I’ve had a chance to talk to a lot of people close to a few programs and here are some things that I think need to be addressed, and that are kind of outside of hiring news and speculation.
1. This is a terrible time for the players:
While much of the focus has been on coaches, administrators, and the recruits, the players left behind are probably in the worst state. Their leader, and high-integrity one at that, just left. He took some their position coaches and hit the road. Regardless of who is responsible, who is to blame, and whether this is good or not, all of these players came to OSU to play for Mike Riley — and he is now gone.
Not only is he gone, but the staff is gone too. As I talk to many people around the program, some parents, some players; I am left feeling their pain. Their strength coach is gone, their operations officers are gone — everyone who could guide them or tell them things will be OK is gone. In some cases they are angry, in some cases they are are still in shock, and in many cases, they are excited but nervous about what is next. There are thoughts of transferring or staying, but there is no way for them to be 100 percent certain until their new coach comes through the door and they get a chance to decide if they want to follow him or someone else.
This is a terrible time for any team, especially in this situation, because there is no interim coach coach left behind to help through the transition and no familiar name or face to assume the mantle of leadership. There is nobody, and that is the scariest part. So, many players just have to put on a brave face and go about their lives hoping that the next guy will be as good to them as the last guy, and will prepare them for football and life as well as the new Nebraska Cornhusker coach did.
So no matter what, lets not forget the ones left behind, the players who had to say goodbye to their coaches, mentors, and men they loved, and will have to try and embrace new ones. The average coaching tenure is four years, so this is not something that is unique to anyone. But when you have had the same face for more than a decade, it is slightly more uncharted territory.
2. While not the best, OSU still has something over any job out there:
Well, it may not be one thing, but despite the disadvantages of location, size, facilities, and finances, there are a lot of key advantages to the OSU job.
- Arguably, the second best conference in the country is the Pac-12. It is also one of five major conferences, so it has an advantage over 2/3 of the 120 something schools in Division 1 Football and is probably better than a quarter of the 65 jobs in the Big 5 Conference fraternity. It also is one of few that has an opening, so the list of potential jobs for the 2015 season is much smaller, and OSU is close to the top.
- Currently Sports On Earth has the OSU job as the fourth best job in the country, behind Florida, Michigan, and Nebraska. With Nebraska filled, it is now third. Florida and Michigan both fired their coaches after four years. OSU had its for 11 consecutive and 14 overall. You are going to get a chance with OSU that is for sure.
- OSU doesn’t have a single, or small group of top donors, that dictate the program. Unlike our in-state rivals, coaches at OSU have some autonomy and freedom to do what they want. They are not badgered incessantly by boosters, and the school is totally in charge of hiring and firing. That bodes well for coaches who may have to come in and change a culture. That can take four years or so. While I am not super stoked about the potential of Brady Hoke being the next Beaver coach, he was barely able to get his guys in and his system in after Rich Rod was fired, so who knows what next year would have been like? At OSU, you will get a chance for sure. Sometimes, to our chagrin, you will get too much of a chance.
- OSU is a cheap (compared to a lot of major university towns) town, has no traffic, and has a pittance of the media pressure that other big name schools have. The difference between working at OSU and working at Michigan and Florida is akin to the difference in distance between the earth and the moon.
There are a lot of reasons to like OSU and its commitment to growing as a school and its facilities (multiple announcements this week of capital campaign potential) and that is why the Beavers should be able to pull a top name this hiring cycle. Who knows what next year’s jobs are going to look like, but at OSU, a new coach will be given a chance, given the resources he needs and will be able to start with a relatively healthy program that has won nine games as recently as two years ago. This is not the WSU or UW job, where you are undoing a decade or more of disrepair. This is a program that wins at a decent rate, has an intimidating stadium, and a fan base that when inspired can house a winner.
3. The Garrett hire may have been the match that lit the fuse of this explosion of change
When I first saw Garett coaching, I thought he was great. It was spring and he was active, attentive to every detail, more involved than his predecessor in how the players performed, and seemed to know his stuff. I was excited because I was expecting a crisper, more prepared product on the field.
The Portland State game quickly erased any of those notions.
This was a rough year, and a rough year for precision in the offense and the defense. The thing is, had Garett had more experience as an OC, been more aligned with Mike Riley, and had he been an exceptional game-time tactician, this team had the talent to win at least three more games, if not more. But halfway through the USC game when he took over play calling duties, to half way through the Civil War game when he lost them, OSU was sporadic, had little flow to its offense and forced players to work from difficult positions.
Talking with connections I have on the duck team, I found out that the Beavers had obvious tells for when they were running screens and when they were going to run the fly sweep. Those are huge plays for the Beavers that rely on a little deception. If teams know a screen is coming, it has ZERO chance of working.
Those are the details that Garrett should have been all over. That is an oversight that an offensive coordinator cannot have. If you have a tell, like the pass to Chris Brown on fourth down in the Cal game, it makes everyone’s job harder.
Had Garrett been a bit better, OSU was close enough to win more games. Win more games and maybe the conversation with Riley is more constructive at the end of the year, and maybe he is still here, but making changes to his staff.
Instead, you have an inexperienced play-caller calling plays, a sputtering and too predictable offense, and a restless fan base. I don’t know John Garrett from Adam, and he could be a genius, but he was not a good fit for OSU. His presence did not elevate the Beavers as anyone hoped and he did not build upon the momentum his predecessor left for him last year. So that may be the biggest mistake of Mike Riley’s career at OSU, and certainly was the last.