It is rare to see a piece in the LA Times that doesn’t make us shake our heads or throw our mouse against the wall (or burn the paper if you still read it that way…all two of you). But here is one, from a rather surprising source: Bill Plaschke.
It is the summer before what is arguably the most important college football season that Rick Neuheisel has ever been a part of. By all accounts, he is on the hot seat. He knows it and wouldn’t be able to forget it even if he wanted to:
The UCLA football coach must win at least half of his games and play in a bowl or he's gone, and he knows it.
"I hate talking like that, but, as an alumni, I would say absolutely yes," Neuheisel said Thursday. "At the end of the day, I am responsible for this program."
So how is your summer? Neuheisel's has been filled with people talking about a temperature that has nothing to do with the air.
"Obviously, I've had a number of conversations like, 'Hey, you're on the hot seat, you're the No. 1 guy on the hot seat,' " he says.
For all his optimism, CRN is not blind to his environment and to the situation in which he finds himself. As we have seen before, he maybe be at his best when he has his back against the wall. You can criticize his coaching, his boyish attitude, what have you, but you have to admire his gumption and his courage. Faced with what could possibly be his last chance to be a college head coach, he makes a wholesale change in his staff, which includes a legend, and surrounds himself with people with whom he feels comfortable.
Even though Plaschke still brings up the severance package for Norm Chow without context, he seems to grasp the essence of the dysfunction that plagued the team for the last three years:
The biggest lack of connection occurred with Chow, who is one of the finest football men and human beings I have known, but who also probably never should have been hired in the first place. Chow was used to running a national-championship offense. Neuheisel was used to working up an NFL offense. The Bruins had two offensive coordinators, which meant, in the end, that they had no offensive coordination.
And CRN can admit this, and his own mistake, while still remaining classy and respectful:
"I was more enamored with Norm's profile than anything else," Neuheisel says of a hire that was wildly and naively applauded by many, including me. "I was trying to hit a home run."
"It just didn't work, and it's not Norm's fault. It was that chemistry thing. We didn't have the usual give-and-take that staffs need to be successful," Neuheisel says. "You have to have a staff that develops a recipe for success and stays united behind it. … I don't think that always got accomplished and, because of that, there's a trickle-down effect on your players."
We have gone to great lengths to analyze all the shortcomings of our UCLA football team the last few years. I think we can all agree that there was a distinct lack of energy that permeated the players, except perhaps for a few games. Hopefully, CRN’s new staff will take care of that, and by all accounts it is not hard to imagine that it will be the case given the differences in personality.
Let me make one thing clear: CRN will not be exempt from the same level of scrutiny that we exercise on all our coaches at all times. He will be under the BN microscope, as always, as we discuss the season within the community.
It behooves all of us, however, to enter this season without a sigh, without a sense of dread, with an open mind and a dash of patience. Plaschke and CRN himself know the minimum expectations, and we should not expect a team with a new staff and some relatively young players to come out and play lights out and dominate. I think the best thing to do for us as Bruins is to cheer for our team and our coach from the get-go, support them as best we can, and not throw our hands up in the air at the first sign of adversity. Sure, we have suffered as fans and are on our last nerve, but we can start with some positivity and with a clean slate, while keeping in mind the Eye Test.
A tough, nerve-wracking season awaits us. Let us show our Blue and Gold colors first and foremost.