Let me start off by admitting my ignorance: I did not see one play of the Cal game. Not one.
Instead, I spent an incredible Saturday with my kid. Picked her up at UCSD, drove up the coast to Carlsbad, ate at a nice outdoor table at a "comfort food" bistro, and then went to the Outlet Mall and bought her stuff. A perfect day, indeed.
Well, not completely perfect. Every so often, when she was in a try on room, I got on the thread on my iPhone and followed the downward spiral of our football team.
I’ve made no effort to watch any of the game tapes. But, I’ve read everything on this board, including the threads; there is some very strong analysis and advocacy going on here -- top notch stuff.
Avoiding the game tapes did not help. Ignorance is not bliss. I still feel immersed in the morass and one overriding thought seems to be weighing me down:
We’ve been here before. This is déjà vu of another kind. We are reliving last year’s basketball season -- except the drama is being played outdoors on a football field. The parallels are uncanny. Scary.
1. We have a coach we love, one we want to succeed who, it appears, is not getting the job done. And, there are serious questions about the contributions, beyond recruiting, his assistant coaches are making.
In football, it’s easier to see the deficiencies. You have a coach in charge of individual positions and one for each side of the ball. The failures are obvious. The accountability more easily assessed.
Just as a righteous demand was made on CBH to shake up his staff, the demand has been made on CRN to do the same. In each case, the demand has been made with an eye to sparing the head coach and a belief that he is not being served, well, by his subordinates. Because each is a CEO, the ultimate responsibility rests on the top guy’s shoulders. If they do not change coaches, and the programs do not improve, the head guys will have to go.
And, that’s hard for me to say. I love both of these coaches and never want to see them leave. If they think staying the course is the right course, that’s their call. I want nothing more than for them to turn around, next year, and say "I told you so. I knew what I was doing. And, now we are in the promised land". But, without some changes, I’m afraid they won’t get there and they, too, will end up on the outside looking in.
2. Both coaches lack talent and experience at key positions. And, to a certain extent, neither is at fault for the problem.
Last year CBH did not have a talented point guard. And, you cannot play basketball without a talented point guard.
CRN does not have a quarterback. Or an offensive line. Or a defensive line. We have talent but not experience. And, you cannot play football without talent at those spots.
CBH was in the same position. He was there because of one bad recruiting class and a bunch of early defections.
CRN is there because the cupboards really were bare. And, it takes time to develop the "support staff" -- the O and D lines.
Interestingly, in both sports, size matters. And, size is, to a great extent, a function of age. To play well in CBH’s system, one must be bigger and stronger -- and 18 year old kids just out of high school need the time to develop those bodies. And, to play either line in football, one must be bigger and stronger -- and 18 year old kids just out of high school need to develop those bodies, too.
CRN is in a tough place. His older guys on the line, the guys with the bigger bodies, were not the most talented in the stable he inherited and, therefore, have little experience. Soon, he will have his recruits -- kids who have been here long enough to grow big and strong; if they fail, it will be on him. Until then, it’s not totally fair to judge him.
CBH’s teams failed for lack of a point guard.
CRN’s for lack of a quarterback. Sorry, but neither Kevin Prince nor Richard Brehaut, at this stage of their careers, is sufficiently good to lead an inexperienced, somewhat talented team to consistent victories.
I love Kevin Prince’s heart in the same way that I loved Kevin Craft’s heart. But, we have to remember that our oft injured QB has played very little football, on the practice field or in actual games, for the past 3 years. And, it shows.
I think the move to the pistol, to take advantage of what he can do, was a very wise move. It showed a flexibility that distinguishes CRN from CBH (until CBH finally bit the bullet and decided to play some zone D.)
The pistol was the right move for a strong and healthy Prince. He can run. He is fast. He can make good reads. And, he did it well, until his knee injury.
I was at the WSU game. Yes, Brehaut helped put 42 points on the board, but it was clear that he was not a pistol QB. In fact, we ran many plays out of the shotgun or pro set. When he did run the pistol, he was not capable of the same level of "deception" that we got from Prince. Luckily, he was playing against WSU.
Like CBH, CRN has key position players who are not getting the job done. There is no supporting cast for the few players who are playing hard and playing well. I liken our starting receivers to one of our forwards -- whose name shall not be mentioned on BN again. They are not getting the job done. They are consistently letting us down and putting us in the hole. Yet, they continue to play.
And, therein lies the rub. At this point of the football season, we are at an identical point in which we found ourselves in the basketball season --
3. If we are to have any hope of winning, we need to take some risks. We need to shuffle our line-up, play some younger players, even if they are not ready, to see what they can do and, at worst, to give them experience for next year.
CBH was stubborn throughout most of the season. He would not change his line up or take the risks that would have followed playing very young.
I can understand the position in which we put a coach. We demand wins for this season. We have expectations for improvement. Standards the coaches must meet. It’s hard, under that pressure, to take a risk.
CBH did not make radical changes.
I’m hoping CRN will.
But, if we want our coaches to make radical mid season-changes, we have to give them the flexibility to take the risks inherent in changing schemes and talent -- or in taking bigger steps like the immediate firing of position coaches and coordinators.
You cannot tell CRN to take those risks and then maintain your expectations from the beginning of the season. The changes may well bring about benefits. They may not. But, we have to empower a coach to make radical mid-season shifts by giving him the freedom to fail. Without the freedom to fail, there will be no progress.
I am all for getting rid of Bullough, now. Enough is enough. But, the risk is that we will get worse. Can a new coach really bring in a new scheme, quickly? Or, is the assumption that we need a new scheme wrong. Maybe, what we need is a new philosophy, one that plays the old scheme aggressively -- like we did against Texas and Houston. Same players, same plays, except no bend and break on 3rd downs. I’m willing to take that risk. I don’t think Bullough deserves to keep his job.
But, I vehemently disagree with those who think Coach Chow is in the same boat. He is not. He has done everything under the sun to create an offense that features the "talent" he has. He is not responsible for the O line. He is not responsible for the receivers (the unit with the most potential and least performance on the team). He cannot help it if Franklin fumbles.
But, he can influence who plays. And, he has to stop playing the brick layers.
It is time for him to take some new risks -- to play young. More of Jones, some of Bell, more of Smith (who isn’t young in the age sense, just new to this team) and less of Embry, Rosario, and Harkey.
There are many more parallels to where we were half way into our basketball season. Embarrassing losses. Lack of discipline. Kids laughing on the bench when we were being blown out. Players seemingly not playing to their potential (or, maybe more likely, players whose potential was over rated). And, a frustrated fan base calling for change.
The question we face now is the same question we faced during basketball season. Are we willing to make some radical changes at the risk of losing the remainder of our games?
During basketball season, I was willing to take that risk -- in part because I believed that we might, in fact, be much better had we made some of those changes.
During this football season, I’m not so sure. The game is more complex. We are talking about changes in 11 positions on each side of the ball and the dynamics that accompany each change.
But, my bottom line is clear: I still trust CRN and CNC.
Both of these guys are ultra - competitive and neither wants to lose any more than we do. You do not see them laughing on the bench. CRN is direct and honest with us. He calls a turd a turd, not a flower in progress.
My solution: I want to give each the freedom to fail -- which is the ultimate freedom to take risks and make changes -- NOW.
CRN and CNC -- let it rip. In my eyes, you have nothing to lose.
PS. One off topic note: I didn’t have the time to post last week, after the WSU game how much I enjoyed the company of Brit and Mexi. Brit graciously invited us to his tailgate party and made us breakfast. Mexi was my seat mate. Two great guys that I would not have met but for BN.