At the beginning of the year, many of us in Beaver Nation made rational statements such as “With all the changes, I think the Beavers will struggle this year” or “I just want us to be competitive this year.”
You know, the well meaning, level-headed statements that fans use to feel like they are being objective while they mask their real thoughts from the public.
When these statements were made, and I know I was a part of the stoic, “rational” crowd, predictions ran the gamut from a meager two wins to a hopeful eight. There were many people who toned down their usual “Orange-Colored Glasses” approach and tried to be as objective as possible with their annual prognostication. (We can’t possibly lose to Colorado, Washington State, and Cal can we?) They would look at the loss of nine seniors on defense, a 3rd round draft pick at quarterback, and a huge change in philosophy and coaching staff as reasons to be guarded.
On the inside, many of us harbored secret hopes. Hopes that three talented returning receivers, five returning linemen with starting experience, and some speed and talent in the defensive backfield might make us a lot better than other less informed people (THE MEDIA!!!!) probably thought.
As the year went on we got hopeful. An OK win against Weber State, an inspired first half against Michigan left a feeling that we might be getting a bit better. Coming back and rolling SJSU gave us a big boost — and by halftime of the Stanford game, I bet a lot of Beaver Nation thought maybe we would do the unthinkable and go to a bowl game. Or even compete for the Pac-12 North Title!
Ten quarters later, we are wondering if our coaches know what they heck they are doing. The ire of Beaver Nation is murmuring about its frustration with our players and calling them out around the virtual water cooler we call the internet. As a fan base, we are basically falling back to a familiar “We are the Beavers and we suck” mentality that permeated the yet unnamed Beaver faithful of the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
To this I say, well, what do you think struggle means?
I picked OSU to win six games. to upset either Stanford or UCLA, and to be third in the North because I thought Stanford, WSU, and UW would be much worse, and that Cal would be really, really good. I look pretty dumb now.
What did I think struggle meant?
Now we are in the midst of a 2-4 campaign and have been outscored 117-45 in the last 10 quarters. Our pass defense looked good against Michigan, it has looked horrid since the second half against Stanford. Our offense looked like it might be on the verge of being potent while driving the length of the field for three points to end the half at Reser Stadium on October 5. Now it looks like it could be the worst in the conference.
There are also revelations that players are getting left behind on trips for disciplinary reasons, whispers or tweeted whispers of fights and suspensions and trips to the desert with 66 players. Against Arizona we took three defensive tackles to Tucson. For those who don’t know, that is a very, very low number for a team that sometimes likes to toy with a 4-man front.
What did Beaver Nation think struggle really meant?
No matter what we thought, we forgot how much it sucks when it is happening. We have a QB that was not on anyone’s recruiting radar as a QB on any Big 5 conference team. We lost a few key defenders early on a defense that lost nine starters. We are breaking in a new system in every aspect of the game; new punter, multiple new kick returners, six linebackers, seven defensive ends, four defensive tackles, four running backs, four tight ends, and are still looking to find a rhythm on defense and offense. Heck, we even just hired a consultant for our offense six games into the season.
This season is akin to a company getting bought and the few months it starts preparing for layoffs based on how employees handle the changes and what talent they need. We are seeing players have to earn their spots in the new regime and they may not all be able to do so. But that doesn’t mean that all the sudden this collection of coaches with success at every stop are terrible. That doesn’t mean we were sold a bill of goods and that these are actually the worst coaches in the conference and have actually just been lucky for years. It also doesn’t mean OSU is a wasteland that will never be a winner again. It doesn’t even mean they were left a bunch of crap to work with.
It means they were left a bunch parts that didn’t fit the new vehicle we bring on the field every week.
it means our coaches have work to do to change everything from philosophy of work, philosophy of leadership, philosophy of community, to the new expectations on how athletes are to look and the conditioning needed to play on Saturday. These coaches and staff knew they had some serious heavy lifting issues this year so they committed to a process and vision and have not varied from that no matter what it meant to their production on the field.
I assume. I have no inside information to prove this, but the evidence I see seems to point this direction.
I also assume that they did this because they knew diluting the message and the vision at this point would slow down their progress. Coach Andersen and his staff also knew they couldn’t cut corners because it would be disingenuous to who they are and come across as fake to the players and recruits..
So now we are in the midst of a tough season that will try Beaver Nation and basically freak everyone in Orange and Black out. That is what a struggling season does. That is what regime change looks like and the way they are going about this year is the only way they are going to create the team that we see in two years. For fans, It sucks right now, but in two years or three years, we will reap the rewards of the toil from this year and it will either be amazing or we will have to think about turning the page.
Regardless, despite my hopes, this year was never going to be different because no amount of coaching can keep the Titanic afloat. Sometimes you have to let it go down and build a better ship to replace it. That is what I see here, and it will get worse before it gets better, I think. It is not giving up, as the hiring of Coach Crowton attests, but more refining through fire. Once we are through this sharpening phase, I think the team, the staff, and the fans will be stronger as well. Like the ducks are experiencing in Eugene, we may also lose some people along the way, because this is what struggling looks like and it is no fun.
For those who stay, it could just be the most amazing ride of your Oregon State Beavers journey. You are just going to have to file one or two more years with the other 28 before you get to enjoy it. Beavers are builders.
Go Beavs (PRO)