Marcus Allen has seen enough. He’s convinced.
The 1981 Heisman Trophy winner from USC said Ed Orgeron has sufficiently proved he deserves to drop the interim title and become the Trojans’ head football coach. Allen isn’t part of any selection committee, but if he were, he would hire Orgeron.
“From the depths of despair, from a program that was flat-lining, he has made a tremendous turnaround,” said Allen, the first former player to talk to the team after Lane Kiffin was fired Sept. 29. “Here’s a guy who cares about his players, treats them like his sons, and he wants the very best for them. So he’s going to put you in the right position to be successful. He wants these guys to realize their dream, but he knows the only way to do it is to be tough.”
Four former USC players, all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, were asked for their opinions on the school’s coaching situation and Orgeron, who has led the team to a 6-1 record since taking over the top job, including beating No. 4 Stanford on Nov. 16. The Trojans take a five-game winning streak into their regular-season finale against crosstown rival UCLA on Saturday at the Coliseum.
Along with Allen, safety Ronnie Lott, and offensive tackles Anthony Munoz and Ron Yary weighed in on how they think USC should proceed. None is directly involved in the coaching search or hiring process.
“To me, Ed Orgeron is like Marv Goux,” Lott said, referring to the legendary Trojans player-turned-assistant who coached at the school for three decades and died in 2002. “Ed Orgeron showed me, and showed a lot of people, that . . . in terms of moving forward, he’s got to be considered. He’s not only got to be considered, but he should be very high on the list.”
Yary is more measured in his endorsement of Orgeron, mostly deferring to USC Athletic Director Pat Haden.
“It’s not fair for me to think for Pat,” Yary said. “But if there’s a guy who’s stepping up to earn it, [Orgeron] has so far. He’s certainly turned the program around. . . . I’ve met Ed and hear a lot of good things about him from other people.
“I’m sure they’ll give him a fair opportunity to get the job. If he wins the rest of the games, I think he’s put himself up for a job offer.”
Orgeron asked Munoz to speak to the team before last month’s game at Notre Dame — the Trojans’ only loss under the interim coach — and the former cornerstone of the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line also led USC onto the field before a home game against Utah.
“I’d hate to be in Pat’s shoes right now,” Munoz said. “I think Ed, at least from me being there a couple of times, I think he’s done a phenomenal job. The whole atmosphere is different. Not once has he mentioned the lack of scholarships [because of NCAA sanctions]. That impresses me.
“When you hear the quarterback talk about how much he loves the guy, just going by the tweets, you can see that guys just love him. I’m sure there’s people that want the high-profile names, but I don’t know. If he wins out, he’s got to be strongly considered.”
Jack Del Rio, Denver Broncos interim coach and former USC linebacker, confirmed he interviewed with his alma mater Nov. 1 in Denver. USC has not confirmed it has spoken to anyone about the job. It might be worth noting that Boise State — coached by the widely coveted Chris Petersen — played at Colorado State, about an hour’s drive from Denver, the day after the Del Rio interview.
Allen said USC has historically succeeded when it has an inspirational leader as coach, as opposed to an offensive or defensive guru, someone more focused on Xs and O’s than personal relationships.
“It’s people, not plays,” Allen said. “You always hear those coaches say, ‘I don’t care if you like me, I just want to be respected.’ I mean, that’s a joke, dude. You want respect, but you want to be liked too. Because if your players like you, they’ll give you even more.
“Coach O understands that. He’s recruited all these kids. He’s been in every single living room. He knows these kids, he knows their parents. He feels responsible, because they’re there because of him. He wants the best for them.”