First of all let me say that I’m just as frustrated as everyone else. As a season ticket holder I was at the game today and was really hopeful that we would play well and have a reasonable chance to win. What a disaster. First the three interceptions killed us early in the game. But the biggest thing that stood out to me was how bad our defense is. This is the third game, and it’s the third game that the defense has played poorly, and this after they were supposed to be the strength of our team this year. Joe Tresey has shown us nothing so far, and I actually even found myself feeling a little nostalgic for Chuck Bullough. At least under him last year our defense had some bright moments specifically when they totally dominated Houston and when they shut down Texas in Austin. They look much worse this year. I’ve remained hopeful about CRN and up to now have defended him, but now I too have lost confidence in him and unless there is a near miraculous turn around over the rest of the season I think he’s gone.
But while I understand the disappointment and the frustration I don’t see the logic in all the blame being put on Dan Guerrero and the supposed “culture of mediocrity” that some people are talking about. Some people talk almost as if Guerrero knowingly settled on hiring a mediocre coach when better ones were clearly available, or that the administration knew of clearly better choices to CRN but didn’t want to put out the money. But this was clearly not the case. I remember that after Karl Dorrell the consensus opinion of UCLA fans was that the key requirement for our new coach was for someone who had already been successful as a head coach. And CRN fit that requirement better than anyone having taken Washington to a Pac 10 championship and a Rose Bowl victory and Colorado to a Cotton Bowl victory. And given that this was his dream job it was a good assumption that he would never leave the head coaching position at UCLA if successful.
Many people knowledgeable about football were confident that CRN would be a very successful coach here. One was Bob Stiles (who made likely the greatest play in UCLA football history). I remember him saying that he thought CRN would have us even with USC within a couple years. Unfortunately he was wrong, but an optimistic outlook certainly seemed warranted at that time. The main misgivings at the time were about the alleged ethical issues with his past coaching positions and not about his ability to coach and recruit.
Now people are looking with hindsight based on a very disappointing outcome as if this was obvious when CRN was hired. Let me ask a question. Shortly after CRN was named head coach he hired Norm Chow as offensive coordinator. How many of you at that time predicted that over the next four years our football team would have a mediocre unproductive offense? And how many of you predicted at that time that what would be most lacking would be an effective passing game? And how many of you predicted then that with Norm Chow and CRN as coaches that the biggest weakness would be the quarterback play?
My point is that you can only evaluate a decision based on what was known at the time the decision was made. And at the time the decision was made to hire CRN the probabilities certainly favored that he would be a successful head coach at UCLA. Now with hindsight people are constructing arguments that this very bad outcome should have been clear when CRN was hired. But that’s how the hindsight bias works, because after the race is run or the game is over it always seems that the outcome should have been easy to see. But at the time of his hiring the reasonable assumption was that CRN would be a successful coach and would certainly have productive offenses. Some people on this site see Mike Leach as something of a dream coach for UCLA. But based on his coaching record at the time of his hiring a good argument could be made that CRN had a better coaching resume. Mike Leach had very productive and highly entertaining offenses, but his teams were mediocre on defense, and unlike CRN he never won a major bowl game like the Rose Bowl and never had a team finish the season anywhere near the top 5.
So at the time Dan Guerrero made the decision to hire CRN the probability favored that he would be highly successful here, and it was a decision that most of us were excited about. Yet some people here are talking almost as if it was obvious to Guerrero and the administration that CRN was a mediocre choice which they were willing to settle for either because they tolerate mediocrity or because they wanted to save money. Or maybe they should have known that this was going to turn out badly. But then I have to again ask how many of us would have predicted at the time that CRN was hired and picked Norm Chow as offensive coordinator that we would have over the next 3 years one of the most anemic passing offenses in all of college football?
The other criticism of Dan Guerrero is that by now he should have already fired CRN. However I think that the great majority of us at Bruins Nation were at least cautiously hopeful that this year would bring a significant improvement. And some people expressed the concern that getting a new coach was like starting over again and would take another 3 years of rebuilding with no guarantee of positive results. So in giving CRN a fourth year I think that Dan Guerrero was taking a reasonable position with which the majority of us were in agreement.
Again I understand and share the disappointment and frustration we all are feeling, and I have no personal feeling one way or the other towards Dan Guerrero, but I find the criticisms of him to be based on illogical assumptions and to be unfair. Based on what was known at that time his decision to hire CRN made good sense. The cosmic question is how a coach who had a #3 nationally ranked team and overall had good success at both Colorado and Washington could have no success here.