However, the move didn’t come without some criticism, with the hire’s naysayers normally doing so based on his fit (or lack thereof) in Baton Rouge. There were certainly some growing pains, like the accent snafu, and for a coach with no experience coaching south of Cincinnati, some of those concerns were valid.
But we’re still talking about one of the best coaches in college football, and when it came to Kelly’s fit in Baton Rouge, ESPN analyst Greg McElroy emphatically defended the hire on an episode of the Always College Football Podcast.
“LSU has the talent, we all know that. But do they now have the right leader? No doubt,” McElroy said. “A lot of people have mocked Brian Kelly all off season. A lot of people have said how bad of a fit he was. But here’s been my pushback with Brian Kelly’s hire: They just had the best fit ever at LSU. A guy that was from Louisiana, that had every relationship that you could possibly manufacture in the state of Louisiana in Orgeron. And it was a remarkable failure the last couple years.
“Brian Kelly, say what you want about his tenure at Notre Dame, his inability to get over the hump at Notre Dame, but he got them there. Got to the National Championship, got to the Playoff on multiple different occasions. He has kind of reinvented himself a time or two. And if you say anything about Brian Kelly, that he’s just not a great fit, well let me tell you what. A great fit at LSU is a guy that wins.”
He certainly makes a valid point here. You can’t get a more perfect cultural fit than Orgeron was on the bayou, and that situation still ultimately soured. When discussing how coaches can overcome perceived “poor fits” he drew a lofty comparison.
“Because last time I checked, when a guy that coached at Toledo and Michigan State decided to head on down to the Bayou, he won a lot of games. His name was Nick Saban. Wasn’t a great fit from West Virginia. But guess what: Gets down to LSU, he wins, he all of a sudden becomes a great fit.
“It doesn’t matter. The fit doesn’t matter. All that matters is winning. And at LSU, they have the pieces right now to get the job done.”
After the Orgeron era produced one of the greatest college football teams of all time but was unable to sustain that success, the Tigers hope they’ve got the right guy in Kelly — cultural fit or not.
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