54 Minutes and 38 seconds into Rick Neuheisel's 35th game as the head coach at UCLA, with Darius Bell's interception having just resulted in Washington taking a 17-7 lead against the Bruins; I think it's officially time that Dan Guerrero does the right thing and pulls the plug on the failed Rick Neuheisel experiment.
I think I speak for a majority of Bruin fans in saying I simply cannot take it anymore. I cannot stand the embarrassing losses on national television. I cannot stomach the lack of discipline on the field. I cannot handle the revolving door behind center. I'm tired of the excuses. Enough is enough.
To be fair, I was very much in line with Guerrero when he selected Neuheisel to replace Dorrell. I liked that he had head coaching experience. I liked that he had spent time in the NFL. I liked that he seemed to have learned from all of his mistakes. I liked that he had played and coached in the Rose Bowl. I loved that he was a Bruin. I don't fault Guerrero for making the decision, his reasoning was very sound. It was worth it to see if Rick Neuheisel could succeed doing things the right way because the reward could've been outstanding.
Three years into his tenure at UCLA, it's become very clear he cannot.
This isn't about criticizing Coach. He seems like a great person who is well intentioned. He simply doesn't possess the tools necessary to restore our program to it's rightful place as a Pac-10 and national title contender. Since his miraculous run to the Rose Bowl with Washington in 2000 (we won't discuss the questionable circumstances surrounding), Neuheisel has a head coaching record of 30-31.
Hovering at a record of .500 since that Rose Bowl, I felt tonight was a very big night for Coach to show whether or not he was capable of taking a huge step forward and taking UCLA with him. For those of us who were forced to sit through that performance, it was a nightmare we've had one too many times.
UCLA is located in the most quarterback rich area of the country, yet three years into his tenure, Neuheisel has yet to produce an answer at the position. Kevin Prince can't stay on the field. Richard Brehaut has shown promise, but eventually the promise has to turn into production. Darius Bell? Clayton Tunney? Who's next, Ben Olson? The lack of consistency at the most important position on the field is alarming to say the least. With no definitive answer in sight, Neuheisel's failure at the quarterback position is more than enough to cost him his job. Still, there is so much more.
The much heralded switch to the pistol offense has been a disaster to say the least. The team has shown an ability to run the ball behind an improving offensive line, but it has come at the expense of averaging the 5th lowest passing yards in the country at 121 yards game. If I had posted on Bruin's Nation when Coach got the job that three into his tenure at UCLA, with Norm Chow spearheading the offense the Bruins would be 116th in the country in passing yard per game, I would've been laughed off of the site. It's not laughing matter anymore. The offensive coordinator who brought us Ty Detmer, Steve Young, Phillip Rivers, and a couple of other guys across town is every bit of responsible for the colossal failures of the offense. Still, there is so much more.
Anyone who follows football knows the place where coaching shows up most is in the penalty stats. Following Thursday night's game, UCLA will drop to second in the Pac-10 at over 6.7 penalties a game and getting worse. In case you are wondering, yes we rank close to the bottom third in penalties per game in the country. Penalties are about focus and discipline. The head coach is responsible for instilling both and Neuheisel's team is only getting worse, as evidenced by an increase in over a half a penalty a game for last year. If you are questioning whether or not penalties speak about a team, consider the guys across town are the only team in the Pac-10 who average more.
UCLA has no quarterback of the future. The offense is in shambles. The defense has been counted on to do too much for too long. The discipline on the field is entirely lacking. The team is getting worse. There is almost nothing on or off the field to which you can point to show that UCLA is headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, Rick Neuheisel is the one who must take the blame.
My senior of high school, I can remember watching Cade McNown and UCLA lay waste to the Pac-10 and hoping that I would get accepted so that I could join in on all of the fun. Ten years into my lifetime as a Bruin, I'm no closer to experiencing it than I was in 1999. For those of you who want to make excuses, you are more than welcome to do so. As for me, I believe UCLA belongs in the Rose Bowl discussion almost every single year.
It's time for Rick Neuheisel to go so that UCLA can get back on track.