Back by overwhelming demand, FootballScoop will once again examine the assistant coaching hires that will have the biggest impact on the college football season and the coaching job market in the 2019 season and beyond.
No. 19: Bryan Brown, Louisville
No. 18: Phil Longo, North Carolina
No. 17: Les Koenning, Kansas
No. 16: Andy Avalos, Oregon
No. 15: Joe Cauthen, Houston
No. 14: Bodie Reeder, North Texas
No. 13: Mike MacIntyre, Ole Miss
No. 12: Andy Ludwig, Utah
No. 11: Kenny Dillingham, Auburn
No. 10: Jim Chaney, Tennessee
No. 9: Sean Gleeson, Oklahoma State
No. 8: Dan Enos, Miami
No. 7: Kendal Briles, Florida State
No. 6: Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison, Ohio State
No. 5: Steve Sarkisian, Alabama
Who: Joe Brady, LSU
Title: Passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach
Previous stop: New Orleans Saints offensive assistant (2017-18)
Why he’s important: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but LSU is finally going to join the rest of us in the 21st century. No, really. They’re serious this time.
After the failed Canadian excursion, Ed Orgeron went back to his comfort zone in 2018 by naming Steve Ensminger for a second time… and watched LSU slip from 5th to 12th in the SEC in yards per play. (The Tigers did see their scoring average increase from 27.2 to 32.4 points per game, though.)
To modernize the offense, Orgeron looked south by hiring Joe Brady away from the New Orleans Saints. Orgeron first became familiar with Brady last summer, when LSU invited the Saints’ staff to clinic them on their offense, specifically their red zone, empty, RPO and passing packages. Brady handled the RPOs and impressed Orgeron, and when wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan informed Orgeron of his intent to retire in November, Orgeron’s mind went immediately to Brady.
“He has been a game changer for our staff,” Oregon said at SEC media days.
While it was his Saints gig that put Brady on his new boss’s radar, it was his time under an SEC West rival that truly prepped the 29-year-old to reshape LSU’s offense. After graduating from William & Mary in 2012, where he played wide receiver, Brady immediately went to work at his alma mater — coaching linebackers. That stint led him to Penn State, where he worked as a GA under Nittany Lions offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
“It was awesome for me. He allowed me to run some meetings, run drills and practice, and it kind of changed my mind in my outlook on coaching,” Brady told The Athletic of his time under Moorhead.
The crazy thing isn’t that LSU is opening up its offense, it’s that it took this long to get to this point. This is a program that once had Odell Beckham, Jr., and Jarvis Landry on the same team — and still finished 45th nationally in passing.
The 2019 Tigers will not lack for talent in the passing game. The top six receivers are all back, as is quarterback Joe Burrow, who broke out toward the end of last season.
Over the last four games of 2018, Burrow completed 81-of-121 passes for 1,116 yards with 10 touchdowns against one interception. His 66.9 percent completion rate would put him among the top 15 nationally, and his 9.64 yards per attempt average among the top five. Burrow also ran for 96 yards and a touchdown against Ole Miss, 66 and two scores versus Georgia, and 100 yards with three scores (albeit on 29 carries) in LSU’s marathon loss to Texas A&M.
With backup Myles Brennan now healthy, LSU expects Burrow himself to put the R in RPO.
“This is Joe’s type of offense. Joe is a dual-threat quarterback,” Orgeron said. “We could not run Joe as much as we wanted to last year.”
“You’re going to see an up tempo offense that’s going to get our speed in space,” Brady told The Advocate in June. “When you can do that, good things are going to happen. When you can get the best players on the field the ball in their hands, we’re sitting back there enjoying and watching.
“I say, ‘Get your popcorn.’ When you’re sitting there enjoying a movie and everything is good, that’s what you’re going to be doing when you see this offense this fall.”
Though Brady was brought in to reshape the offense, Orgeron has been consistent in saying Ensminger will still call the plays. For now, everyone is saying the right things. For now.
“We have a great give-and-take,” Brady said during an LSU caravan experience over the summer. “He’s humble enough to hear if I have a thought, if offensive coaches have a thought, but at the end of the day he makes the final decisions. I know that Steve Ensminger wants nothing but LSU to have offensive success. It’s great to work for a boss where you know that all he cares about is LSU having success. There’s nothing about, ‘Oh, my way is the best way.’ It’s, ‘What can we do to have LSU and this offense have the most success?’”
This is where you should apply your skepticism. In fact, it would be insane not to be skeptical at this stage in the game. As Muhammad Ali once said, everyone has a plan until Alabama lines up across the line of scrimmage.
This is still the same head coach that hired Matt Canada, then told him to stop “all that motion stuff” heading into a game against Troy, which is about like telling Mike Leach to stop all all this passing nonsense. Orgeron’s intervention resulted in a scoreless first half in a game LSU lost.
So, yes, Orgeron has a plan to open up his offense, to utilize his talent at quarterback and wide receiver, to give his running backs more room to breathe and his fans a reason to watch the game when the defense is off the field. But it’s August. There’s a reason Burrow’s late-season breakout did not come until after Alabama shut out the Bayou Bengals in Baton Rouge.
Brady has been hired to use his experience with Joe Moorhead and Sean Payton to import a plan to modernize the LSU offense. But will he actually get to implement it?