Together to the bitter end

COLUMN: For reasons only he knows the answers to, LSU coach Les Miles decision to stick with Jordan Jefferson persists through the tough loss to Alabama.

NEW ORLEANS – For four years, the fates of LSU coach Les Miles and quarterback Jordan Jefferson were intertwined, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.


Monday night in a disheartening 21-0 loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game, that relationship screeched to a frustrating halt at the finish line, kinda like those scenes you see when a plane’s landing gear doesn’t deploy properly.

The Miles and Jefferson tandem came to a bad end Monday against Alabama.


It’s over, this divorce that everybody knew was inevitable and most couldn’t wait for. And just when it looked so tantalizing that the final chapter might provide a great finish – a storybook ending to a novel you slog through and don’t really like all along – things went terribly awry.


To the end, to the stubborn end in Miles’ case, Jefferson was who the Tigers’ fortunes were hung on the final five games of the season after he came back from a suspension in the wake of the August bar fight that led to his arrest.


And this time, with a national championship on the line, LSU suffered because of the Miles-Jefferson tandem.


Very important to note: Jefferson did not lose the game all alone. It’s a pretty short list of who actually did play well against the Crimson Tide. Or coach well for that matter.


You know the cliché about it not being just about Xs and Os but also the Jimmys and Joes? Well Jimmy and Joe didn’t get much help Monday, especially on offense – at least not in terms of adjustments.


I’m never going to criticize an initial game plan because coaches spend a lot of time and effort coming up with that. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. When those blueprints aren’t working, though, it’s up to the coaches to tweak, tinker or completely start over.


Never saw that Monday, and that goes back to the Miles-and-Jefferson situation.


Remove the whole Jarrett Lee conundrum for now. That’s a hot-button topic that will have a long shelf life for sure.


As bad as Jefferson was, he never had much time to throw or room to run because the LSU offensive line struggled.

Whether Lee played or not, surely there had to be something different Miles and his offensive coaches could have done with Jefferson.


Instead, the game plan stayed the same, start to finish: Try a speed option that Alabama had solved, throw a bubble screen that went nowhere, try running off tackle or take a shot with Jefferson throwing the ball accurately under pressure.


No imagination, no creativity, no chance.


Jefferson didn’t lose the game for LSU. But in conjunction with the coaches’ refusal to change, the senior QB also didn’t do anything to help the Tigers win the game.


And now, it’s Miles who will pay the price of his decision to stick with Jefferson so long, despite all the legitimate reasons he could’ve and should’ve tried Lee or Zach Mettenberger. Jefferson moves on and leaves a confusing legacy with 24 wins as the starter, but arguably as one of the least popular quarterbacks in modern LSU football history.


Jarrett Lee prepared for five weeks to play against Alabama, but didn't and was never told why.

Losing the national championship game in a close game or losing had Lee at least gotten a chance to jump-start the offense would’ve been hard enough for Tigers fans to stomach.


But losing it with Miles allowing the ship to sink standing right next to Jefferson? That’s a much longer sentence. How long will it take Miles to live it down? Until LSU gets back to the national championship game and wins it.


Between now and if that happens, Miles’ tenure is now like a checkerboard. He has a national championship under his belt, he’s won two SEC crowns and he guided the Tigers to one of their best seasons ever through a 13-0 start.


Now the bar has been raised, perhaps for good.


With Jefferson and Lee gone, there’s a sense of renewal for LSU at the quarterback position. The evolution between the 2007 national title and this fractured, roller-coaster four-year transition created in large part by the Ryan Perrilloux debacle are finally done.


LSU has had an abundance of talent at every position but QB the last few seasons, and the Tigers are poised to remain among the national elite for a long time – if they can solve the glaring shortcoming they’ve wrestled with at signal-caller.


From every indication, Zach Mettenberger gives LSU the chance to do exactly that in 2012. If the big, strong-armed Georgian does so, perhaps the memory of what happened Monday will start to fade quickly.


If not, the ghost of Jefferson and the relationship with Miles could stick around a long time.


Tiger Blitz Top Stories