Following our loss to Washington, I shared my thoughts as to why I felt it was time for Dan Guerrero to pull the plug on the Rick Neuheisel era in Westwood. My post ignited quite the debate, with some even questioning my motives. In light of tonight's embarrassing loss, I thought I would revisit my post as my belief has only been solidified by the final two games of the season.
First and foremost, I'd like to express my appreciation for CRN and his contributions to UCLA. I understand this is not just a game for him, this is his livelihood. Still, like each and everyone one of us, he should be judged on the merit of his results; nothing more and nothing less. I also understand that suggesting someone have their job taken from them is very serious, regardless of the their field of work. CRN knows better than anyone else and he understands more than any of us the nature of the beast for whom he toils. With great power, comes great responsibility, (not to mention great compensation) and Coach has failed to display that he can live up to his responsibilities. This is not to say that he is not capable, or that he was not worthwhile. Just to me, this time around, it's not going to work.
For those who believe I'm simply making a knee jerk reaction, I say nothing could be further from the truth. I held on longer than more than anyone I know for KD, and the very reason I joined BruinsNation is because I was strongly upset by the small few expressing the sentiment that Coach Howland deserved HotSeat consideration after last year's difficult season. I'm not simply having an emotional overreaction. I've seen what I've seen and I think what I think.
I still believe it's time for Dan Guerrero to make a change.
The most popular counter to my argument has been that three years is not enough time to establish a program. This is absolutely untrue. Even if three years were not enough, there needs to be some semblance of improvement and UCLA has shown nothing but regression. Had it not been for that unusual game up in Corvallis, UCLA could've easily ended up the season on a 7 game losing streak. We were one play away from a 7 GAME LOSING STREAK!
Let's revisit the three years not enough argument, however. Obviously, many of you have not been paying attention to college football as you don't even have to leave our conference to see what other coaches have been able to accomplish in three years of having taken over even lesser programs than ours.
Jeff Tedford took over a Cal program that had gone 1-10 in 2001, including a winless Pac-10 campaign.. In 2002, Tedford led the team to a 7-4 record, going 4-4 in conference. In 2003, he went 8-6, improving his conference record to 5-3. Then, in his third season, Tedford guided the Bears to a 10-2 record, finishing 7-1 in conference after a very close loss to USC. Had it not been for some behind the scenes politics, Cal would've found themselves in the Rose Bowl that year. In three years, Tedford took a 1-10 program to the brink of a BCS title game appearance. CRN is nowhere close. Tedford may have regressed this year, but Riley has always been a problem for Cal and as they move forward with Mansion, there is no doubt Cal will show improvement the next few years.
Jim Harbaugh took over a Stanford program that had gone 1-11 in 2006, including 1-8 in conference play. In 2007, Harbaugh led the team to a 4-8 record, including 3-6 in conference. In 2008, the Cardinal improved by one game to 5-7, including 4-5 in conference. In 2009, Stanford took another step forward improving to 8-5, finishing second in the Pac-10 at 6-3. The three years of Harbaugh's tenure displayed continual improvement, resulting in a 2010 campaign that has seen the Cardinal go 11-1, 8-1 in conference, and most likely securing a BCS at large bid. It's tough to argue that Stanford is not the third best team in the country. Will CRN be able to say that following next season? If you believe so, then I cannot help you. Furthermore, Harbaugh has adjusted his team to fit his personnel. Last season, the Cardinal were built on the legs of Heisman runner up Toby Gerhart. This season, Stanford is powered by the arm of all world QB Andrew Luck. Great coaches make the correct adjustments to the personnel they have. Still waiting on that Pistol to work out.
Perhaps, northern California is too far away for you. As much as it pains me to do so, let's take a look at what happened across town. To be fair, they were able to accomplish so much by taking several shortcuts, but as the NCAA has not taken away the first three season of Carroll's tenure, let's have a brief rundown. Year 1, 6-6. Year 2, 11-2. Year 3, 12-1 and AP National Champions. Amazing what you can do in three years when you are in Los Angeles.
Still don't think three years is enough?
in his first year at Alabama, Nick Saban led a team that had been 6-6 the previous year to a 7-6 record in 2007. In 2008, Saban guided the Crimson Tide to a 12-2 record and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. In 2009, his third season, Saban guided the Tide to a 14-0 record and a BCS national championship.
In his first year at Florida, Urban Meyer led went 9-3, improving on Ron Zook's previous 7-4 record. In his second year, Meyer led Florida to a 13-1 record and a BCS national championship.
In 1999, Bob Stoops replaced John Blake who had led Oklahoma to seasons of 3-8, 4-8, and 5-6 (marking the first time the Sooners had three consecutive losing seasons). Stoops went 7-5 his first season and in his second season led Oklahoma to a 13-0 record, 8-0 in conference and a BCS national championship.
Still not good enough?
Following the 1998 season, a coach took over a Pac-10 program that had gone 6-6 overall and 4-4 in conference the previous season. In 1999, that coach led the team to a 7-5 record, going 6-2 in conference. The following season, that coach led his team to an 11-1 record, going 7-1 in conference and defeating Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers in the Rose Bowl. His team ended the season ranked number three in both polls.
In 2008, that same coach inherited our UCLA Bruins, who just like Washington, had gone 6-6 the previous season. In his first season, he went 4-8, finishing 3-6 in conference. In his second season, he went 7-6, finishing 3-6 in conference. In his third season, which he just finished, his team went 4-8 and 2-7 in conference.
I repeat, in his third season, he went 2-7 IN CONFERENCE PLAY.
Every situation is not identical. Most of the time, a coach deserves the benefit of the doubt. CRN has had three years to establish some semblance of momentum for our program and he has absolutely failed to do so. Our QB situation is completely unresolved. I'm starting to believe we switched to the Pistol because CRN knew the potential for a devastating season existed and the change in offense would be a great scapegoat. Our defense has been forced to hold up struggling offenses for way too long.
I find it interesting that Bullough comes under such intensive fire here on Bruins Nation. Anyone who has played football on any level would know it's amazingly difficult to play defense consistently when you are carrying an offense that struggles to gain ten yards on any given possession. Defense is about intensity and passion. When you know your offense will waste your efforts no matter where you deliver them the ball, it's extremely difficult to maintain your focus. Tonight's game was a microcosm of a majority of the past few UCLA seasons (the magical Olson / Jonez Drew/ Lewis season withstanding).
The defense played an outstanding game for over three quarters. After USC's first TD, our defense manhandled the Trojans and prevented them from establishing any sort of momentum. Even after Franklin's fumble resulted in the second Trojan TD, the defense continued to hold USC down. The offense did absolutely nothing to reward the defense for their outstanding work. How long could they be expected to intercept passes in enemy territory, only to see the possessions result in punts?
I can continue writing page after page, providing example after example, but it won't solve all that has ailed our football program for the last several years.
You can tell me I'm over-reacting. You can tell me he needs more time. You can hide behind the idea we are not a football school or suggest the examples I have provided do not bear any similarity to our Bruins.
I don't think we can contend; I believe we should contend.
Three years into CRN's tenure, it's very clear that he will not be the one who leads us to our next national title, much less our next Rose Bowl appearance. If you feel we need to give him one more year before pulling the plug, you are entitled to your opinion.
If, however, it's the inevitability that I believe it is; why not pull the plug now and find the coach who can lead us to our rightful place amongst the Pac-10 and national title contenders?
I guess it's time to hit the hardwood.
Regardless of what happens, I'll be back next fall joining the rest of you to cheer for our beloved Bruins as they take to the Rose Bowl for another season.
UCLA, Fight! Fight! Fight!