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Sunday Morning Quarterback: Why Does UCLA’s Jerry Azzinaro Still Have a Job?

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For that matter, the same thing should be asked about defensive backs coach Paul Rhoads.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 29 UCLA at Cincinnati Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jerry Azzinaro is still UCLA’s defensive coordinator this morning, but he shouldn’t be.

That’s because he is responsible for what is one of the worst, if not the worst defense in the FBS. Let’s look at just how bad the UCLA Bruins’ defense is.

I’ll start with the “bright” spot — the rushing defense. The rushing defense is ranked 77th in the nation with an average of 162.7 yards per game. The Bruins have only given up seven rushing touchdowns so far this season. That’s good for 36th best in the nation.

Having looked at the “bright” spot, let’s now look at the passing defense. UCLA is ranked 130th — in other words, dead last — in the nation in passing yards.

Now, that stat might be a teensy-tiny bit misleading. That’s because the Bruins have played more games than New Mexico. So, UCLA does improve when you look at yards per game where the Bruins are ranked 129th in the nation, in front of just New Mexico.

Of course, last night, UCLA made Oregon State Beavers’ QB Jake Luton look like a Heisman contender last night when Luton threw for five touchdowns, which makes sense as the Bruins have given up a total of 21 touchdown passes — more than any other team in the country.

How bad has the UCLA passing defense been this year? The Bruins have already allowed more passing touchdowns through six games than they did for the entire season last year.

Of course, the case can be made that other members of the defensive staff shouldn’t have jobs either.

UCLA is allowing 24.2 receptions per game. Amazingly, that’s not the worst in the nation! But, it is 120th. So, it’s the 10th worst in the nation.

By now, it should be clear why, in addition to Jerry Azzinaro, Paul Rhoads shouldn’t have a job either. I questioned the hiring of Rhoads back when he was hired. I found his hiring underwhelming and doubted whether he would be able to improve the Bruins’ pass defense.

UCLA’s defensive results are what happens when you drive all the talent out of a program. It’s also what happens when you don’t recruit well.

What typically happens when a defense struggles this bad is heads roll. In fact, with a bye this week and Stanford on the schedule for a week from Thursday, now is the perfect time for a change in leadership on the defensive side of the ball.

We saw one this week at Washington State after the Cougars lost their first two Pac-12 games of the season. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys did the honorable thing and resigned.

Jerry Azzinaro and Paul Rhoads should do the same.

But, he won’t because Chip Kelly won’t make him an ultimatum because they are old friends. Azzinaro has been with Kelly at Oregon, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Why would Kelly threaten to fire his friend Jerry?

After all, with Dan Guerrero now officially a lame duck athletic director, Kelly has virtually no chance of being fired after this season even if the team doesn’t win another game this season. There are just two chances that Guerrero would look to hire a new football coach while he’s got one foot out the door: slim and none. Why would Guerrero want to put himself through that in his final eight months as AD? He will kick the can to the next AD, which will mean either a very quick hiring process and transition or, more likely, another season of terrible football next year under Chip Kelly.

No, much to the chagrin of Bruin everywhere, this mess isn’t going away anytime soon, even though it should.


One final note on last night’s game: Did you see the Victory Bell was finally back on the field at last night’s game? It was the first time since UCLA won it back last November. I’m still waiting for someone (read: anyone) in the Athletic Department to explain why it took soooooo long. I mean, this season is half over. If you think the Bruins are going to get to keep it beyond November, I think you’re delusional. I’m not sure UCLA’s going to win another game this season, much less beating Southern Cal again.


Go Bruins.