Attention Jim Mora: "Playing Not to Lose" Donahue Conservatism Will Kill Your Coaching Career at UCLA

David Shaw's conservative mindset ala Donahue/Dorrell/Neuheisel cost Stanford it's biggest victory in years and ruined the ending of Andrew Luck's brilliant college career in Palo Alto. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Lot of buzz in the college football world today about the ending of the Fiesta Bowl last night. I did not get to watch the second half (saving my sports late nighter this week for our basketball game against Arizona on Thursday - I don't know why) but by all accounts (including SBN's Stanford blogger at Rule of Tree) it was David Shaw's conservatism that cost the Trees perhaps their biggest win in years.

New York Times' Paul Meyerberg threaded Shaw's conservatism with Chris Petersen's (hey do you guys know who he is?) own dumb founding decision from earlier this season today (emphasis added):

Both (Boise State and Stanford) were sent home thanks to botched coaching decisions. Think back to November, when the Broncos lost at home to T.C.U., 36-35. Now consider the waning moments in regulation in last night's Fiesta Bowl, when the Cardinal could have stamped home a narrow win by being aggressive, not conservative.

In each game - the two biggest games on each team's schedule - a failure to stick to the script meant the difference between victory and defeat. In Boise, Chris Petersen opted to play it safe: Moore drove the Broncos 38 yards in a minute, leading the offense from its own 40 to the T.C.U. 22, before Petersen called off the dogs.

It's been two months: Petersen's head-scratching decision remains the worst moment of his otherwise brilliant coaching career. And it remains nonsensical, considering that Petersen - unlike Stanford's David Shaw - had been through the fire, had been to the B.C.S., had been game-tested, yet made a foolish decision to move away from the aggressiveness that led him and his team to that point.

You need to read the whole post. The underlying point of Meyerberg's post is consistent with the argument we made numerous times in last two years, imploring Rick Neuheisel to shed his Donahuesque conservative mindset at UCLA. Neuheisel kept playing safe and it eventually led to losing all support from Bruin Nation, and ultimately leaving UCLA with a disappointing and underachieving record of unfulfilled expectations.

As we officially get ready for the start of Jim Mora era (I believe beginning on January 9th) we hope Coach Mora is taking into account what took place in the Stanford game and generally in college football. If he is truly committed to making a culture change at UCLA, he will need to get away from the failed, conservative, playing it safe Donahue mindset that has rotten the core of UCLA's football foundation in this previous decade.

Unless Mora moves away from this conservative mindset, we are afraid the culture of mediocrity will not change. We are hoping the ushering in of Noel Mazzone era will facilitate that culture change, and enable us to pur the horrible, playing not to lose mindset, forever in our rear view mirror. Rooting for Mora to get it done.


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