Monday, November 11, 2013
Orgeron deserving of a second chance
By Greg Katz
LOS ANGELES -- Back in early February, it was strongly suggested here that what the Trojans needed to do to resurrect a program that was obviously going in the wrong direction was to change the culture.
Former Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin was unable to change that culture, among other things, and USC athletic director Pat Haden had eventually seen enough and fired Kiffin with the season not even halfway completed.
Now with just three games remaining in the regular season, the USC Trojans are on the verge of perhaps not only being the story of the Pac-12, but interim head coach Ed Orgeron has emerged as a legitimate candidate for Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
Could Orgeron really be the Pac-12 Coach of the Year?
Ed Orgeron has reinvigorated USC players and fans alike in his five games as interim head coach.
Well, why not? All Orgeron has done is guide the Trojans to a 4-1 record by demonstrating exceptional leadership skills.
But now comes the moment of truth for Orgeron and his team -- Saturday night’s upcoming date with the fourth-ranked Stanford Cardinal in the Coliseum on national television. The country will get to see how far the Trojans have come under their interim commander-in-chief.
A victory over the favored Cardinal -- no easy feat by any stretch -- and all heads will turn towards Orgeron’s legitimacy as a permanent head-coaching candidate.
A victory over the Cardinal and some luck could also put the Trojans into a position to sneak through the Pac-12 South’s backdoor and into the conference championship game.
Since taking over for Kiffin, Orgeron has been a throwback to the Pete Carroll philosophy of fun and competition, which has translated into the Trojans playing at their highest level in a couple seasons.
If you’re looking for one word that describes the turn-around, it’s leadership; something that Orgeron’s predecessor sorely lacked.
If anything, Orgeron has proven just how much respected leadership can make a difference. Continuing to mold the team into his image and style, ‘Coach O’ has practically taken everything Kiffin did and has either a) turned it around or b) eliminated it entirely.
Yet despite all the good vibes he has accomplished thus far, Orgeron’s unsuccessful term at Ole Miss remains an issue to his detractors.
With an unimpressive 13-26 record, Orgeron maintains he learned a great deal from his previous mistakes with the Rebels, and says he is not making those same mistakes as the head coach of the Trojans.
For those that are skeptical of his learning curve, gridiron historians would point out that there have been other head coach “flops,” who, when given a second opportunity, have risen to a championship level.
Folks forget that former San Francisco 49ers head coach George Seifert, who won two Super Bowls, was once fired from Cornell. In fact, in two seasons with the Big Red, Seifert was a lackluster 6-12 and his teams never finished higher than fifth place in the Ivy League.
Then there’s the legendary Bill Belichick, who was considered a disaster with the Cleveland Browns with a 36-44 record. Belichick eventually resurfaced as the head coach of the New England Patriots, and we all know how that has turned out.
Neither Seifert nor Belichick were good fits in the places they were considered failures; however, they learned from their mistakes and persevered.
Maybe Orgeron falls into the same ‘second chance’ category as Seifert and Belichick. Maybe USC and Orgeron are a good fit even though Mississippi wasn’t.
What we do know is that Orgeron has proven a number of things during his brief interim head coaching status at USC: He’s an exemplary leader, has the ability to turn the program around in quick order, the moxie to change a culture, re-energize a depressed fanbase, and recapture the attention of recruits in regards to the Trojans football program.
If the Trojans interim head coach takes another giant step forward by beating Stanford on Saturday night, there could be a major Trojans fans groundswell in support of Orgeron as USC’s next permanent head coach.
In other words: If it ain’t no longer broken, then don’t try to fix it.