Sunday - December 02, 2007
Undone by Uncertainty
With the abrupt and unexpected announcement that Les Miles has extended his contract with LSU, an announcement made at a press conference in which he was widely expected to announce he was leaving LSU for Michigan, the obvious question was "What went wrong."
I went around insisting that it had played out exactly as I had expected (see next blog entry down), except that Miles hadn't waited out LSU's bluff, that when Miles held all the cards and could have told LSU he would negotiate after the season, he buckled in, bought their bluff and announced he had agreed to the extension.
Now word is filtering out that there is a much bigger issue at work here, one that comes as a huge surprise to many of us who thought we were tuned into this search. Bill Martin is just not sold on Les Miles. How he could not be sold, I have no idea. I said months ago, before this job was even open, that Martin had to make the call on Miles' character before anything else, and not even put Miles on the list if he didn't feel comfortable with it. But on the field, there is no question on Miles. He wins consistently. He is in the national title game. There are no questions on Les Miles the football coach.
But Bill Martin isn't sold.
And Les Miles, with a team headed to the title game, and with a 10 year, $35M contract extension from LSU on the table in front of him, has no interest in taking chances on all of that just so that he can be part of a search headed by a guy who may not choose him in the end.
If Bill Martin had called Les Miles today and said "Les, 5 years, $16M," I am confident that Les Miles would have sheepishly walked to a podium next week, wiped the egg from his face and announced he was coming to Michigan. But Martin, who has had since September at the very least to conduct the background on this search, and who can lean on the experiences of literally dozens of people who have coached with or played with Les Miles, still wasn't sure.
And so Michigan's best chance at landing a true home run head coaching candidate has disappeared.
There is no way to spin this except as a tremendous screwup by Bill Martin. This is not the time to start doing background checks. This is the time to be making offers.