Looks like you all are keeping this place ROCKIN' Just come by quickly to get this post up courtesy of Bruin Blue. GO BRUINS. -N
In the next few weeks, I will take a little trip to Vegas, for the sole purpose of betting on Karl Dorrell--or rather UCLA, which is to my mind unfortunately being coached by Karl Dorrell, but will have a big year even so. I will bet the "over" on the number of regular season wins for this year's UCLA football team. Right now, the number appears to be at exactly nine. I would prefer eight-and-a-half, of course, but I will take nine if necessary. The only way I can lose such a bet is if UCLA wins eight or less games this season, and I figure there's about a 10% likelihood of that happening.
Yes, there could be injuries (one reason why betting the "over" in season totals is usually not a great bet), but UCLA is well-equipped to handle that, with two QBs who have shown they can win, an offense not dependent on one great running back or wide receiver, and a defense which is veteran and deep. And the schedule is so favorable--something some of the pundits fail to realize, but which is regularly pointed out on Bruin Nation. BYU minus its great QB and other top players, mediocre Utah, and Notre Dame which has only prestige and a promising freshman class to threaten. And the conference is not deep with good teams; USC of course will be great, but other than that, only Cal and Oregon State seem threatening. And of even the first division group, only Oregon State is a road game. So even if we lose that one (and I don't see that we should), we still look to win 10. And beating USC is hardly an impossibility, since Booty is no Leinart or even Palmer, and our defense will be able to stop almost any attack. I actually think that 12-0 is more likely than 9-3, so I am willing to put my money where my opinion is.
But aren't I one of Dorrell's biggest critics? Does this mean that I know have drunk the kool-aid, or whatever unappetizing metaphor Dorrell once used to describe his commitment to the WCO? Well, I approach this season with decidedly mixed feelings, since I would dearly love to get rid of Dorrell, who I still think was a dreadful coaching choice, and who I am convinced will never bring this program to a consistent level of greatness, where I completely believe a good coach would take it and keep it, just as we see happening in basketball. So if Dorrell pulls off 11-1 or even 10-2, I will have to live with the depressing prospect of seeing him around here for five or ten more years, or even twenty, like Donahue. And if he were somehow to be offered an NFL head job (I think that is a good deal more unlikely than people like to rumor), we will unquestionably end up with his assistant DeWayne Walker, a likeable personality who seems like a pretty good defensive coach, but who has certainly not proven his capacity as a head coach. Like so many people here, I want to see UCLA stop acting as if it is a training and proving ground for head coaches, and to start hiring, like the big-time schools do, people who have shown head coaching success and promise at a smaller or even comparable level. I want to see Jim Tressels, Urban Meyers, yes even Pete Carrolls (took two teams to the NFL playoffs), rather than Donahues, Toledos and Dorrells. And with a big year this year, my wish will never come true.
Actually, a good deal of the reason that I am so confident about my win totals prediction is my very strong sense that Dorrell is simply a very lucky person who will somehow manage to do whatever is necessary to save his job. Some people in sports just have that luck, while others do not. I will never forget Terry Donahue, a fundamentally unsound, unimaginative coach who fell into this job because Dick Vermeil took off for the NFL so late, being about to lose his job should he lose for the fifth straight time to USC, and then somehow saving it because Jeff Fisher unaccountably tried to intercept a pass instead of knocking it down, and mistimed his jump, and Freeman McNeil caught the tipped pass and scored the winning touchdown. I remember feeling excited for about thirty seconds, and then realizing that a fairly meaningless win had bought Donahue another five years, which of course turned into fifteen. And Dorrell is at least as lucky as his mentor and cheerleader Donahue.
