USC Football: 5 Reasons Why Ed Orgeron Remains Unemployed
"I want to be the head coach at USC," Orgeron declared two weeks before Pat Haden hired Steve Sarkisian away from Washington, according to ESPN Los Angeles' Garry Paskwietz. The way it's played out, that claim appears to be all-or-nothing in truth.
He instilled confidence in a shaky offense that scored 26 points per game in its first five contests of 2013 and 30.2 points during his brief tenure. Inspiring a talented yet unfulfilled roster, he whipped his charisma as a recruiting guru into a batch of culture-changing cookies in the Los Angeles spotlight.
Still, while momentum favored him, future scouting reports provided mixed outlooks. Following the momentous upset of Stanford, ESPN Los Angeles' Arash Markazi felt Orgeron performed well enough to secure the position. Conversely, David Tobia of Neon Tommy envisioned the adrenaline subsiding in the end.
The latter prevailed. USC welcomed Sarkisian immediately proceeding Coach O's Victory Bell defeat. Orgeron's next landing spot hasn't surfaced as suddenly, as he bakes in solitude.
So why doesn't he have a job yet? Does his feel-good campaign fail to mask the shortcomings of his resume? Did a competent coaching staff secretly carry him through an inferior schedule?
Were the opportunities he anticipated simply nonexistent this offseason? Or worst of all, did Orgeron already decline his best offer?
Trojan Pride or Lack Thereof
Sarkisian replaced Orgeron but did not fire him. Emotions prevented Sark from even having the chance.
Once Orgeron was spurned, ESPN's Brett McMurphy first tweeted the coach's alleged "outrage" toward the oversight, which led to an exit as precipitous as Sark's entrance.
Coach O could have finished the ride and led the Trojans in the Las Vegas Bowl, just as Clay Helton humbly auditioned for the college football universe before eventually being retained by Sarkisian. Instead, his blind desire to be a head coach rushed him into prematurely quitting.
The players exuded via Twitter both good graces and heartbreak. Defensive lineman George Uko equated the situation to losing a father and potentially could have been recruited harder to stay for his senior season otherwise. Kenny Bigelow, among others, expressed distaste in social media being the source of the firsthand news.
Raw feelings possibly heated the moment, but the temper tantrum and consequent disloyalty to USC before postseason's end didn't bode well for Orgeron's image. Many programs prefer a calm and selfless leader in the face of adversity, which he failed to demonstrate in this instance.
Moreover, he received ample offers from Sarkisian, most recently on Jan. 15 according to Rahshaun Haylock of Fox Sports. Details of the conversations never leaked, but Coach O refused the bait every time.
He wants to be a head coach, and there's nothing wrong with that. The leap of faith is faultless, aside from the fact that it's January and there's still no parachute.
It isn't a coincidence that Clay Helton is employed and Ed Orgeron isn't.
Award credit to Coach O's energetic demeanor with the media and on campus for USC's intangible revitalization. UCLA's Jim Mora surely did when voting for his school's rival for Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Per Chip Patterson of CBS Sports, Mora stated: "I think everybody that knows [Coach O] knows he has an infectious personality. You see it in the way his team plays."
It is equally true that Orgeron wisely granted play-calling duties to Helton in the wake of Kiffin's reign. Unfortunately for him, Xs and Os point the finger at the offensive coordinator for the offense's improvement.
Take a look at the evolution of Cody Kessler, one of USC's few constants in a depth chart plagued by injuries and early indecision. During the Trojans' first five games headlined by Kiffin's quarterback battle and anemic play-calling, Kessler completed 63.5 percent of his passes, averaged 166.4 yards per game and produced a touchdown-interception ratio of 6-4.
Here's Kessler's stat line over the next eight contests: 65.2 completion percentage, 223.9 yards per game, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. It's significant growth, but although Orgeron led the charge, Helton called the shots on the field.
Meanwhile, scoring defense proved to be more efficient with Orgeron manning the defensive line (21.2 points per game) rather than heading the sideline (21.4 points per game). As we all recall from our primary educations, math is supposed to be important later on in life.
Defense is Orgeron's forte and the strength of USC this past season. Nonetheless, ESPN's Ted Miller suggests it was the arrival of Clancy Pendergast's 5-2 scheme that made the difference and returned the Trojans to the upper echelon of defenses.
