Let me see if I’ve got this right
LSU is ranked No. 1 in the country with a Southeastern Conference home game dead ahead, and yet no one seems to be concerned about that at all.
The worry is about whether the return of a talented player is going to upset the chemistry, counter the karma, make a team that has rolled sevens for a month suddenly come up craps.
In the words of the immortal Cole Porter,
Well, did you evah?
No, I nevah.
I’ve been watching LSU football for 40 years, but this is a new dynamic on me.
During the rolling thunder of an LSU football season, there’s no added need for anxiety. Usually, the opponent the Tigers are playing is reason enough for edgy nerves.
But what has hands clammy these days is the second coming of Jordan Jefferson, and the negative impact his presence may have.
On the face of it, that seems foolish. But there is certainly reason to want to build a monument to that great Latin principle, status quo.
LSU is 4-0 entering the Kentucky derby (though on paper it doesn’t rate as much of a horse race) and has looked pretty good doing it. In the words of a sage philosopher who came along somewhere between the Romans and Swamp People, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
With Jarrett Lee’s quarterbacking, the LSU offense ain’t broke. It ain’t ahem isn’t churning out 500 yards a game, either, but isn’t malfunctioning.
This is a unit that likes to batter you with the run, can hit the short and play-action passes, and doesn’t rely on a lot of trickeration to move the ball. And, when presented with a gift opportunity to score, like last week after Tyrann Mathieu’s tip-top interception put the ball at the West Virginia 1, they know how to drive the dagger home.
In other words, this is an offense with an identity. A hard-edged, powerful identity behind a quarterback who hasn’t just been a placeholder for Jefferson - much less a liability - but has actually thrived in what at first looked like a no-win situation.
The worry is that LSU coach Les Miles, who has at times seemed to have been so enamored with Jefferson he was willing to gloss over his deficiencies, will at some point want to reinsert him into the starting lineup no matter what the costs.
Miles didn’t exactly help assuage those concerns Wednesday after his weekly radio show when he said Lee is the starter “for now.”
To paint a complete picture of the scene, I didn’t speak to anyone else who was there covering what Miles had to say who thought that he meant to qualify Lee’s status. Still, it does serve to illustrate what kind of tension is in the air around here.
And there is still even another facet to the whole - dare we say - quarterback controversy: the Mettenberger Factor (sounds like an episode of “Star Trek”).
There is still a faction of LSU fans who would like to skip over Option A (Lee) and Option B (Jefferson) and go straight to Option C (the Mett-siah). This is largely the faction of Tigers fans for whom the most popular quarterback is always the one not in the game. Another term for this is the Mickey Guidry Factor.
If you boil away all the jitters and chatter, though, you come down to these key points:
You’ll have a roux (which is good for tailgating).
Miles is, in a serious appraisal of the man, no fool. He knows better than to mess with the mix that has led his team to a 4-0 record and is a mortal lock to have his team 5-0 after Saturday.
If Lee does become ineffective or gets injured, Miles’ best option is not Mettenberger. It’s Jefferson. The guy who’s 20-7 as an LSU starter.
Fully expect to see Jefferson in Saturday’s game, if for nothing other than a cameo appearance. His role will probably increase as the season goes on, but if everything remains equal it’s hard to imagine Jefferson doing much more than playing Ryan Perrilloux to Lee’s Matt Flynn.
It’s a harsh and perhaps unfair fate for Jefferson, who no less than a grand jury has determined is guilty of nothing worse than a misdemeanor. But the point is no matter what he did, he at the least showed poor judgment and leadership the night of Aug. 19 when he was supposed to be his team’s supreme leader and example.
However it happened, Jefferson abdicated that role to Lee. And that’s how it should stay.