Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Moving On

Moving on: it is a phrase that we hear all throughout our lives. We move on from an ugly breakup. We move on after failing a test. Just as in life, you hear this phrase quite a bit when it is applied in sports. Most often, teams have to move on from a tough loss or from the injury of a key player. However, there is one time that it seems to strike fear into a fan base is when it is time to move on from a coach. Losses and injuries are easy to move passed when you think about it. You really don't have time to dwell on it as you know that you have another game that you need to prepare for less than a week away. But when it comes to coaching changes, the problem is the exact opposite in that athletic directors and fan bases have all the time in the world to think about it.

When it comes to situations that seem like they merit a coaching change, the two factors that consistently seem to hold back overhaul are complacency and uncertainty. Complacency is a word that coaches and ADs try to avoid and hate to say because they never want to give off the appearance that anything less than a title is unacceptable. But come on, you can't tell me that Northwestern isn't complacent with Pat Fitzgerald averaging 7 wins a year and a bowl game. But when it comes to powerhouses, the level of tolerance is much lower. For them, the biggest fear is uncertainty.
The memes have spoken.

You can see it with two of college football's best from just this season. Both LSU and Oklahoma suffered week one losses to teams that they were heavily favored over, in a fashion that made all of their fans say "Christ, not this again". Oklahoma lost to Houston in another classic flop by Big Game Bob while LSU boasted another terrible quarterback performance and failed to topple Wisconsin at Lambeu Field. For both of these teams, these both have to feel all too familiar. Over the past decade or so, Oklahoma has consistently lost games that they just have no business losing. They always seems to have so much talent and usually have more than their opponent, but there are always those one or two games every single year where they lay an egg and are out of title contention (*Note: this article was written before the Sooners were sandblasted at home by Ohio State. They are now out of title contention just 3 games into the season). For LSU, it was a familiar sight as their passing attack let down the offense and forced them to become too one dimensional. After an offseason of hyping up Brandon Harris as having taken that next step, Harris was dismal and couldn't take advantage of two highly touted players in Malachi Dupree and Travin Dural. It is absolutely staggering that LSU can't seem to develop quarterback prospects with seemingly so many of them in their recruiting grounds. Both of these early season losses have largely derailed both seasons with some much tougher games ahead.

"Where should I coach next?"
So the question becomes: when does the school finally say enough is enough and shitcan these guys? Les Miles was almost fired last offseason and was only saved because his players believed in him and made a big enough scene that his job was secured. I bet after that Wisconsin game that both players and fans alike were wondering why the hell they made that decision. And with the successive disappointing seasons for Oklahoma, there has to be some louder rumblings from the pre-existing "Fire Stoops" regime. But like the Terminator, these guys are just impossible to kill and just keep coming back for more. Why, you may ask as often as I do? It is because the ADs who are the ones who actually make these decisions are too scared of what they do after firing someone who has been there longer than them. Let's face it, a bad season for either of these teams is usually just nine or ten wins with a New Year's Day bowl game. And a lot of ADs recognize that sometimes winning only nine or ten games with some New Years Six bowls mixed in there is better than only six or seven wins and a lower tier bowl. That's why they would rather put up with stagnating than trying to have a new and fresh idea which could put their team over the top. Every once in a while, you see it where a team does make the right decision and make the move away from a long established coach in order to bring in some new blood. Georgia fired Mark Richt after more than a decade of service and several great years. And with their hiring of Kirby Smart, it doesn't look like Georgia has missed a beat as they are now a top 15 team and look like they could win the SEC East again this year. Sometimes, you just have to take a gamble and see where the die land.

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