Beaver Nation, What Gives?

Disclaimer: The following post contains sweeping generalizations that in no way represent Peter’s views. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this rant are solely Raju’s.

To say I look forward to OSU football season is an understatement.

Recruiting barely tides me over until Spring Ball, where I read every practice report I can get my eyes on. The summer months are excruciating, while I wait for my season tickets to arrive. Fall camp spikes my adrenaline levels, and then by Wednesday of game weeks, I am ball of frenzy for the weekend.

For me, heaven on Earth is a nice, crisp fall day at Reser Stadium with my friends and thousands of Orange and Black Faithful wildly cheering on the Beavers.

But for the first time since becoming a Beavers fan in 1992, I am not excited about OSU football. In fact, I am downright apathetic… To the point that I am seriously debating whether to renew my season tickets. What the hell is wrong with me?

Well, last year’s 2-10 performance doesn’t help. Neither does the coaching turnover. Or the reassigning of several current coaches. And what’s the deal with the all-over-the-place approach to recruiting QBs right now?

The biggest culprit when it comes to my boo-birdness, though, is none other than Beaver Nation.

When did so many fans become so unbearable? So quick to eat their own. So soon to dismiss the contributions of former coaches and players? And seriously, why all the disdain toward anything Mike Riley-related?

Look, I get it 100 percent that Riley and OSU both needed a change. Guess what? He made things easier by leaving on his own accord. Yes, he was too loyal to his assistants and recruiting had slipped under him in recent years. But damn, guys…

Riley’s highs far exceeded his lows. Don’t forget, OSU had the second most wins among Pac-12 teams from 2000-10, behind USC. More importantly, he ran a clean ship and represented the program, university, and community very well. Yet, reading message boards and listening to fan banter, you’d swear Mike Riley sucked at OSU, and not just a little, but majorly. Seriously?

Even worse, why are Beavers fans jumping all over players? As a journalist, my rule was to not criticize players, but that coaches are fair game because they get paid the big bucks. Would it kill fans to adopt a similar mindset? Especially considering that a large handful of them weren’t recruited by Gary Andersen and were adjusting to his style and schemes. Let’s see how Year 2 goes, even if wins are hard to come by.

What gets me the most about all this hand-wringing is how many fans are blindly worship the ground Andersen walks on — that he can do no wrong and any of his struggles can be blamed on Riley and Co. Umm, I’m sorry, did you see what I saw this past season? I saw a mess that I guarantee you wouldn’t have happened under Riley.

The real head-scratcher of the Andersen tenure? Hiring Gary Crowton midseason as a consultant, despite having a two highly-regarded offensive minds on staff already in Dave Baldwin and Kevin McGiven. What a slap in the face to Baldwin, considering Crowton hasn’t been relevant in years. Plus, he quit as Southern Utah’s OC to take the role at OSU. Weird.

And having essentially three OCs on staff didn’t prevent Andersen’s hand-picked quarterback from struggling and eventually losing his starting job, anyhow. I know Andersen is more of defensive guy for sure, but come on…

What’s that you say? This was a transition year. Bull crap. I don’t recall the Beavers stinking it up so bad when Dennis Erickson took over from Riley and vice versa. Hell, was Riley’s first year after taking over Jerry Pettibone as deflating as last season?

Think about this for a moment. If Andersen is as good as everyone is making him out to be, shouldn’t he have been able to coax a few more wins out of the Beavers, even if some of the players didn’t fit his schemes? Good coaches are able to win anywhere, right? Based on Andersen’s credentials alone, I think most fans expected at least 4-6 wins last season — not a complete reboot of the team halfway through.

And so, Beaver Nation I ask of you, what has Andersen done so far that makes your faith in him so steadfast and unwavering? See my points above the abysmal record year and this perplexing offseason. How does that make you want to proclaim him a savior?

Sure, Andersen talks the talk. But wins against two subpar teams don’t back those words well, no matter how you spin them. Yes, this year’s recruiting class is impressive on paper. However, recruiting is a crapshoot, especially when it comes to JUCO players. While OSU has enjoyed success with JUCOs (Chad Johnson, Keith Ellison, etc.), it’s also seen a lot of them not pan out too. Besides, they always say you can’t really evaluate a class until four or five years later.