Orgeron and Pendergast are keeping each other warm throughout these jobless winter months thus far. Pendergast's prospects appear more fruitful, though. Reign of Troy's Hank Shaw predicts his candidacy in regard to defensive coordinator positions at UCLA, Stanford and in the NFL.
Time served as the inspirational figurehead amid emotional circumstances is invaluable. However, if athletic directors are perusing the nitty gritty numbers, then USC's success derived from an overall team effort in lieu of Coach O's impact on the Xs.
What's left is a pre-existing resume that questions Orgeron's capability to maintain full-time operations stricken of adrenaline or when it matters most.
Two more victories might have swayed Pat Haden's decision. Losing to two rivals in Notre Dame and UCLA essentially nullified all additional achievements in the campaign, according to the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke.
Minus the field storming against Stanford, Orgeron's five other wins took advantage of teams with a combined 25-37 record. Only against Cal did USC build a halftime lead of 20-plus points and sustain such a margin throughout the second half.
A previous head coaching stint with Ole Miss comes off underwhelming as well. Hired in 2004 based on similar assistant merits and National Recruiter of the Year honors, Orgeron's 10-25 mark and mediocre conference play hardly survived three seasons in the unforgiving SEC.
Remove the feel-good storyboards from Orgeron's portfolio, and what stands in front of you is an energizer battery without warranting a substantial product to host it.
Aside from USC, no murmurs—let alone offers—arrived on Orgeron's doorstep, regardless of position or league.
In the pool of college football vacancies, too many sharks infested the waters.
Big kahunas Texas and Penn State opted for Charlie Strong and James Franklin, respectively, both of whom are ahead of Orgeron in experience and pedigree. Louisville sequentially gave familiar face Bobby Petrino a second chance, while any likelihood of Coach O returning to the SEC's head coaching ranks evaporated with Vanderbilt's hiring of Derek Mason.
This is also an era where college football programs are exploring the competence of African-American coaches more seriously. CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler reminds us that three of the previously mentioned four hires are minorities.
Rumors circulated that Coach O was once again treading the footsteps of Kiffin in a move to Alabama earlier this week, but CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman rapidly defused them prior to the Bo Davis switch. Tyler Waddell of Fan IQ predicted Miami could be a possible home, but no real developments revealed themselves.
Simply put, a perfect relationship between what Orgeron strives for and what other schools are in quest of has yet to crystalize. As he awaits a phone call about open head coaching positions, he simultaneously hopes it isn't too late to join the defensive coordinator carousel.
The most alarming facet of this phenomenon is how Coach O's spunk and recruiting prowess are outweighed by rawness and other flaws. Even USC, though, reinforced itself with a decent recruiter in Justin Wilcox, so there is supposedly enough widespread wealth in that department.
A realistic jump to the NFL ceased to exist merely because of aforementioned inexperience and devotion to recruiting. Then again, the Cleveland Browns are as desirable a franchise these days as UAB...and have yet to mention Orgeron's name.
The timing proved to be off. Luckily, it's fourth down, and there's still a desperate Hail Mary at fate's disposal...
Defensive Line Curse
The position of defensive line coach at USC has been filled—and cursed for all eternity.
Sarkisian originally intended for fellow Huskies coach Tosh Lupoi to accompany him. The Seattle Times' Adam Jude reports that Lupoi and Washington agreed to mutual separation and a $300,000 buyout courtesy of ongoing investigations of alleged recruiting infractions.
Needless to say, Lupoi put himself on the sidelines alongside Orgeron and Pendergast.
Ex-Texas man Bo Davis then assumed the role, only to bolt for Alabama six days later. Incumbent hire Chris Wilson is committed to staying in Troy, but not before undergoing his own wavering period upon being wrestled away from Georgia.
That's three extra chances presented to Coach O, and he slammed the door in Sark and Haden's faces every time. Thus, the omen persists, victimizing both Orgeron and the forever jinxed Trojans.
Betrayal is understandably difficult to swallow. The longer Orgeron remains unemployed, however, the freer USC is of blame.
There's no shortage of desire from the Trojans for his services. The players' "armed forces" illustrated such in Las Vegas.
If nothing else, the student body of Exposition Park realizes and appreciates everything done by Orgeron. The players respect his decision to seek greener pastures but wish he would suck it up and reside in their cardinal-and-gold grass.
Should Wilson ultimately change his mind, the invitation is standing for Orgeron. If not, it's slim pickings from here on out, and he will regret declining the guaranteed paycheck.