Column: LSU Coach Ed Orgeron’s Greatest Strength is Willingness to Listen to Those Around Him

Past mistakes he’s turned into humbling lessons, which has made him a national championship coach

No matter how much turnover LSU’s staff has endured in recent years, the unique type of relationship that Ed Orgeron forms with his assistants has shaped him into one of college football’s best.

The hiring process is unique. Football plays a big role, as do X’s and O’s, but character may play an even bigger one. Orgeron often uses the term ‘LSU Family,’ but it’s different when he says it. It’s not just a cliché tagline.

It’s truly how he runs his program. It’s become his brand.

You always hear him talk about how he treats his players like his sons. So, essentially, when he hires a coach, it’s as if he’s bringing someone into his household to help raise 100+ of his sons.

Not every marriage has been perfect, but he’s learned from every one of them and grown.

"The biggest thing I changed as a coach is: I am going to treat our football players exactly how I treat my sons,” Orgeron told ESPN in November. “Exactly how I treat my sons. No different.”

While LSU’s staff may have suffered an exodus of sorts after last season’s historic national title run, the transition to Bo Pelini has felt seamless. The transition -- so far -- to new passing game coordinator Scott Linehan has felt seamless. And that’s a direct testament to Orgeron.

At SEC Media Days last July, Orgeron called offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger one of his “best friends” before saying anything football related about him. That says a lot about what he looks for in a coach, and it says a lot about the type of program he’s building.

When Ensminger went through the greatest of tragedies with the sudden loss of his daughter-in-law Carley McCord prior to LSU’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl contest against Oklahoma, that type of family atmosphere was felt -- and needed -- the most.

Ensminger could have easily not coached that game and nobody would have blamed him. But he did. And it wasn’t for him, but rather for everyone else. One Team. One Heartbeat. Selflessness has been the name of the game throughout the Orgeron era.

That type of relationship, though, is felt as early as recruiting. When Orgeron goes into a home, it’s his greatest advantage. If they’re from Louisiana, he relates to them. If they’re out-of-state, he’ll prove why LSU will become an extended version of the home he’s sitting in.

“It's kind of a party when I get there,” Orgeron said about his recruiting style prior to the SEC Championship. “It's kind of a festivity. I have to go recruit and talk to the mom and dad and bring everybody. When I go now, it's the aunts and uncles and grandmas. We have a party. We eat. We laugh. We joke together. It's just like being a part of a big family.”

While Orgeron has repeatedly admitted he made a ‘mistake’ hiring (then) offensive coordinator Matt Canada in 2016, he’s regained every bit of trust with the hires he’s made since.

He found lightning in a bottle with Joe Brady. Many credit Jorge Munoz for the transformation of Joe Burrow. James Cregg turned a depleted offensive line into the winners of the Joe Moore Award. Bill Busch might be the best recruiter on LSU’s staff.

You get the point.

So whether you like the move to get Pelini, or don’t like the move to get Linehan, here’s my advice: put your trust in Coach O. Why? Because, well, it’s worked out pretty well.