Also, do you find it interesting that instead of letting coaches go this offseason, he decided to re-assign them? Isn’t that what we expect Riley to do? Hold onto coaches too long? Well, he fired his defensive line coach after one year and promptly made what looks to be a home run hire. Who is the alpha male now?

So, sorry, I don’t get all the love for Andersen right now. I hope he’s the guy, but at this point, I’ve adjusted my expectations. Before last season, I thought we could be competitive and bowl bound by 2017. Now, I am thinking that’s five years out. And part of me wonders if Andersen can get it done at OSU.

Let’s get real, Corvallis is never going to be a hot destination for blue-chippers. Also, while OSU is making strides in the facilities race, it still lags behind most of its Pac-12 peers. A renovated or new West Side is sorely needed, but I think it’s safe to wonder if that will ever become a reality. As a result, I believe it takes a special kind of coach to win here. Time will tell if that’s Andersen. In today’s instant gratification society, five years is an eternity…

I know my opinion is unpopular. How dare I not be all in? Why do I not see Andersen’s better than Riley in every way? What kind of Beavers fan am I? But am I really the only one that feels this way? I doubt it. If you take a hard enough look, there’s reason for skepticism, or at least concern.

Optimism is a great thing, but sometimes its OK to take off the orange-colored glasses. Try it sometime. You might find it easier to cherish the past, embrace the now, and look toward the future.

Go Beavs! (RW)

15 thoughts on “Beaver Nation, What Gives?

  1. Gus

    My aunt and uncle feel the same way, but that’s because Andersen never smiles (and my uncle is convinced he’s a Mormon) and they both went to high school with Riley (no, I’m not kidding, those were their reasons). This is the first fan besides them I’ve read/talked to who felt this way. I could point out that beyond the W-L column the teams GPA has never been higher. So in less than one year he bested any team GPA over Riley’s 14 years as coach, and OSU fans tend to make a big deal out of “molding young men”. S&C has improved dramatically, as well as recruiting. Both of which were an afterthought if any thought at all over Riley’s last 4-5 years, not that recruiting was ever great (or well organized) with Riley. I mean, seriously, a sticky note that said ‘Call Suh’ gets lost on his desk, and we miss out on one of the best FB players this state has ever produced. Say what you will about his ‘character’, but the guy would have been a wrecking ball on the D-Line. Give it time, and GA will win at OSU. It’s a healthy debate to have given the 2-10 first season, and you’re right, because this team was constructed for a pro-style offense Riley probably would have gone 4-8, but Andersen and staff run the spread, which is completely different schemes. It was going to be so bad anyway who cares about those 2 more wins, because I don’t think MR would have gotten us bowl eligible and added another year to the worst contract in CFB. In my mind, year one can only be judged by recruiting rankings (yeah, I know it’s a wait and see game), which was one of (if not the highest) recruiting rankings OSU has ever had. So I’ll buy-in and respect the process, at least I finally believe the man in charge has a clear vision for this program, instead of ‘Aww shucks, we’re gonna give it the old college try and try to have some fun out there!’. Thanks for the post Raju, as this is a good, healthy debate for us fans.

    1. Peter Riley Osborne

      Two quick points:

      1. S&C went downhill after the 2012 season when Coach Philipp went to USC.
      2. Coach Riley also had a lot going on personally, made some bad hires and lost the team the last two years, so that is a big part of it.

      I agree with the difference between the two systems and I think that will be more evident this year as I expect the offense to be vastly improved.

      Also, our recruiting class rankings were based on a lot of things, one of them being just pure numbers. To compare that with Riley, his class at Nebraska his first full year was the 5th best ranked class since 2001. They did the same complete system overhaul at Nebraska, and had a ton of injuries (as well as a QB that was completely the wrong fit for their syestem) and yet they won 6 games, were within 10 total points of winning 10 games and beat a top 10 team.

      I think people are too quick to throw Riley under the bus. He left when he should have and lost his team. At Nebraska he is doing a very, very good job recruiting and has a much faster trajectory of success. I would not be shocked if they won 10 games this year and were in the conversation for the Big 10 title in the next three.

