Where Are We Now?

Bruin Blue serves up another great post. However please note though we are all anxious about how Dan Guerrero’s search process will turn out, we are not going to reach any conclusion on his performance until we see his pick. Moreover, also note despite BB’s reservations we happen to think Mike Leach is an intriguing candidate for UCLA. However, that said great stuff again from BB. And as usual we agree with most of his thoughts. Despite our honest disagreement our heart collectively is with BB, which is hoping for a new head coach who will represent a clear change from the past and an exciting move towards a new direction in UCLA football. GO BRUINS. – N

Where are we now? Nobody really knows, apparently except for Dan Guerrero. I suppose we should have expected this obscurity and uncertainty. There are two reasons for it, one legitimate and one not . The legitimate one is that with so many potential prospects involved in Bowl games, a certain amount of below-the-radar activity is probably necessary. The other reason is that Guerrero and UCLA want "plausible deniability," so that when this is all said and done, it can be said that whomever was hired was really the guy we wanted all along. UCLA has a preternatural aversion to being turned down by a coaching prospect. I don't know why; plenty of other schools are, and come out just fine; look across town for the most obvious examples. The other programs doing coaching searches along with us are not nearly so opaque about it. Michigan wanted Miles, got turned down, and then tried for Schiano . They have to regroup, but will come out okay. Arkansas made a firm offer to Grobe which he rejected, so it's on to Plan B. But in Westwood, we really have no clear idea as to who the favorite is, who is second on the list, or much of anything.

But I think there are some things we can deduce, for better or for worse. It is clear to me that Guerrero is wedded to the idea of keeping the ubiquitous DeWayne Walker on as defensive coordinator, and probably making his retention a requisite for the new coach. A very bad way to do it, in my view, since I think that a new coach should be given free rein with assistants. I'm not even sure that this approach might not cost us a potential coach who doesn't like to be dictated to in that way and wants to bring in his own staff. Nevertheless, it is pretty obvious that Guerrero is happy with the defensive side of the ball, and is looking for an offensive-minded coach to complement it. Every single coach we hear mentioned comes from the offensive side. In Guerrero's formula, offensively capable coach+Walker=successful program. I'm not nearly so sure about that, but that is what we are very likely to get.

At this point, I'm afraid I am getting ready to be disappointed again. It's somewhat my fault; I probably am too expectant and demanding. Against my better judgment, I really hoped that we would come up with a knockout hire, someone who could catapult us to national championship contending levels. That has long been a dream of mine, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has had it. But there is apparently too much for us to overcome, including UCLA's infuriating unwillingness to spend market price--never mind top dollar--for the right coach; an athletic administration which does not show the acumen or the will to make the true homerun hire; an alumni and fan base of which too many really don't follow college football outside of the Pac 10 very closely, and thus do not have the ability to assess and weigh the potentials and the liabilities of the various coaching possibilities.

And, no; this does not mean that I expect everyone to share my specific perspectives, or that I will be unhappy unless UCLA chooses exactly whom I want. But it does mean that I am not willing to settle for just a coach who is better than Dorrell, or one who will get us to the top part of the conference. Almost any reasonable coach can do that. But to be able to legitimately compete with what, like it or not, is a powerhouse program at USC; to have at least some reasonable shot at a national title in many of the years; to be an actual player on the national stage--this is much harder to obtain. I remember '72 and '73, when Pepper Rodgers had some great offensive teams which ran all over weak foes, but which were outclassed and out coached when we played USC. That is very much where I am afraid we are going to end up. Maybe there's not much we can do about it. There are only so many Meyers and Tressels and Richts and Bob Stoops, and we are not getting any of those. We can and probably will get a good coach, but there are a lot more of them, even in this very league. So while the future seems brighter, I very much wonder if it will be as bright as we would want it to be.

