Earlier this week, Les Miles took a few broadsides from the media covering the LSU football team and its still struggling passing game.
Here’s a sampling as provided by Glenn Guilbeau of The Shreveport Times…
REPORTER: “Jordan Jefferson’s been in the program for almost three years now. Jarrett Lee’s been in it for four, and yet you’ve got the worst passing attack in the SEC. It continues that way every week. Every week, you answer the question the same way, that ‘We’ve got to get better throwing the ball.’ What are you all not doing? Or what is the problem?”
MILES: “We’re throwing it, I can tell you that.”
REPORTER: “I know that, but…”
MILES: “We’re throwing it. I don’t know. It’s… we’re working at it. And the players and the coaches are taking the time. And we’re throwing. We’re throwing balls. I guess for me, I just expect at some point in time that this thing is going to take off. I just think it’s OK. That’s what we would well have expected.”
REPORTER: “Do you think the coaching has been good enough after four years with one, three with the other?”
MILES: “I don’t know. You know, that’s a tough question. The only thin I can tell you is that they’ve been coached and coached and coached and drilled. The passing attack has not changed so significantly that it’s not comfortable for all. I, uh, yeah, I think they’ve been coached.”
Well it could get even more brutal if LSU loses to Alabama next Saturday and can’t throw the ball to boot. With Miles possessing a buyout clause that basically cedes to him all the lands of The Louisiana Purchase should he be ousted, offensive coordinator Gary Crowton figures to be LSU’s version of The Fall Guy if things don’t improve.
But it’s hard to point a finger at Crowton considering his past work with passers.
He began his career in 1982 under LaVell Edwards at BYU. From 1991 to 1993 he tutored future NFL quarterback Glenn Foley at Boston College. As Louisiana Tech’s head coach in 1997, his team was third in the nation in passing and in total offense with future NFL quarterback Tim Rattay at the helm.
A year later, Rattay threw for a ridiculous 590 yards against 4th-ranked Nebraska. The Bulldogs had the top passing offense in the nation in 1998 and Rattay was named an All-American.
After Louisiana Tech, Crowton became offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears where his 1999 squad ranked #3 in the NFL in passing and set a franchise record for passing.
Next, Crowton served as head coach at BYU for four seasons. In 2001, the Cougars led the nation in total offense and in scoring. Future NFL pick John Beck was his signal-caller in 2004.
After losing his job at BYU, Crowton became the offensive coordinator at Oregon. Again, his offense ranked in the Top 10 nationally in a number of categories. His quarterbacks were future NFL’ers Kellen Clemmens and Dennis Dixon.
After coming to LSU in 2007, the Tigers immediately won a national title with him calling plays. Matt Flynn threw for nearly 2,500 yards and wound up being drafted into the NFL.
FOR MORE ON CROWTON’S SUCCESSES AND LSU’S CURRENT WOES…
So what does all this tells us? It tells us fans might be getting on Crowton’s case now, but the guy is as much of a quarterback guru as you’ll find in the college ranks. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has worked with more than six passers who’ve been drafted into the pros.
Making the Tigers’ 2010 passing troubles even harder to understand is the fact that Jordan Jefferson has clearly regressed from a season ago.
Has Crowton pushed the wrong buttons with Jefferson this year? Or did he find a way to get the most out of him last season? The more you study Crowton’s track record the more you buy into the latter.
Also, part-timer Jarrett Lee has improved his play. Lee didn’t play much in 2009, but he’s made a good jump from 2008 to 2010. His completion percentage has boomed from 53.2% to 68.8%. In ’08, he threw an interception once every 17 passes. This year he’s tossed just one pick in 64 attempts. His passer rating has also climbed from 115.70 to 134.74.
Crowton may well wind up being the fall guy in at LSU, but it’s fair to ask why he’s not had more talent to work with on the Bayou. Yeah, yeah, Ryan Perrilloux, I know. But aside from Perrilloux, what great quarterback prospect has Miles’ staff identified, signed and kept on campus?
When it comes to LSU’s passing struggles this season, only one thing appears clear: It’s unlikely that Crowton is the problem in Baton Rouge.