      But Andersen has a different beast and we will see how it goes. Like Raju, I am not 100% convinced, but will give Gary a chance to get his team and his system in and installed before I pass any major judgements. At last publicly… 😉

      1. Gus

        1: Okay, so why is it acceptable to not hire an adequate replacement?
        2: So just because someone is having a bad year personally, that allows them to completely abandon their job and duties? I had no idea, because most people in the workforce get fired for lack of production in the work place, regardless of what’s going on in your personal life.

        I have no problem with people who want to idolize Mike Riley. Just don’t count me in that group. I’m glad other programs are offering our coaches higher positions. It means they are quality coaches that other programs want. We haven’t had that at OSU for quite some time. Seriously, when was one of Riley’s assistants (let alone D-coordinators) hired away to be head coach of a D1 football program?

        1. Peter Riley Osborne

          Not sure what you mean by the first point, but the second point is why he is no longer with us and why they failed. It was not ok for him to do that, and he needed a change as well as OSU.

          I guess for me, I look at all the schools that have had to pay huge buy outs to fire their coaches or that let contracts extend too long without making a move and I see how OSU ended as the best way possible. At least under those circumstances (best way possible is a Coach retiring after winning a National Championship…). So to me, I think this was taken care of.

          As to your last point, I am not sure how that makes OSU better. Coach Andersen hired someone that had aspirations of being a head coach and after a year he did that. I am not sure what the point is with that statement either. In fact, that kind of makes me more worried if I am being honest. We had a lot of talent on our staff last year, a lot. Two huge pieces of that left. We had 3 OC’s last year and scored 17 points per game. I guess for me, I like Mike and I know a lot of guys didn’t. We doubled our payroll, got a huge name coach and a bunch of guys with great pedigrees and coaches on the rise and went out and won 2 games. I understand the huge overhaul that was needed, and I understand that there were talent deficiencies and injuries and youth. We also were in a conference that had some pretty dang good teams. It was a tough year. But with all that coaching talent I thought we might pull out a few more wins. And maybe we would have had we not had all the injuries and guys getting kicked off the team.

          But now we have another year and we have less prestigious coaches but maybe ones that are better fits for OSU. I am not sure, time will tell. To me, and I think to Raju as well, it doesn’t mean that everything we do from here on out is amazing and everything we used to do is garbage. What had to happen did happen and both parties (OSU and Riley) are better for it obviously. I just get tired of constantly being told how refreshing it is to finally have X, Y and Z when we haven’t done anything on the field yet. I really hope that starts this year. But I appreciate all the views on this post. Thanks to everyone that has contributed! And as usual, I am quite often wrong, so just because I disagree and write a thousand words about it doesn’t mean I am not a total idiot…

          1. Gus

            What I meant by my first point was in reply to your first point in your response to me, you said S&C dropped off after Phillipp left for USC. So my question was, why is it okay that an acceptable replacement was not hired, because clearly that’s what happened given the S&C results over his last years… I guess I feel a large portion give Riley a pass, just like you or Raju feel that fans give GA a pass. Again, this is a good debate to have, and I enjoy your blog!

          2. Peter Riley Osborne

            Ahh, good point! That and the horrid Garrett hire were big mistakes by Mike. And part of the reason he failed at the end. Or a huge one to be honest. The other thing that Mike did that I think was a mistake was he wanted players to step up. You look at the grades issue and there were a lot of players that they took chances on that struggled, but there was also a lot of Mike wanting players to step up. Andersen is more in the mold of making leaders, rather than empowering people to make themselves leaders. When you have guys like Wheaton, Mannion, Wynn, Cooks, Reynolds and Poyer you can do that. When you don’t, you need to be able to make them.

            I think Mike really struggled with that aspect, especially late in his tenure. He totally lost the defense and I am not sure if that was just Banker or a lot of things, but he also lost the offense when you have OC’s and Line coaches fighting on the sidelines.

