LSU's Mighty Joe Brady is making Mickey Mouse money in the college football world
BATON ROUGE — LSU has the hottest assistant football coach in the country on the college or pro level in pass game coordinator Joe Brady, who is single and just turned 30.
By college football standards, though, he is making the Mickey Mouse salary of $410,000 a year in the first year of a three-year contract that will pay him $435,000 next year and $460,000 in 2021.
LSU has the highest paid assistant coach in college football in Dave Aranda at $2.5 million a year, and he is not having nearly as good a season as Brady and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, who makes $800,000 a year. Brady and Ensminger, who at 61 could be Brady's father, together make $1.2 million a year, which is $1.3 million less than Aranda, whose pass defense is No. 87 in the nation and 12th in the Southeastern Conference with 240 yards allowed a game.
Brady and Ensminger together make $300,000 less than Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who is making $1.5 million a year. Even Missouri offensive coordinator Derek Dooley, who has the No. 72 offense in the nation and No. 10 in the SEC at 402 yards a game, is making nearly $500,000 more than Brady.
And the addition of Brady has LSU's offense up to No. 4 in the nation in total yards with 538.4 yards a game and No. 4 in scoring with 46.7 points a game, which the Tigers maintained in their 46-41 win against the nation's No. 9 scoring defense (15.2 a game) at No. 1 Alabama Saturday. LSU finished No. 68 in the nation in 2018 in total offense with 402 yards a game and No. 37 in scoring offense with 32.4 points a game.
The Tigers (9-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) are also No. 1 in the nation in the USA TODAY coaches' poll and in the Associated Press media poll after the win over previous USA TODAY No. 1 Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC).
LSU was expected to jump from No. 2 in the College Football Playoff poll's latest rankings on Tuesday night over No. 1 Ohio State (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten). The Tigers play at Ole Miss (4-6, 2-4 SEC) at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.
Senior quarterback Joe Burrow, meanwhile, is No. 2 in the nation in passing yards a game at 355.3 in Brady and Ensminger's new offense and running away with the Heisman Trophy, which would be the first for LSU since Billy Cannon won it in 1959.
Burrow completed 31 of 39 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns at Alabama while rushing 14 times for 96 yards around five sacks for -32 yards. He was named the Walter Camp national offensive player of the week for the second time this season on Sunday in addition to co-SEC offensive player of the week with tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Burrow also took the Maxwell Award player of the week honor on Tuesday for the second time this season.
Before Brady, Burrow finished No. 51 in the nation in passing with 222.6 yards a game in 2018. In passing efficiency before Brady, Burrow was 65th last year with a 133.2 rating (219-of-379 passing, 2,894 yards, 16 TDs, 5 interceptions). Burrow has climbed to 202.5 this year (236-of-299 passing, 3,198 yards, 33 touchdowns, 4 interceptions) for No. 3 in the nation.
"Joe's as hot a name as anyone today in college football, and it has been meteoric," NFL Draft analyst Mike Detillier of WWL Radio in New Orleans said Tuesday. He was talking about Joe Brady.
"I have never seen anything happen this good so fast for an assistant coach in recent memory," he said. "Remarkable turnaround for a team that had a certain culture of smash-mouth football/grind-it-out rushing attack. And he's taken it and turned it into a national contender and made LSU the talk of college football. Joe's smoking hot right now."
And not just on the college level.
"In a football world with Sean Payton and Sean McVay (head coach of the Los Angeles Rams), Joe Brady has been the talk of college and pro football offense," Detillier said.
The fact that Brady has not been allowed to talk himself since the summer, according to head coach Ed Orgeron's policy against assistants doing in-season interviews, has not hurt the wunderkind's splash.
"This guy is the Heisman Trophy award winner for assistant coaches (aka the Frank Broyles Award) this year," NFL.com analyst and former Dallas Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt said Tuesday. "It should be him. No one has had a bigger impact this season."
Saints' coach Sean Payton possibly could have used him on Sunday as New Orleans uncharacteristically suffered on offense in a 24-9 loss to 1-7 Atlanta and didn't score a touchdown.
Orgeron didn't answer when he was asked jokingly Monday if Payton is trying to get Brady back.
"I'm excited for him," Payton said of Brady last week. "I think he's someone who's very sharp."
Brady worked two seasons as a lower level offensive assistant for Payton with the Saints in 2016 and '17 after serving as a graduate assistant at Penn State in 2015 and '16 and as a defensive assistant in 2013 and '14 at William & Mary.
Payton struggled to find things to say about Brady just last summer.
"He came here with certain insights relative to the passing game," Payton said. "He's a tremendous worker, and a guy that, uh, you (pause) could rely on occasionally for some information (pause) relative to what a quarterback or a system might be doing. His background relative to the RPO (run-pass option) stuff was very good. And also someone who was good to work with and good to have on the staff."
Brady studied the Saints offense and has installed much of it with the Saints such as the no-huddle, quick passes by Burrow, including snaps early in the play clock to catch opponents off guard, and more use of the tight end and backs in the passing game. Tight end Thaddeus Moss, for example, caught six for 46 yards at Alabama, and tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire grabbed nine for 77 yards with a 13-yard touchdown.
