Look, it’d be foolish to avoid talking about the possibility of Jeff Lebby ending up as the head coach of the Mississippi State football team. So let’s talk about it.
The Mississippi State football coaching search is continuing and many have brought up how Zac Selmon has connections to the Oklahoma Sooners. Naturally, that has led to discussions about how an innovative offensive coordinator for Oklahoma (who has also spent time in the Southeastern Conference) could potentially be a good fit for the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Enter Jeff Lebby, OU’s offensive coordinator, whose offense reminds folks of Art Briles’ Baylor Bears. And for good reason. Lebby was a member of Briles’ Baylor staff and happens to be Briles’ son-in-law.
Lebby, though someone who has been seen as controversial because of those ties to that Baylor program, has been seen as someone who could potentially be a fit for a number of head coaching opportunities.
And that leads to the possibility of Lebby coaching at MSU.
Despite him never being a head coach before, between the Oklahoma connections, Lebby’s experience in the SEC, and recruiting ties, some may find themselves willing to consider him in Starkville.
Is that something that makes sense?
Mississippi State football coaching search: Would Zac Selmon and the Bulldogs be willing to hire Jeff Lebby?
For many Mississippi State football fans, guys like GJ Kinne, Rhett Lashlee, and Jon Sumrall are too inexperienced to consider. All of them have two years of experience as a head coach. Jeff Lebby has exactly zero years of experience as the head coach of a college football program.
It’s not that his resume is bad by any means, it’s just that he’s never been more than an offensive coordinator. And a lot of his coaching background was spent at Baylor, which there is a fair bit of baggage that comes with that.
After some time with the UCF Knights, Lebby spent some time in Oxford with Lane Kiffin and is now in Norman, Oklahoma helping Brent Venables attempt to restore the Oklahoma Sooners.
And right now, Lebby has proven to be a coach that Oklahoma doesn’t even seem to be thrilled with. It’s not that his offenses are bad, generally speaking the Sooners win in large part because of what Lebby brings to the table (on the field), though there are some limitations here and there.
Earlier this season, some of his baggage made a surprising appearance in an unforced error from Lebby:
And for a while, it seemed like OU as an institution was not thrilled with Lebby:
For people who love innovative offenses, Lebby’s schemes are exciting. But there have been less-than-ideal moments this season, as can be noticed when the Sooners scored just 28 points against SMU, 20 points against Cincinnati, and 31 points against BYU.
The veer-and-shoot is an incredible system and while there’s a chance that Lebby is a bit overvalued as an offensive coordinator (he’s generally considered to be better than his brother-in-law, but I’m of the mindset that there are others who operate this sort of offense better, shoutout to Sean Lewis and Alex Golesh), it’s still something that scores points. And MSU needs to score points.
Lebby’s offense is really successful most of the time, but it still has flaws. And those flaws will be heavily scrutinized if they ever come up.
There are ceilings that exist when you run the offense. There’s a very high floor and you can have a lot of fun, but there are still limitations that exist. And anyone who grew to distrust RPOs when Joe Moorhead ran them? Well, you might want to buckle up.
What to make of Jeff Lebby as a candidate for Mississippi State football head coaching vacancy?
If we’re talking exclusively about stuff that happens on the field, Lebby is a good coach. It should be noted that he’s operating a generally successful offense and that’s the sort of scheme that Mississippi State needs to have to succeed (generally speaking, that is).
On top of that, Lebby has recruiting ties to Texas, Florida, and Mississippi. With the right emphasis on bringing in out-of-state talent to help build upon what the Bulldogs already do well in the state of Mississippi, the Mississippi State football team could be built to thrive at a high level on the football field.
But, as with any coaching hire, you can’t just look at stuff that happens on the field.
If Selmon and MSU go down this path, this is a controversial sort of move that would generate plenty of attention (and not necessarily good attention).
People were paying attention when Lane Kiffin hired both Lebby and DJ Durkin. People paid attention when Kiffin hired Kendal Briles to join his FAU staff. Plenty of folks were critical of when Texas A&M hired Durkin and Petrino. TCU and Sonny Dykes got attention when they hired Kendal Briles.
These sorts of hires tend to get scrutiny.
Selmon and MSU will need to consider that if they’re considering bringing Lebby to Starkville. They’re going to need to understand the optics and weigh everything about this sort of hire. Beyond the PR stuff, that includes that Lebby is not yet a proven head coach.