I, like many of my fellow Bruins, have been intently pondering the future of our football program. For months (heck, years for me) we have been throwing around names, looking at the pros and cons of each, and trying to imagine what they would do if given a chance in Westwood.
But the question I keep coming back to, the idea that keeps circling around my thoughts throughout all of this, is how much of a gamble can I stomach?
There is no home run hire this time. There is no Howland -- someone who has demonstrated rebuilding at the D1 level, has a lot of head coach experience, has success everywhere he has gone, and on top of it all had UCLA as their dream job.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a candidate like that at this point?
But we don't have that luxury. So every candidate has definite risks involved.
Which gamble do I pull for? Do I go with the riskier guys who might also end up being the coach who brings us to national championship caliber prominence? Do I go with the safer guys, who don't have as much risk, but also are less likely to bring us to the greatest heights?
Peterson is the name that keeps getting thrown out there most often. Clearly he is the one that has the most support overall (and apparently DG's first choice), but my God he has a lot of risk associated with him.
People don't seem to think of him as risky as I do, but I don't know why. He has only been a head coach two years. TWO YEARS!
He clearly has been successful, but was he just in the right place at the right time? Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl, and he was no coaching gold mine, he just happened to inherit a great team.
Petersen took over a program clearly better than everyone else in the WAC -- which isn't exactly the toughest testing grounds. Do we really give him such great credit for racking up a great record over bad competition? Kansas didn't beat a really good team all year -- do we really believe they are a worthy BCS team? Do we really believe Ohio State would be one of the two teams left if there was a playoff?
The one thing people point to (over and over) is the win over Oklahoma. And that was indeed a great game. Clearly Petersen showed no fear and a lot of guts. But does one game really put him that far ahead of the field of candidates? People forget Oklahoma was only favored by 7 over Boise State. For comparison, Oklahoma is favored by 6.5 over West Virginia this year. Would you really be that shocked if WV wins (assuming Pat White is healthy again)? People also forget that Oklahoma came out flat as all hell as they probably took Boise State lightly and Boise State jumped out to a big lead. If Oklahoma had taken Boise State seriously, we probably aren't having such a groundswell of support for Petersen.
All of that being said, there are a lot of good things to say about Petersen. He could be great. He could be the next Urban Meyer. But even Urban Meyer had more of a track record than Petersen (having won at Bowling Green) before Utah. Petersen undoubtedly has a ton of upside, and could be awesome, but damn if he isn't one of the riskiest picks out there.
Do I pull for a Petersen hire because there is a chance he could be Urban Meyer?? Can I really work myself up for such a risky hire (albeit less risk than CTS), if it means we might hit oil?
How about Leach? That NY Times article was great, and my favorite quote in the whole article was:
"If you're on this offense, you expect to score. Most offenses on fourth down are coming off the field. On fourth down we expect a play to be called. Because we haven't scored yet."
That would certainly be a change from CTS. I also was amazed to see Texas Tech through 11 games had only 12 3-and-outs. 12!!! It sometimes seems like we do that in a half!
Offensively, with the athletes that would be at his disposal, I have no doubt we would become an offensive juggernaut. And, if nothing else, it would be a lot of fun to watch -- something which has often been lacking the last 5 years. But man is Leach a gamble. Is he Toledo v2.0?
Given a stellar D coordinator (a NEW one please!), and possibly solid people to help recruiting CA, we could really have the makings of a dominant program, but those are some big ifs.
Leach is also a bit loopy at times, and has had issues with PR.
Can I stomach all of those risks if it means potentially reaching the mountaintop? Can I summon up that fortitude after having CTS leech it out of me?
Mariucci is the third most popular choice here. I guess I don't get that. I don't see Mooch having as big an upside as the first two. I do think he would be solid, but I really question his dedication to the college game, and how much he wants to deal with recruiting. If he passed up the Michigan State job, which should have been a near perfect fit for him at the college ranks, why would I expect him to embrace it here?
Paul Johnson is the 4th most popular choice, and is often my top choice for CTS's successor (CTSS?). He has been flexible and won with multiple types of offenses. He has won without even 3* recruits. Everything on his resume is impressive, but the one thing I worry about is recruiting. He has never been a D1 recruiting star (and clearly, Navy presents some massive recruiting obstacles). He was an assistant as Hawaii, but he really doesn't have true West Coast ties or know anything about recruiting CA. And then I think that recruiting will take care of itself. 3* and 4* recruits come without much effort to UCLA, and if he is successful (which his resume seems to point to that he would be), that breeds more recruiting success.
All in all, I think he is, by far, the safest choice. Certainly a lot safer than Petersen and Leach. But in no way do I think he has as much upside. Petersen could be a future coaching superstar. Leach, paired with the right people, could produce an absolute monster.
Which brings me back to my original point. Who do I pull for? How much of a gamble can I stomach after the last 5 years?