the link for definitions). Under Canada, LSU ranked 8th in the nation in Success Rate+, 19th in ISOPPP+, 6th in Rushing S&P+, and 24th in Passing S&P+.
[table] Advanced Stats, 2016 Rank, 2017 Rank
Success Rate+, 11, 8
ISOPPP+, 13, 19
Rushing S&P+, 6, 6
Passing S&P+, 32, 24 [/table]
FACT: Orgeron said both of these things
October 2016: “I do believe that the style of coach that I was during my last head coaching job was the style of coach you’re going to see now, a style of coach that I’m going to let my coaches coach. Give them a job. They’re going to be accountable, and if I see something that needs to be fixed we’re going to fix it….I was at Ole Miss as a D-line coach, and that’s how I coached the team, and you can’t coach a team that way. I went full speed ahead and I wanted to do everything, coach the quarterbacks, the receivers and I don’t know nothing about ’em, but I wanted to do it my way. And I learned about that.”
December 2017: “I’m the head coach. And we’re going to do what I want to do.”
OPINION: Head coaches are entitled to override assistants
Just because Orgeron promised to delegate more to assistants than he did in the past doesn’t mean he has to delegate entirely. If he sees something wrong with his offense, he is paid to make the change he sees fit. If that change doesn’t work, as it did against Troy, it’s he who pays the public price. Orgeron promised a shift in power to his coordinators. He did not promise to surrender power entirely, though, nor should he. He’s a coach, not a mascot. He should lead.
Striking the balance is always difficult, and it’s more difficult when your coordinators are the nation’s highest-paid and you campaigned for the job by asserting you’d hire the best and let them do their job, but it’s a balance he must find.
And he must find it soon. He’s got another coordinator to hire.
FACT: LSU is paying a lot in buyouts at a time of fiscal uncertainty
Depending on whether or not LSU can negotiate Canada’s buyout down, he’ll join the likes of Les Miles ($9 million), Johnny Jones ($800,000), Cam Cameron ($600,000), Dameyune Craig ($575,000), and other assistants who are being paid to no longer work for the university.
LSU paid $22 million in salaries in FY2016, per NCAA documents. It could be paying half that in buyouts in the coming years.
Meanwhile, the new tax law will throw into question a major source of funding for the athletic department: Tradition Fund donations. LSU could lose millions next year because Tradition Fund donations are no longer tax deductible. Every dollar matters.
OPINION: TAF Development Officers have work to do
Imagine being a fundraiser for TAF and approaching an old or potential donor for more money. Now imagine being asked this question:
“Is my donation going to be spent on building new facilities or paying off fired coaches who no longer work here?”
If you can answer that one, you might have a future in as a development officer.
FACT: Matt Canada has had five jobs in seven years
Canada has moved around a lot.
2011: Northern Illinois (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks)
2012: Wisconsin (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks)
2013-15: NC State (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks)
2016: Pittsburgh (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks)
2017: LSU (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks)
FACT: Dave Aranda has had four jobs in seven years
All coordinators move around a lot. It’s a profession of transience.
2011: Hawaii (defensive line, 2008-09; defensive coordinator, 2010-11)
2012: Utah State (defensive coordinator)
2013-15: Wisconsin (defensive coordinator/inside linebackers)
2016-17: LSU (defensive coordinator/inside linebackers)