The words in the title of this post were said by Les Miles at his weekly press conference yesterday, and where I put a comma there was a pause of several seconds while Les Miles choked up and nearly lost his composure. You can watch the video here.
I know a lot of people around the country think Les Miles is a fool. A buffoon. A joke. I never have. I think he's an intelligent man, and what's more he has an infectious personality. Everyone who knows him (with the exception of Lloyd Carr, reportedly) considers him to be a tremendous human being. His greatest strength as a coach is that he believes in his players and cares about them, and they respond in kind.
I doubt he's great with X's and O's. But is that really necessary for a head coach? Does the head coach design plays for this team? I sincerely doubt it.
I doubt he's out there instructing linebackers or wide receivers in technique very often. But is that necessary for a head coach?
He certainly does not have the kind of press-friendly funny personality of a Steve Spurrier. While that personality has made Steve Spurrier a sport-transcending star to a certain extent, I wouldn't say it's what has made him a great coach.
Les Miles' job as a head coach is to a) motivate and manage players, b) choose and manage assistant coaches, c) recruit, d) be the public face of the program (including fund raising), and e) coordinate with the assistants on gameplanning and be the final decision-maker on play-by-play tactics (such as 4th down attempts). By my observations, he does four of these five roles with great skill. He's not a particularly good "public face of the program" as evidenced by the fact that a lot of people think he's a fool. A buffoon. A joke.
But I think even that reputation will come around soon. It is, by the way, a reputation that exists ONLY in the national media. The local media and the local fans, in general, don't feel the same way about him as the talking heads think. You simply cannot be a fool and be 32-5 in this league, even with the mythical "superior talent" we supposedly have. (If we have "superior talent", why couldn't anyone catch Brent Schaeffer?).*
This is all not to say that I think he's definitely staying at LSU beyond this season. While I think he was very sincere in saying that he loves LSU and won't do anything to hurt the team, he also did not say that he's definitely going to be around for 2008. I think he's definitely interested in the Michigan job, and I can't blame him. It's home for him. It's his dream job.
He unequivocally said that Michigan has not contacted him. Reportedly, Michigan has known since early in the season that Lloyd Carr would definitely retire, and I would be shocked if they did not at least put out feelers to Miles' agent as well as the agents of several other coaches. Les said nothing about whether his agent has been contacted.
We as football fans tend to treat football differently than we treat anything else in the world. If a coach leaves his team, he is considered disloyal, a traitor, an unperson. If he's flagrantly dishonest about, well, see what the national media says about Nick Saban. If I were to tell my boss later this morning that I'm leaving for a job I want more, he would wish me luck and move on. If I engage in a full-blown job search while still working there, well that would just be par for the course for a person trying to advance his career. Some bosses may be upset about that at times, but they get over it. Do the same thing as a football coach and be careful of the claws.
For the record, I am not looking for a new job. I just use that as an example.
All this is to say, if Les Miles gets a job opportunity at Michigan, and if he decides that the way for him to achieve personal fulfillment is to go there, I wish him luck. I will be disappointed, and I'm not naive enough to think it's a foregone conclusion our next hire would necessarily be a great fit or have the same level of success. Nor am I naive enough to believe that there will be no transition costs associated with that. This is why I want to keep him, but you won't see any anti-Les Miles rants from me if he leaves, even if he leaves before the bowl game, whichever bowl game that may be.
*I mean really. Get a load of his accomplishments. 32-5 overall record, which is one of the best opening records ever compiled by an SEC coach. Has never lost a non-conference game. Has only lost one home game. He has not lost to an unranked team. He's 6-3 against teams ranked in the top 10. He's 2-0 in bowl games, and both were routs. He's 2-0 in games in which his starting quarterback could not play due to injury. He's 11-0 in the month of November. He's the only LSU coach in history to record back to back 11 wins seasons, and he'll have 3 more games to get to 11 this year. He has had come from behind wins countless times, including 8 against ranked teams and several against ranked teams on the road. He has never had this team ranked outside the top 15, and has only rarely been ranked outside the top 10. He is the first LSU coach in MANY decades to actually win a game while ranked #1 in the country. We've won our first outright SEC West title since the SEC split into divisions. He's beaten every coach in the SEC except Mark Richt (whom he has faced once), and has beaten 5 coaches who've won national championships. His first games were played in the shadow of Hurricane Katrina, which disrupted his practice schedule and facilities and was the direct cause of his team losing an average of 7 pounds per person (which probably led to one if not two of his 5 losses).