PASADENA, CA - Because of, or despite the play of Datone Jones, Jim Mora has retained the services of defensive line coach Inoke Brecterfield. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
There is a person in my life who makes predictions for a living. I prefer not to be too specific, but I can tell you that their work requires extensive analysis of the economy and financial sectors -- with an eye on commodities -- and then make predictions on where prices are going in the future. There are people who rely on this person and a lot of money is risked and invested based on these predictions.
There are real stakes involved.
But my friend/colleague is not always right. No one is always right. Trying to guess the future price of gold or silver six months, a year, two or three years from now is an inexact science to say the least.
But my colleague, she has an interesting way of looking at her work. She feels that those who follow her rely a little too much on the end results, the final numbers or predictions. They don't pay enough attention to the underlying story that accompanies the tables and the charts. That's the important stuff, she says, that people often overlook. She puts it this way:
"Achilles, I'd rather be wrong for the right reasons," she says, "then right for the wrong reasons."
The reasoning is this: Sound methodology is more important than predictions. No one can account for every possible factor that impacts the outcome. But if your arguments are sound, not only will you do a good job of making predictions but you'll be able to justify your mistakes and retain your credibility. Anyone can guess right once in a while, even the the broken clock is right twice a day.
So, what's that got to do with UCLA and UCLA football?
I'm glad you asked:
The point is that even if Dan Guerrero turns our right regarding Jim Mora, the criticism of the process that brought Mora to UCLA is still sound. The fact of the matter is, the process that began with a full-court press (that's a big "my bad" for mixing my sports metaphors) on Chris Petersen and ended with the late-on-a-Friday, after-the-papers-went-to-press-and-Sports-Center-has-already-been-taped hiring of Jim Mora remains seriously flawed whether or not Mora proves successful. If Mora turns out to be a great coach, this will be a case of the athletic director being right for the wrong reasons.
This notion does have one liberating quality and it's an important distinction. Now that Jim Mora has been hired as UCLA's head football coach, I have ever intention of rooting for his total success and in enjoying that success should it come. The fact that I believe that he got the job for the wrong reasons and that there were other potential candidates with a higher, on paper chance for success doesn't mean that I want Jim Mora to fail. The fact that there was no rush to hire a man who was biding his coaching time calling NFL games on television when there were college coaches with proven track records who might have wanted to coach football at UCLA and we rushed to hire him anyway doesn't mean he won't succeed or that those of us critical of the coaching search want him to fail just to justify some lame, I-told-you-so agenda.
I once read a novel that was in part centered on the creation of a new nation. Two of the characters in the book have a huge, emotional falling out because one is in favor of this new state becoming a nation and the other is not. They stop speaking. But once the decision is made and this new state is recognized as a country, the character who was opposed approaches his once-friend and they reconcile. He tells him that when it was still undecided what would happen, they were in opposition. But once the decision was made and the new country became a reality, he had no choice but to begin the work that would make this new country a success and that there was no reason for their opposition to keep them apart any longer.
That's how I feel about Jim Mora right now. I was opposed to him being offered the job, but now that he's been offered and since accepted, I will root hard for his success and support him if I'm able to do so.
All that said, I am so far please with what I've seen and heard. He's hired three new coaches - Demetrice Martin, Steve Broussard and Adrian Klemm - all of whom are reputed to be great recruiters with deep ties to the Los Angeles area high school football community. He retained Marques Tuiasosopo (an intern under Rick Neuheisel) and promoted him to tight ends coach. He also retained defensive line coach Inoke Brecterfield, a move that puzzled me a bit, not because the D-line underperformed last season, but because it underperformed due to some very curious personnel moves. The line played much better, as a matter of fact, when Datone Jones moved inside and the rotation changed. So, maybe, that's what Mora based this hire on, maybe he felt that some of those curious player decisions were coming from above Breckterfield's pay grade.
Also, if you skim the recruiting sites like Tracy Pierson's Bruin Report Online, you get the feeling that Mora is already out there on the recruiting road, shoring up commitments and going after not only the undecideds but also players committed to other schools. For what it's worth, getting to a bowl game on a waiver ultimately is going to mean a lot, not for the game necessarily but because all the extra practicing allowed Jim Mora to get a look at the current team, watch some of the current assistants work and bring recruits to campus to watch work outs. These are all good things.
Sometimes I'm such a "fan" I scare myself. Because despite everything I know and believe about the program, despite the shortcomings of the athletic director and his department that get detailed on Bruins Nation, I'm feeling pretty excited right now. I'm just getting a sense that the malaise that infected the football program and the football team is lifting and that there is a new sense of urgency and intensity.
I like it.
Look, I know as well as everyone else that what's happening now is not nearly as important as what happens next spring, next summer, next season. Hiring a top staff and recruiting good players is important, but they are just prelude to the season and it's there that we'll learn what we have got
For now, I'm just hoping Dan Guerrero got this right, even if the reasons were wrong.