            Ultimately, under Riley the last two years were a circus, and needed to end. I guess I just don’t judge him on just those few years. If Andersen can get rolling, I think his process may be good for OSU, so we will see. And you are right, it wasn’t like Mike left the school leaving a trail of roses behind him. He left it at a state where he was going to have to hire a new OC and maybe a new Line Coach if Cav left. Not ideal. And Andersen inherited some of the crap left over from the previous year. We will see how that ends up, but there are lots of reasons for people to have been done with Riley.

  2. Building the Dam (@BuildingTheDam)

    Your not alone, and unless there are tangible evidences of improvements, you will be gaining new converts to your point of view.

    Regarding Coach Riley, his highs were certainly high, but things had been in decline (with 1 and only 1 notable exception in the Alamo Bowl year) for a number of years, and the consequences on recruiting became glaringly apparent last year, certainly part of the problem. But because Andersen so far has not been able to improve on the situation also does not mean the “you can’t do better than Riley” mentality is valid. It’s 1 data point with 1 coach.

    My concerns with the Andersen era are also not ones that invalidate the idea of either a spread offense with read options or a 3-4 defensive look, just because neither worked last year, when not staffed adequately on the field or sideline to do so.

    It’s apparent that the situation is more challenging than Andersen realized before he arrived, but no one actually looking objectively didn’t at least sense that. Nevertheless, Andersen and crew found themselves in deeper waters than they were prepared for; whether some of them were in over their head or not is another matter, one only time will tell about.

    Neither talent nor scheme are up to the job yet, and for Oregon State to win, it will take both. It’s not a talent OR scheme deal, its AND. That’s why I’ve maintained that this will be a long haul, an opinion that was initially less than popular with some.

    1. Peter Riley Osborne

      I agree. My biggest issue to be honest is that we have taken on a system that is the mainstream of our conference. Every offensive player we recruit will visit Eugene as well, usually last to fly out, and we are player for player looking at the same things. An offense like what Leach runs at WSU or like what Stanford or even Cal run are a better fit for Corvallis, in my opinion, because you are looking for something unique or at least competing with less schools for their talents. While I like the mentality of taking on anyone in anything and being the best by beating the best, we have to prove that we can win those battles, especially at QB, and I am very skeptical of that.

      Our class last year had 18 defensive players on it. We recruited 1 high school offensive lineman last year, and we lose 11 over the next two years, including the retirement of Lucas. We also have 3 scholarship QB’s on our roster (which is lean) and our current list of offers at QB (according to Rivals) only Tyler Katoa seems like to talk about OSU a lot, with the rest talking about Utah, South Carolina, USC, ASU and UW more than us. You never know, but I have not seen a lot of consistency in the QB recruiting in terms of the style of players they want.

      I just am worried that having the conference cookie cutter offense, especially when we are 40 miles from the prototype of that offense and a team that spends $190 million on football alone, is not a great strategy for us.

      But you never know and I want to give the staff a chance.

  3. Dave Bergman

    Let’s see, major improvement in team GPA for several quarters in a row (didn’t happen under Riley, Erickson, etc). Major improvement in team strength, evidently in physical condition, too. Those aren’t opinions, they are facts. Seeing is believing.

  4. Gary Sedivy

    Right on, Raju! Riley has gotten too much disdain; Anderson has not earned the praise he’s getting. Supposedly strength and conditioning have improved, but it may be a mirage since the results are non- existent.

  5. CraigM

    In a world where perception becomes reality, Riley’s downfall in Beaver Nation came with the rise of Duck football. During much of the 2000’s, we were comparable to the Ducks. In fact, we traded Civil War home wins for years. After the Rodgers end around that won the Civil War in Eugene Mike Bellotti decided to do something drastic. He brought in his Chip Kelly and everything changed. Personally, I will never forget the shellacking in Reser when we thought we were headed to the Rose Bowl. He never won another Civil War. That alone ground Beaver Nation into Beaver hamburger. Nothing else was as important as that. So you can yell at us if you want, you can quote pesky facts, you can even show us success at Nebraska, but Beaver Nation will never get over the Civil War debacles of nearly a decade. Fair or not, Mike Riley’s legacy is locked in a freezer in Chip Kelly’s garage.