Moss, whose father is NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, has 27 catches for 292 yards and a touchdown on the season - already five more than current Oakland Raider Foster Moreau, who was LSU's top receiving tight end last season with 22 catches for 272 yards and two touchdowns. LSU's leading receiver out of the backfield last season was Nick Brossette with 14 catches for 78 yards. Edwards-Helaire has 28 catches this season for 202 yards and the touchdown.
"What we're trying to do is get the ball out fast, get the ball out in space," Brady said last summer. "What you see in New Orleans is Drew Brees getting the ball out fast. You see him push the ball down the field. We're looking to do the same type of stuff - play action, drop back, utilize our backs and tight ends. When we can, we're going to take shots down the field."
Wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase is No. 8 in the nation with 111.1 receiving yards a game on 49 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson is No. 14 in the nation with 6.9 receptions a game and No. 17 with 99.8 yards a game on 62 catches for 898 yards and nine touchdowns. LSU's leading receiver last year was Jefferson with eight less catches than he has now.
"I say, 'Get your popcorn," Brady said last summer, and he has been true to the kernel. "It's going to be like 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."
And now LSU needs to get its check book. Brady stands to get a significant raise to possibly the $1.5 million range of some college and NFL offensive coordinators and perhaps a title enhancement to offensive coordinator if LSU wants to keep him.
Brady has no previous ties to LSU. He is from Pembroke Pines, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale and played wide receiver at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, from 2009-12, catching three passes in 2011 and '12.
"This is Joe's first full-time job," Orgeron said Monday. "And I do believe he's very loyal to LSU. I do believe he likes what's going on at LSU, and obviously we're going to compete to keep him. A guy like that is going to have opportunities, but we're going to compete as best that we can to keep him."
LSU historically does not give coaches raises or contract extensions until after a season.
"All those things are going to happen after the season," Orgeron said. "Joe's worried about breaking down Ole Miss coverage right now, so he's not even thinking about that stuff. But after the season, we'll have coaches who are going to get chances to go elsewhere. But the ones that we want to keep, we're going to fight like heck to keep them."
When new LSU athletic director Scott Woodward was Texas A&M's athletic director, he spared no expense in hiring head coach Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State following the 2017 season for $7.5 million a year.
"Tell Scott to loosen those purse strings," Brandt said. "He has before."
If Alabama coach Nick Saban, a defensive genius, did not sound interested in hiring Brady after his defense allowed 559 yards to the Tigers, he surely sounded blown away after the game. It was the most points ever scored against Bama by LSU and its most yards against Alabama since 611 in a 35-21 win in 2001 when Saban was LSU's head coach.
“It’s nothing like what they tried to do a year ago,” Saban said, referring to LSU's 29-0 loss to Alabama in 2018. "It’s completely different, and I think it features their players. And I think their players buy into it, have confidence in it, and do a great job executing it. I felt like that going into the game, and I certainly feel just as strongly about that now after having played them."
LSU led Bama 33-13 at the half before scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
"We couldn't stop them on defense when we needed to," Saban said. "Had a couple of opportunities to stop them and didn't. They do a lot of things and use a lot of formations — a lot of empty, a lot of reloads that take a lot of adjusting. I think it's the system. I think it's the things they're doing. It's challenging to defend."
Much of that "system" is Brady's system, though Ensminger still calls the plays. Brady will make suggestions, or Ensminger will look to Brady for a play.
"Steve lets Joe be involved as much as I've ever seen an offensive coordinator let a passing game coordinator be involved," Orgeron said.
"It's the Odd Couple of college football, and it's worked so well," Detillier said.
More like a dynamic duo.
"Coach Joe's brought a lot of good things in, but Coach E and Coach O kind of molded this thing together," Burrow said. "People forget about Coach E all the time, but he's been as important as anybody. And he's done a great job listening to Coach Joe's ideas and merging them with his own to build this monster that we've built."
It apparently scared Saban.
"Look, they have no weaknesses on offense," he continued. "They've got a really good runner. They've got really good receivers. They've got a good offensive line. And they've got a system and a scheme that's very sound and solid."
Alabama's offense put up 541 yards behind Sarkisian and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who completed 21 of 40 for 418 yards and four interceptions. But Saban criticized it for not being able to run better as the Tide had just 24 yards on 12 carries at the half. LSU rushed 40 times for 166 yards and passed 39 times for 393. Alabama rushed 28 times for 123 yards and passed 40 times for 418.
"We have to have more balance and consistency on offense," Saban said. "We make a lot of big plays, which is great. But when you play a team like this, which is a very good offensive team, having the balance lets you control the tempo of the game. I can't give them enough credit for what they do."
A true test for Brady and Ensminger's "system" will be next season when Burrow is not in it, and either Myles Brennan, who will be a junior, or one of the freshman signees - T.J. Finley of Ponchatoula or Max Johnson of Watkinsville, Georgia - takes over.
"Yes, Brady has done a great job, and they need to keep him" Brandt said. "But Burrow has a lot to do with this obviously."