We all know that there is not a Ben Howland-type hire for us in this group. I wanted Chris Petersen because while realizing the shortness of his record, I thought that of all the prospects, he had the most potential to turn into the next Meyer or Richt. But apparently either he or his wife or both do not want to live in Los Angeles. I do wonder what would happen if we actually offered him $2 million or so, but we are apparently not going to do that. I was naive enough to think that we were really going to increase our offers this time. Apparently we are, but only as compared to 2002. We are still about 30%-40% below market value, it seems. After Petersen, I thought that Steve Mariucci might be someone who could recruit so well here, that combined with his obvious ability to coach quarterbacks and develop an offense, he might really put a serious scare into Carroll. Apparently we either offered too little, or he is not that interested in coaching college ball, depending upon what story you hear. Bronco Mendenhall was another coach who I think has excellent potential, but we are not even looking at him. Paul Johnson is a proven rebuilder of programs, but we didn't look at him, either; and he's gone to Georgia Tech.

So now it seems as if we are down to our seond-tier candidates. Mike Leach, June Jones, most likely. Of the two, I'd prefer Jones, who I think is a better guy, and who has actually done more. It is essential that we have someone who has won a conference championship, done something really significant. Even so, I have a hard time extrapolating his Hawaii results into an ability to beat USC more than occasionally. As to Leach, he has never won a conference title, never really come close--not as close as Kansas and Missouri did this year. Yes, his talent level is less than Oklahoma and Texas--but guess what? His talent level here is going to be less than USC's, so how does one somehow imagine he will beat them to win a title? Anyway, that is just my view, and I know that others are very high on one or the other. And neither would be a bad coach here; it's just that I really wonder about the upper limit of their tenure. There's Jim Grobe, who actually got Wake Forest to a BCS game, no small feat. But he said he was coming back to Wake, so I would be very surprised if we got him. And then there's Brian Kelly, who had two mediocre years and one good one at Central Michigan, and parlayed that into the job at Cincinnati. MIchigan apparently has no interest in him, which is rather interesting, given his locale. I'd take Jones over him and Leach.

Other than that, what have we got? Jim Fassel has apparently put out feelers. I sort of like Fassel, who I think did a pretty good job in the cauldron which is New York; but I know that many see him as a weak choice. George O'Leary is a good coach, but we are never going to hire him after his resume scandal. Mike Price is a possibility, but age and reputation are factors. Todd Graham of Tulsa, formerly Rice for one year, is somewhat interesting. Then we have the third-tier candidates such as Chow and the omnipresent DeWayne Walker. Walker means Walker, and Chow means four years and then Walker, so both possibilities seem awful to me. Of course there are all those Bruin fans beating the drums incessantly for the Chow-Walker combo or the Walker solo act. It's as if the last five, actually twelve, actually 32, years did not take place. By all means, let's hire another assistant or set of assistants, and away we go. There is actually some fellow on BRO who strongly urges a Donahue for "temporary" (two years) head coach, Neuheisel for OC, and Walker for DC, arrangement. I've seen Dali paintings which were less surreal than that idea; but it shows you the mindset of many Bruin fans.

I do believe that Guerrero wants to hire a coach with experience, and is more than likely to do so. But for me at least, that is not good enough. Simply being better than Dorrell, or even than Dorrell and Toledo. is just not sufficient. Guerrero talks optimistically enough about being a national contender, "however you want to interpret that." But I am not at all sure that he knows enough about college football to realize that this doesn't just happen by wanting it to, or by relying on UCLA's potential talent advantages over some other schools in our conference. If only there were three or four great head coach prospects out there, so that we would have a decent chance of falling into one of them. At this point, I would be stunned and exultant if we somehow landed Petersen; quite satisfied if we got Mendenhall or Mariucci; pleasantly surprised if it were Grobe; not overjoyed but at least reasonably hopeful if it turned out to be Jones. Other than that, I will not be very happy. Thus, rightly or wrongly, for better or for worse, I now once again find myself in the position of just hoping that we can get out of this football search alive.

Postscript: If I were forced to bet on who the next coach will be, and I were given three guesses at it, I'd say--despite all the misdirection--Jones, Mariucci or Leach. If only two guesses, I'd say Mariucci or Leach. If just one guess, Leach (unfortunately for me). I'll get to see how accurate I am within a pretty short time.

- Bruin Blue

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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