Most people did not see this coming. Most people thought USC Football would phone in their season after a horrible loss to Arizona State and the subsequent firing of their coach. Now USC stands at 8-3 after starting 3-2. They are ranked for the first time since losing to Washington State back in early September. They just dropped rank #4 Stanford. All this was made possible by interim head coach Ed Orgeron.
Ed Orgeron has become a fan, media, and player favorite. The emotions surrounding him are at an all time high. These players, fans, and some media contributors are calling for Orgeron’s interim tag to be removed. There has even been a strong negative reaction upon news that Pat Haden had interviewed Denver Broncos interim head coach and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. All this has got to stop.
Coach O has done wonderful things for the team. He has unlocked their potential and he deserves a lot of credit for that, but Trojan fans should refrain from taking it too far. At the very least, two regular season games and a bowl game still remain on the schedule. USC still has a lot of time for a possible trip up. Much of the luster of Coach O would likely wear off in the unlikely event he loses to Colorado and/or UCLA. But that’s not the point.
The point is that everyone can— and should— wait and see. At the very least, everyone should wait until the end of the regular season. There are too many factors to consider when hiring a head coach. It could be a three to five year commitment.
As Haden once aptly stated, there was a significant number of people clamoring to extend Lane Kiffin’s contract after his 2011 season. In hindsight, it’s obviously not what was good for the football program. This is a big decision that could have far-reaching effects and requires a substantial amount of consideration into, basically, everything.
Recall earlier in the season, when the defense was working particularly well, but the offense managed to throw the game away. There were little to no halftime adjustments to account for this. If offensive coordinator Clay Helton cannot make these changes, then can Orgeron help him with it? At this point in time, it seems like a no.
Some of that can be chalked up to picking up the pieces midseason. USC probably continues to run on Kiffin’s playbook because it’s impossible to change completely on a short timetable. The injuries and lack of personnel could probably hurt any possible adjustments.
Orgeron has a primarily defensive pedigree, yet, has never been a defensive coordinator. Can he help make adjustments on the defensive side of the ball? That’s also unproven. He appears to rely heavily on his assistants while playing motivator for the team. If he depends on assistants too much, what happens when they leave?
Assistant coaches can make or break a football team. If USC continues its success with Orgeron as head coach, assistant coaches will get hired away to other programs or NFL positions. The current staff was inherited by Orgeron. Would he be able to pick out great replacements to fill the holes? What should USC do about him if he cannot?
Imagine this scenario: Orgeron wins out and wins whichever bowl game USC gets an invite for. Haden hires Orgeron as head coach. He starts to have somewhere around .500 seasons, finishing with 8 wins or less. What does USC do with him then? Unceremoniously let him go like they did with John Robinson back in the late 90s? That would be bad for the Trojan Family and for PR.
Players’ futures are not renewable resources. If Orgeron gets to that point, players would suffer another bad coaching turnover. They could end up transferring or getting lost in the shuffle.
It may be sad to see politics like this in a hire for a football coach, but that is the reality of the situation. Instead of putting USC and Orgeron in a possible hard place later on, perhaps they should consider retaining him on staff in some other position. He may eventually become a legendary assistant like Marv Goux.
Orgeron does have a lot going for him. He has proven short-term success directly at USC. He knows the importance of the traditions and what the job entails. This was not the case with previous coaches like Larry Smith, whom famously said, “Names and logos don’t mean anything. You don’t beat someone just because of your name and logo,” in reference to USC. Although successful on the field early on, his final few seasons were subpar by USC standards, leading to that statement. That, along with altering the uniform, caused him to be ousted.
One could argue that achieving this level of success is tantamount to taking the “red pill,” where there is no going back. With Orgeron winning big, it would be difficult to fit him back into an assistant coach position. The threat of insubordination would likely loom over the new head coach for many years. At the first sign of trouble, people would call for the new head coach to be fired, and Orgeron named in his place.
The bottom line: the situation is complicated. Orgeron currently seems to be a decent candidate. He should definitely be considered above many other candidates in the nation. However, there are candidates that should be considered before Orgeron. Is he worth the risk? Are the other candidates worth the risk? Would you be willing to put your money on their success or failure?