Rabalais: LSU has a plan to keep Joe Brady, but the situation has its complexities
6 days ago The Advocate 0
The holiday season means the postseason for college football.
It also means the silly season for college football coaching. You’re shopping for ties and earrings and pieces of the Tiger Stadium sod they pulled up after the Texas A&M game (too late, it’s all gone), and schools are shopping for “The Chosen One.”
Just take the 30-minute span Monday afternoon of LSU coach Ed Orgeron’s SEC Championship Game preview news conference. First came the convincing — but ultimately fake — tweet that Ole Miss had hired Washington State coach Mike Leach. That was followed closely by the real news that Washington coach Chris Petersen (hired there in 2014 by current LSU athletic director Scott Woodward) was stepping down after the Huskies’ upcoming bowl game.
No one is looking for Orgeron to go anywhere. But it is one of the truisms that successful programs must try to build a wall around their most valued assistants, because someone is always trying to poach them.
It was no surprise then that a report surfaced Sunday that rookie LSU passing-game coordinator Joe Brady, he of the new-fangled schemes and plays that has helped the Tigers’ offense rocket up the charts like a new Adele album, is one of Texas’ two top targets for its new offensive coordinator.
You remember Texas? The team LSU beat in September? Coached by the genius Tom Herman who used LSU to bring Texas to the bargaining table three years ago? The team that is so “We’re baaack!” that it has fired both its coordinators?
The prospect of Brady being in Texas burnt orange next year when the Longhorns visit Tiger Stadium is about the most repugnant thing an LSU fan could imagine, I suspect. But if they’d seen the look on Orgeron’s face when he was asked about Brady on Monday, they might feel a lot less anxious.
“We’re a step ahead,” Orgeron said, then smiled a smile you imagine he gets when he gets a commitment from a five-star prospect.
Those are players he knows he will have for three to four years. Certainly O and LSU are hoping to do the same with Brady, who by all accounts is due a ginormous raise from his current $410,000 salary and a new multi-year contract.
“You want them to have a lot of success, go on,” Orgeron said. “But we’re going to compete (for Brady). We have a plan in place. I think we’re in good shape.”
Ask the question “Does LSU want to keep Joe Brady?” and the easy answer is yes. But the entire situation has complexities.
What kind of financial reward does LSU give offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger? At 61 he’s 31 years Brady’s senior and makes about twice what Brady does. But combined, they don’t make half of defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s $2.5 million salary. It is logical to think LSU may pay Ensminger/Brady some combination roughly equal to Aranda’s take, but that’s unknown.
Does Orgeron make Brady co-offensive coordinator? O has long acknowledged that Brady always has a play teed up if Ensminger wants his input. But he also divulged there are times Brady makes the calls. Does the dynamic that has worked so well to this point change in that regard?
Then there is the Joe Burrow factor. LSU has excelled on offense this season because of the following flow chart:
Orgeron said: “Let’s go to the spread.”
Ensminger said: “OK, let’s get a guy. I don’t have a big ego to bruise.”
Brady said: “I have a few ideas that may amuse you.”
Burrow said: “Watch this. I can score 40-50-60 points per game with this offense.”
The result has been the tastiest offensive gumbo in LSU history, producing a school record 584 points so far with at least two games to go. The Tigers rank No. 2 nationally with 48.7 points and 560.5 yards per game. Not surprisingly, Brady is one of five finalists for the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant.
But what will the whole production look like next year when Burrow is in the NFL? And when big offensive stars like Justin Jefferson and Clyde Edwards-Helaire may be gone as early draft entries? It would be unfair to expect the offense to be quite as good, but how “not quite as good” will LSU be?
Woodward’s stated goal since arriving at LSU in April has been to invest in human capital, so the prospect that even deep-pocketed Texas can outbid LSU for Brady seems unlikely. But does Brady, who spent the previous two seasons as a Padawan in Sean Payton’s offensive galaxy with the Saints, yearn to return to the NFL? And even though his résumé is mighty short — before the Saints, Brady spent two years as a graduate assistant at Penn State and two years before that as linebackers coach at William & Mary, his alma mater — could a desperate school try to lure him to be their head coach? There are indications Arkansas is trying to lure Lane Kiffin from Florida Atlantic to Fayetteville. If Kiffin leaves, would FAU try to make another splashy offensive hire with Brady, who happens to be from South Florida?
Those are unknowns all the money in LSU’s world may not be able to keep at bay. LSU is expected to give Brady its best shot. But if the wunderkind coach keeps it up, this won’t be the last silly season in which his name is mentioned big time.