Opinion: Why Les Miles’ affinity for Jordan Jefferson might spell doom for a potential nat’l championship campaign
By Scott BurnsPosted Apr 20, 2011
Webster’s dictionary defines “competition” as “the activity or condition of competing that exists between two or more parties looking to secure the business of a third party.” However, LSU football head coach Les Miles’ definition of competition runs a bit differently – shocking, considering the Mad Hatter’s affinity for the word “compete” and his renowned repute as a virtual connoisseur of the English lexicon.
Prior to spring drills, Miles made it clear he’d allow “competition” for the quarterback position, with returning seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee competing on a level playing field with highly touted junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger for starting honors as the Tigers’ signal caller for the season opener against Oregon.
The announcement gave many fans hope that perhaps, after enduring tumultuous and often excruciatingly poor quarterback play last season, Miles was finally open to a little healthy competition. The addition of new pro-style offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe also pointed to a “new beginning” for the Tigers’ sputtering offense. Maybe – just maybe – the Mad Hatter’s love affair with Jordan Jefferson wasn’t such a sacredly bound matrimony after all?
Then there was the Spring Game. By any objective standard, it was a re-run of the 2010 season – part deux. New year, same script.
Based on how the quarterback situation was managed this spring, Miles’ definition of healthy “competition” involves giving Jefferson every snap with the first team offense going up against the second and third team defense, while Lee and Mettenberger split time with the second and third units facing arguably the most talented defensive line and secondary in the SEC.
Whoever said open competition had to be conducted on a level playing field?
Although Miles may not publically admit it, this tilted rotation was the norm throughout spring practice. Although Mettenberger was supposed to receive a fair shot at winning the starting gig, the star recruit spent about as little time working with the first teamers as Nick Saban spent at home raising his children.
This definition of a “quarterback battle” hardly satisfies the notion of “fair competition,” much less the terms of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
To give Miles the benefit of the doubt, Jefferson might indeed give the Tigers the best chance to win in the season opener against Oregon. And who knows? If the Destrehan product could somehow find a way to translate his talent and raw ability to the playing field, a Jason Campbell-type senior season may be in the works.
But by foregoing open competition and handing the reins directly to the senior signal caller, Miles is neglecting the most important law of investment: diversify your portfolio. Never put all your eggs in one basket – especially when that basket is a “basket case” coming fresh off one of the worst seasons in NCAA football.
Jefferson might’ve taken home the Jim Taylor “Spring Leadership and Outstanding Performance” award, but unless he can start invoking the spirit of the great Taylor and actually begin moving the Tiger offense down the field, the award is less substantial than a Dundee. Until then, Tiger fans have a right to remain skeptical of Miles’ praise.
The only thing we know for certain about the quarterback situation after this spring is that all the talk we heard about Mettenberger getting his “fair shot” was just smoke and mirrors.
You can’t realistically win a starting quarterback job playing behind a third string O-line going up against a slew of All-SEC-caliber defenders. Especially not when the guy you’re trying to beat out is taking virtually all of the first team reps and going up against a mishmash of walk-ons and underclassmen. At this point, the prospects of any sort of legitimate “open competition” taking place this fall are slim to none.
Ultimately, however, quarterback jobs aren’t lost on the practice field – they’re lost on the playing field. And when you’re kicking off a season with national championship aspirations, you don’t have time to let those controversies work themselves out under the bright lights on Saturday night.
All of this speculation can be put to rest this fall if Jefferson performs the way his coaches insist he can. But until that happens, Miles needs to make sure he’s fully prepared another quarterback come this fall. The cost of not doing so might just be missing out on a national championship.