I remember Dorrell's first year here, going to Tucson to play an absolutely awful Arizona team, and somehow letting that team push UCLA up and down the field, gaining close to 600 yards. But Dorrell got every break in that game-- Arizona penalties after big plays, fumbles in the red zone, a missed chip-shot FG which would have forced overtime. And I remember seeing Dorrell after that last play, that familiar dazed look on his face, as his Bruins, in classic Donahue fashion, had pulled out a game against a team they should have beaten by 25 points. And I thought at that time that Dorrell, another man who absolutely fell into this job, because the sports-clueless Chancellor thought it was more exciting to hire a young, African-American as football coach than someone with credentials, and because the AD relied on a Donahue hack to conduct his coaching search, was one of those unaccountably lucky people. And when we saw Dorrell's third season, where in four separate games, UCLA would have had no chance of winning had the opponent made one more first down against a horrendous Bruin defense, but somehow through over-conservatism and questionable playcalls, the opponent didnt't get that one first down with a couple of minutes to go, and UCLA miraculously pulled out all four games, to turn what probably should have been a 7-5 record into 10-2, everyone should have realized how amazingly lucky this man was.
And then of course came last season, where according to more than one report, Dan Guerrero was all set to fire Dorrell should he lose to USC--but of course he didn't. Yes, credit must be given to a fine effort; but everything set up in UCLA's favor, including the fact that USC was forced to play its fourth straight game against major competition, which is very difficult for even a great team to do; while UCLA had two weeks off. And even so, USC was inexorably driving for the winning touchdown, when a pass was tipped into the air and grabbed by a Bruin defender, and the upset was achieved. A great upset, undoubtedly; except that it fit into a 7-6 season, with losses to Washingon State and 0regon, among others, and another humiliation in a minor Bowl game. And so here Dorrell is again, with his staunch supporters happily forgetting all of the disappointments of last season and of the past four years, ready to anoint him if he finally has a major winning year. And at UCLA, with all its natural advantages which are finally beginning to be accepted as conventional wisdom, ANY coach can have the occasional big year here, if the administration lets him stay long enough. And any coach can win seven games a year here into infinity. Donahue did it. Toledo did it. Pepper Rodgers (with a shorter schedule) did it. Toledo almost won a national championship here, and he is generally regarded by Bruin fans as a joke of a coach. So it is certainly not paradoxical or contradictory to think that Dorrell is another UCLA coaching mediocrity and yet could go 11-1 this season.
Other schools sometimes hire coaches like this, but quickly realize their mistake, and are not fooled by the measure of success they achieve. Ron Zook was 9-3 one year, and actually came within some heartbreaking losses of having comparable seasons,, but Florida knew what was possible with a real coach, and so fired him and grabbed Urban Meyer. Ohio State used to win nine or ten games every year under John Cooper, but got tired of being second best, and hired Jim Tressel. Michigan won a national title under Lloyd Carr, but the faithful are getting sick of him, because they know what should be expected with that kind of talent at hand. But UCLA of course gives their coaches endless rope; and because of the talent available in Westwood, these coaches can almost always do enough to stay above water. Dorrell has wasted four years of our precious lifespans by achieving nothing, but a fifth year success will buy him another five. And that is the chief reason that our USC friends and enemies laugh at us, 13-9 notwithstanding; because they know that even though USC may have down years, or even once in a long while, a down decade; in the long run, they will demand championships and get them; while we will not, as we are ever-satisfied with the occasional big season, and feeling morally superior.
I am utterly, totally sick and tired of being a second-class football program; one which is good for national TV ratings, but which never threatens for a national title, much less wins one. And since I know that Karl Dorrell is not the man to make us what we could be, I am not nearly as excited as some about our potential "perfect storm" season coming up. But one takes what one can get--which in the case of UCLA football over the decades, has been not too much. And I am so confident about our chances this upcoming season that I am willing to bet on it. And if somehow I am wrong and I lose my money--well, I will consider it a very worthwhile donation to the "Get Rid of Karl Dorrell and Hire a Real Coach in Westwood" fund. Unless of course we go 8-4 and Dorrell tells us that we are definitely on the right track, and doing things the right way, and are very close to getting everybody on the same page--and the administration buys it and gives him another extension--at which time I will finally accept the fact that it is time to find another way to enjoy my autumns before the start of basketball season.
- Bruin Blue