Will star LSU assistant become college football's highest-paid offensive coordinator?

Pete Thamel

NEW ORLEANS — The future of football wore horn-rimmed glasses, an Apple Watch and an easy smile on Saturday morning. LSU pass-game coordinator Joe Brady, 30, looked the part of precocious prodigy as reporters beehived around him at the media day for the College Football Playoff title game.

Brady also played the part of conscientious deflector. Brady redirected all the comments about LSU’s success to the players. He deflected praise for schemes and playcalls to LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger. He heaped praise on star quarterback Joe Burrow.

He also spent a good portion of his media time tip-toeing around questions about his own future, as where he’ll be next season is one of the most intriguing storylines surrounding this game. Reports have linked him with Matt Rhule’s staff with the Carolina Panthers and other NFL jobs. Other major colleges have knocked on his door this offseason.

Brady has been careful to not draw attention to himself during this sun-kissed LSU run, as the No. 1 Tigers are 13-0 and playing No. 3 Clemson for the national title on Monday night.

“It's so easy now to not have to think about anything else besides a national championship,” Brady said. “I don't know what's going on necessarily in the media and in the world, I just walk into the office and now I get a little hotel room that I go into and I can start game-planning and focus on that.”

LSU passing game cordinator Joe Brady speaks during media day for NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in New Orleans. Clemson is scheduled to play LSU on Monday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert).
LSU passing game cordinator Joe Brady speaks during media day for NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in New Orleans. Clemson is scheduled to play LSU on Monday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert).

There’s been significant interest in Brady at the NFL level from multiple teams. He’ll have a decision to make between LSU and the NFL after the season ends, with the reported interest from Carolina looming large.

Sports Illustrated reported on Saturday night that Brady has signed an agreement with LSU that prevents him from going to other colleges. Brady has stayed mum on his own future the last few weeks, not wanting to be a distraction. “I hope I'm a Tiger,” Brady said. “As long as they want me at LSU, my intentions are being at LSU.”

The thought is that LSU will be willing to out-bid all of Brady’s suitors, even the NFL. There was early interest from Texas, Notre Dame and Penn State for their open coordinator positions, which drove up the market value. That interest combined with the NFL intrigue has put him in position to make well over $2 million at LSU, which would make him by far the highest-paid offensive assistant in college football. (LSU’s Dave Aranda is the highest-paid assistant annually in college football at $2.5 million.)

Numerous questions arose about the NFL on Friday, and Brady insisted he was oblivious and locked in on the national title game. “I haven't been contacted by anybody,” he said.

Wherever Brady ends up, his rise has been one of the most remarkable and unexpected stories of this college football season. Last year with the Saints, he essentially served as an assistant to an assistant coach. He didn’t have an agent, either, for a simple reason. “Not many people even knew who I was up until a month or two ago,” he said.

Brady expounded on the Saints’ ties to the local media in New Orleans on Saturday, speaking glowingly about sitting next to Drew Brees in quarterback meetings and learning from head coach Sean Payton, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and quarterback coach Joe Lombardi. “A lot of the success that we're having, a lot of the schemes that we're doing right now from an offensive standpoint, I owe a lot of credit to those guys,” he said.

The reality of Brady’s year in New Orleans, however, is that he was more tied to practice squad quarterback J.T. Barrett, writing up cards for practice and just soaking in the Saints’ pass-game system. His hiring and rise is a credit to LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who had a vision of what he wanted on offense and then hired an unknown coach who no one wanted to execute it.

There’s a lot of intrigue about what Brady will do in part because we’ve never quite seen such a sudden rise to coaching stardom. Is leaving LSU the smart move? Brady will never replicate the magic of Joe Burrow’s Heisman season and the unparalleled on-field production. Is the NFL the best place? With schemes and calling the pass game his strength and recruiting an unknown variable, would that suit him better?

Brady hadn’t wanted to address a new contract before the season ended to avoid distraction. There’s a chance that LSU announces something next week. There’s also a possibility that he at least explores the NFL. As he artfully deflected on Friday, the timeline was simple as he focused on beating Clemson: “[I’ll] handle everything else when the time comes.”

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