It’s hard to remember just how down Oklahoma State football found itself before Les Miles came around.
People recall Pat Jones fondly and his 11-year Stillwater run began with a trio of 10-win seasons among his first five.
Then, you know how many winning seasons the Pokes put together before Miles’ 2002 sophomore effort at the helm?
In 13 seasons.
Jones won no more than four games each of his last six. Twice he won three and once he won none.
As positively as folks remember Bob Simmons, the man, he could not get over the hump as a coach, charting one winner over six campaigns.
Enter Miles, whose personality is stranger than it is electric, more odd than charismatic and, despite having an offensive background as a line coach, has never been accused of being ahead of the game or even, you know, modern.
Nonetheless, he took OSU to three straight bowl games before leaving for Baton Rouge.
He parlayed that into the LSU job, in which he earned double-digit victories in seven of 12 seasons, 11 or more wins five times and the 2007 national championship.
You know how many times while there he was applauded for being a football visionary, for his X’s and O’s acumen or even his deep understanding of the game?
And yet …
Well, that’s it, isn’t it?
And yet … nothing?
And yet … something?
And yet … we have no idea.
Over time, Miles has put teams on the field that have won, even as how he does it and the man himself remain great mysteries.
The only thing Miles seems to have that’s particularly interesting is a sort of anti-charisma.
For no good reason, as the Poke coach, he reveled in getting under Bob Stoops’ skin. He was good at it and beat Stoops twice. Maybe his players responded chutzpah.
You find it in baseball sometimes, the proven winner for whom it’s hard to tell why.
Almost nobody has accused Ron Gardenhire, Ozzie Guillen or Ned Yost of being diamond geniuses, yet all three have won World Series.
Miles, as you may know, has resumed his coaching career at Kansas after exiting LSU mid-season three years ago, and Monday took his turn at Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas.
It was all there again.
And by “it,” of course, we mean nothing.
Miles began with a few words about being back in the conference and being at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, for whom he was once an assistant coach, but segued quickly to the case of Pooka Williams, the preseason all-conference running back, who’s back with the Jayhawk program following a seven-month suspension that followed a domestic battery charge.
“He really met every criteria that he could,” Miles said. “He’s been remorseful. He’s learned from this experience, as has our team.”
He said more than that, and they were the right words, too, but he said them while thumbing through notes, while taking long pauses, as only Miles can, neither appearing to deliver anything prepared or extemporaneous, which ought to be impossible but is par for the course for Miles.
Still, the best, most Miles-ish answers came when discussing the Jayhawks' offensive plans.
“I think what we’re going to do is the things that our team can do,” he said. “I’ve always made a point, you know, [it] doesn’t do you any good to say the style of offense you're going to run if you don’t have [that] style of players.
“I think we will have the opportunity to throw the football and run the football with balance. I think our talent is there. We will have to see.”
Here’s the thing:
Can you just tell us what kind of offense you’re going to run please?
Barry Switzer ran a triple option. Lincoln Riley runs an air raid. There are others. What’s yours?
Later, Miles was asked how he intended to increase Kansas’ offensive production.
A year ago, the Jayhawks were eighth in the conference in scoring and ninth in yards from scrimmage.
“The key piece to this is how do you play to win with your talent,” Miles said. “If you have quarterbacks like I think we have, — I like our receiving core — we’re going to throw the football.
“Obviously, if we have a great running back or two, we're going to run the football. So it would seem that we would be a team that would be balanced, run and pass.
“I think we will take it to the field and see what we have and then make those adjustments as we go.”
During the same press conference, Miles announced the Jayhawks would be moving from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. Yet, he could not even go that far with his offense.
It’s just … weird.
You know, Mike Leach ran an air raid at Texas Tech and hardly ever ran the ball. Riley runs an air raid at OU and runs the ball all the time.
Miles appears to have no room in his head for such sophistication.
Instead, there is “running” the ball and there is “passing” the ball and he would like to be “balanced.”
It’s like Miles escaped from 1975 and hasn’t learned 21st century football parlance even though his entire head coaching life has taken place in it.
He hasn’t had a losing season since 2001, his first as a head coach.
Man of mystery.
It ought to be fun.
Glad he’s back.