  6. Gary Briggs

    What did you expect from Anderson in his first year? Riley went 3-9 with 1 conference win the previous year with a predominantly senior team & a senior 4 year starter at QB. In 2015 OSU was among the youngest in the nation with freshman QB’s who had never played a down in college at any level, with totally new systems on both sides of the ball. At Nebraska Riley went to a school that had won at least 9 games a year for the previous 10 years & had a reputation (deserved or not) as a national power with amazing fan support & facilities. What do you think Riley’s record would have been had he stayed at OSU – probably 3-9 at best considering how poorly his 1st year quarterbacks have played. I think Riley is a very good man & I hope does well at Nebraska, but to be critical of Anderson after 1 year is not only unrealistic but bordering on ridiculous. Anderson may not be the coach to turn the program around & win a Rose Bowl, but you certainly cannot make that judgement after 1 year.

    1. Peter Riley Osborne

      So a few thing:

      1. Mike won 5 games his last year at OSU. They started 3-0 but got a ton of injuries and faltered down the stretch. Even though they were not a good team, they still beat a top 10 team (ASU)

      2. “at best considering how poorly his 1st year quarterbacks have played” this was the case at Nebraska, where they had two bad recruiting classes in a row, a bunch of early attrition before Riley got there and bunch of players that didn’t fit his style or what they want to do. But considering the lack of talent on the line or on defense for him to finish with 3 wins and a win over a top 5 school was pretty good.

      3. We gave up 52 points a game the last three games last year.

      4. I agree 100% that we should not judge Andersen on last year. But I also think we shouldn’t good or bad. There was a lot of good and a lot of mess and some of that was his deal (See OC position issues and Collins decisions). I think they need to do a complete overhaul and I think Andersen may be the guy, but he has to be able to find some wins soon to back his message to recruits. If he doesn’t then he may not be able to get the bodies to do what he wants to do. That is the dicey part. One year is not everything, but while I may be ok waiting three or four years, that doesn’t mean the rest of the conference will nor does it mean recruits will.

      I think Raju’s frustrations are for blindly following Andersen without reason. I think there are reasons for optimism and pessimism, but ultimately we need to just wait and see. And support the player that choose to wear the orange and black. Because they are the ones that matter most because they are the ones that chose to come to Corvallis and be a part of this team. Go Beavs!

      1. Gary Briggs

        My bad, Riley’s last season at OSU was 5 wins. ( My memory clearly continues to get worse – one more sign of old age). However that was still with a senior filled team with a senior 4 year starter at QB. I agree he had some injuries, but not nearly as many as Anderson’s 2015 team suffered. My point continues to be that Riley was given 14 years , with 4 of the last 5 being very poor & the likelyhood of being worse in 2016 if he had stayed. I think Anderson deserves the opportunity for at least a couple of years without being hammered. I think Raju’s column was an unwaranted cheap shot. By the way I’m I’m an avid reader of your posts on beaverblitz & TOCR & am a big fan of your normally positive writing style & insider knowledge you bring. My first post ever.

        1. Peter Riley Osborne

          First of all, thank you so much Gary! I appreciate your kind words and am proud that your first post was on my blog! I also agree that Riley was fading at OSU and a change was needed. I think the way he left was good and I appreciate what he did. To be honest, we wouldn’t have Andersen had he not accomplished what he did.

          I also think you are right and that Andersen needs a chance to prove himself and get established. These are HUGE changes he is making and they are going to take a bit to manifest. I do think that, just like we cannot dump on him too much after one year, it is not a bad thing to be cautious with the future. We need to support the team and the players, but it is ok to have concerns and to worry. My feeling is if they can get a top 35 class next year, we will be moving in a great direction. If we have a bad recruiting class this year, I think the overhaul will take longer, and may not happen with Gary. A coach needs AT LEAST 4 years to get their system in place for Football. That means that by the 5th year, they are playing with all their own players and everyone should be on the same page. This will be year two, so we still have a ways to go.

          I do share Raju’s frustrations with people that bash on Riley and then see everything Andersen is doing as perfect. There have been some stumbles on the way but the trajectory looks good and the culture of the program looks great. So we will see! I hope for a good season just like in the 80’s, but I realistically don’t think we are there yet. But the players do, and they are not going to play like they are going to lose, so I won’t cheer that way either. 🙂 Go Beavs!


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