Les Miles was fired by LSU on Sunday evening, and as is the case in this industry, no matter what Miles accomplished in Baton Rouge, we must look ahead to determine his replacement at the same time we reflect on The Mad Hatter's time in the SEC West.
In the immediate term, it's defensive line coach Ed Orgeron who will be stepping in. Orgeron has coaching experience in the SEC West, as he lasted three very unsuccessful seasons at Ole Miss, and interim coach experience from serving in the role at USC after Lane Kiffin was fired. While we can't rule out the possibility of Orgeron holding on to the job, the odds are very much stacked against him.
This is LSU we're talking about. It's not firing Miles to replace him with Orgeron.
So who are the candidates to replace Miles? It's hard to say with a certainty, but these are most likely the candidates the Tigers are interested in.
Tom Herman, Houston: Every school in the country with an opening is likely to check in on Herman, and LSU can now get a head start on its peers. It's not hard to see why Herman is so enticing given his background under Urban Meyer and what he's already accomplishing at Houston -- on the field, off the field and on the recruiting trail. The only question is whether Herman will want to leave what he has built for LSU. He seems to have everything he wants right now, and if Houston joins the Big 12 sometime in the next few months, it'll be even harder to pry him away.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: It makes all the sense in the world for LSU to be interested in Fisher. He's a successful coach already who can recruit with the best of them, and he's proven he can groom quarterbacks at LSU. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense for Fisher to leave Florida State to start over in Baton Rouge. He's already proven he can win national titles in Tallahassee, and -- no offense to Clemson or Louisville -- I'd rather have to deal with those two schools than Alabama every damn season.
The Plan B options
David Shaw, Stanford: I'm of the opinion that if Shaw were to ever leave Stanford, it would be for an NFL gig. But if you're LSU, you owe it to yourself to find out. Shaw doesn't get enough credit for what he's done to maintain the program Jim Harbaugh built, and he runs a system that's similar to what LSU does already -- except with quality quarterback play! If he can recruit to Stanford, he can recruit to LSU.
Bobby Petrino, Louisville: This would be a big change for the style of football LSU plays, but Petrino has already proven he can win in the SEC West during his time at Arkansas. He's also proven that he'll leave a job -- no matter his level of success -- at the drop of a hat. The Tigers would just have to ask themselves whether they want to deal with everything that comes with Petrino. Sure, he's mended his reputation during his second stint with Louisville, but if he were to leave the Cardinals again, it would wipe all those good feelings away.
Gary Patterson, TCU: Patterson is one of the most successful coaches in the nation, and he has been for a while, yet he's still at TCU. That leads me to believe he wants to be at TCU, so I'm not sure LSU could pry him away. Still, it's an interesting idea, and Patterson is somewhat familiar with the area recruiting-wise.
Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State: Hey, LSU got Miles from Oklahoma State, so why not go back to the Cowboys well one more time? If fans have been upset about the lack of offense from the Tigers in recent years, Gundy could certainly fix that for you in a hurry. Plus, I have a hard time thinking Gundy wouldn't jump at the chance. Recent comments about how much more difficult it would be to recruit Texas if the conference adds Houston show that he's obviously concerned about the future and what he can accomplish in Stillwater. LSU would be a dream for him.
Lane Kiffin, Alabama offensive coordinator: This would be a very polarizing hire, but it's hard to argue that Kiffin has revitalized Alabama's offense since showing up in Tuscaloosa. The problem is that, while Kiffin has been a great offensive coordinator, history suggests he's not the best guy to have running the entire program. Though a Kiffin hire would be ironic in the sense that he'd be replacing Orgeron this time, but it could be best for Oregeron because Kiffin would likely keep him on staff.
The under-the radar possibilities
Willie Taggart, South Florida: Taggart definitely wouldn't be the first choice, but if South Florida has another strong season, there are certainly worse "Plan C" options out there. He runs a system that's similar to what LSU does, but he's also shown the ability to adapt to his personnel, which is something Cam Cameron -- also fired -- had trouble doing in recent years.
Jeff Brohm, Western Kentucky: Like Taggart, I certainly wouldn't expect Brohm to be at the top of the list, but he's an intriguing option to consider. He's built some truly impressive offenses throughout his career both as a coordinator and now as a head coach at Western Kentucky. If LSU is open to changing directions and looking to light up scoreboards, Brohm could prove to be a brilliant hire.
The "holy crap I didn't see that coming" choice
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: OK, here's the theory. Dantonio has been incredibly successful at Michigan State. What he's done there is nothing short of remarkable. But look around him right now. Dantonio, as good as he's been, is sharing a division with Urban Meyer's Ohio State juggernaut and a Michigan program that appears on the verge of becoming a real power again under Jim Harbaugh. Maybe now is the best time for Dantonio to move on. If you combine his ability as a coach with the recruits he can land at LSU, well, just think about what he could possibly do there. Nobody expects it to happen, but this would be a home run hire for LSU if it found a way to pull it off.