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Purdue Football Coaching Candidates: Les Miles

Is the Mad Hatter eyeing a stop in West Lafayette?

Mississippi State v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

With the start of basketball season and the winding down of football we have been a little lax in some of our coaching profile pieces, but I will try to get a few more out. Purdue has been rather hush about the hiring process. A hiring firm has been brought on to “get in touch with the right people and agents” in order to gauge interest. That makes sense. Purdue is in a unique spot right now because it is one of only two power five schools with a midseason opening right now. That allows it to get a jump on the process.

Given Gerad Parker’s 0-3 record despite on the field improvement and the news that Purdue is willing to commit financially it looks like Parker won’t have the interim tag removed, but that is not a bad thing. Parker has done an admirable job. In fact, he has done a better job than Darrell Hazell ever did. It looks like Purdue is going to aim higher, however.

Speaking of aiming higher, the only other power 5 school with a midseason opening, LSU, might be where we are looking. We gave them a quarterback, so it is only fair they give us a head coach.

Les Miles

Current Job: Unemployed

Current Salary: None (received $12.9 million buyout from LSU)

Buyout: None

Coaching Record: 141-55 (2 Conference Championships, 1 National Championship in 16 seasons)

Age: 63 as of today (Happy Birthday, Les).

In terms of pedigree, Miles has it. He averaged almost 9 wins a season, won a national title, played for another, and his worst year ever was 4-7 at Oklahoma State in 2001, his first year as a head coach. Aside from this season he never won fewer than eight games at LSU and seven times he won 10 or more games. By comparison, Purdue has a single 10-win season in its entire 130 year history, and that was in 1979.

Miles is basically an interception and a split second from still being employed this year, too. A late interception sealed a neutral field loss to Wisconsin (who happens to be really good, by the way), and Danny Etling getting the snap off a half second late before the game-winning touchdown against Auburn led to a second loss. That was enough to fire a coach who had 34 losses in 11 plus seasons at LSU, while Purdue had 33 losses in three and a half years under Hazell.

LSU fired Miles because he wasn’t Nick Saban. He regularly pulled in insane recruiting classes, but since losing to Saban in the 2011 national title game He “only” went 10-3, 10-3, 8-5, 9-3, and 2-2. After starting the 2011 season 13-0 his LSU teams lost 16 games, and five of them were to Alabama, who, I might add, IS REALLY, REALLY FUCKING GOOD!! Miles’ teams were always excellent and among the top 15 nationally, but that is not good enough in the SEC.

There was also concern about his stodgy, old school playcalling. Many fans who don’t want him at Purdue have compared him to the Fred Akers hire in 1987. Akers was never on the level of Miles, however. Akers was 86-31-2 in 10 years at Texas, but he had leveled off significantly at the end. His last three teams were 7-4-1, 8-4, and 5-6. In four years at Purdue he couldn’t recruit and was 12-31-1.

I don’t think Miles would have such a problem. First, his name alone would drastically improve recruiting from its current state. Of course, under Hazell we couldn’t even be bothered to offer a 4-star offensive tackle across town when we desperately needed an offensive tackle, so improving recruiting won’t be hard. Miles still carries a big name in college football. He can flash a national championship ring and get the attention of a lot of kids.

Second, Miles is willing to change from what got him fired:

Miles’ LSU offenses didn’t change a lot over the years. While college football spread itself out and became more about tempo, Miles stuck with a powerful running game that had worked for the Tigers over the years. But he told Thamel he’s spent time studying more opened-up offenses at Baylor, Tulsa, and Western Michigan, and he signaled he won’t be locked into any particular style of play if he gets another job.

"The evolution is always based on where your best talent is,” Miles said. “I'm a guy that very comfortably sees the guys he has and can adapt. We can be gun run and throw 50 percent or more of the time. I can be very comfortable with a Cam Newton-style of player at quarterback. Or we can have a guy more comfortable back in the pocket. The reason we've had longevity is that we've had the ability to evolve and we will always evolve."

If he is willing to study, adapt, and implement a Baylor offense without all the… issues Baylor had behind the scenes that sounds good to me. It certainly beats reviewing the tape and fixing what is wrong. Purdue has long been known as the Cradle of Quarterbacks, so a quarterback friendly offense can definitely play on that.

Oh, and Miles’ defenses could be a dramatic improvement. In 2014 his teams held opponents to 20 or fewer points in eight of 13 games. You’re going to win a lot if you can score 30 points a game while holding opponents under 20.

A potential hiring of Miles would also be dependent on his coordinators. Fortunately, he is already looking into that:

Sources said Miles and his representatives have already been contacted about coaching in 2017. Miles told ESPN on Thursday that he would not discuss any specific job opportunities, either college or NFL.

"I'm looking for a place dedicated to the players' achievement in the classroom and that wants to win championships," said Miles, who turned down television offers after his dismissal at LSU. "If there's an athletic director and president that wants to do that, I'm in line."

Miles has had a solid track record in hiring impact coordinators in the past such as John Chavis and Dave Aranda at LSU and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State.

"Since getting fired at LSU, Les has really had an epiphany on how he needs to open up offensively at his next stop," an industry source said. "He is committed to it."

The article later says that he has been in touch with many high school coaches wanting to know where he is coaching next year. That keeps his recruiting pipelines strong.

To me, this almost sounds like a dream scenario. Purdue will need to pay him, but not an exorbitant amount because he just got a huge buyout. He recognizes his weaknesses and is working on them to the point he would already have a list of coordinators in mind. He has strong recruiting contacts and he knows the Big Ten because he played at Michigan. His age may be a question, but even if he only coaches another 10 years he will likely leave Purdue in a far better spot than he found it. He might even be a little more likely to stick around after a rebuild than a Fleck, who could be lured to greener pastures.

Fleck seems like a long-term rebuild that might have a high upside, but it might not. Miles sounds like a shocking “name” hire that would be a completely unexpected move from Purdue given its history.