Art Thiel of the PI talks about Husky boosters voting with their wallets. He is also is objective enough to take a look at how we got here, and what a mountain Willingham and his staff have had to climb the three years they have been in Seattle.
At the midpoint of Willingham's five-year contract, the Arizona defeat shifted leverage to the critics who, because some are about to be hit up for donations for the stadium renovation, can now hold the program hostage until they get their way.
That's a bad smell.
Until Saturday, a 2-5 season largely could be rationalized, given the Huskies' onerous schedule and legacy of chaos that prompted Willingham's hire. But blowing a 15-point fourth-quarter lead at home to a mediocre opponent was just about the worst outcome at the worst time. Not only was it a bad loss, it calls into question all the words and deeds of Willingham and Turner at a time when many among the disgruntled have handpicked Willingham's successor.
Nathan, and I are at it again in our weekly chat session in the online edition of the PI.
John: I enjoyed your remarks concerning Coach Baer from the weekend, but I don't think his removal alone will solve the problem. Let me start off this week by asking the ultimate question, do you think Ty Willingham should be fired at the end of the season?
Nathan: I'm not ready to say that Ty should be fired. I do believe that Baer and some of his assistants need to be changed. First, I think there is some value to coaching stability. Second, Ty is continuing to get good effort from the players and that is the first priority of a coach. Lastly, I'm starting to believe that Ty's problems are more related to issues with his assistants than anything else. I'd be curious to see what Ty can do with a top-tier defensive coordinator. Maybe, things would turn out different. Ultimately, I think Ty is a good coach but I just wonder if he's saddled himself with lousy assistants. Don't forget, Bill Deidrich was his OC for a long time and we know how bad he is.
Nathan also journeyed over to Anthony's Homeport in Ballard to take in the Ty Willingham Show.
The most interesting moment of the event was when one of the people in attendance asked Ty some very pointed, aggressive questions. The person's name was Larry and he asked about why UW did a worse job than Northern Arizona at stopping the Arizona Wildcats. He asked why they continued to throw the players under the bus, etc, etc. He said that the coaches had failed as educators. He called Kent Baer the worst defensive coordinator in the country.
Larry did good job framing his question and expressing his frustration in a professional way. The thing you can't tell on the radio is – because of the cramped layout of Anthony's - that Larry is standing about 4 feet from Ty. He asks the question looking right into Willingham's eyes and accepts the response with Ty's intense eyes looking right back at him.
And, Ty definitely felt attacked by the situation. It was a very tense, uncomfortable moment. I have to applaud Larry for having the balls to ask Ty a tough question like that in person. Kudos, Larry.
Getting ready for Stanford
Well there is no reason to continue to cry over spilled footballs because we have another game this weekend coming up in Palo Alto. This of course is a must win game for the program, and Ty Willingham has his work cut out for him getting his team back up from an attitude perspective after last weeks crushing loss.
If you want to analyze last weeks loss it is simple, Washington is running out of healthy players on defense, and they turned the ball over five times on offense which is always the kiss of death no matter how many yards your QB was able to put on the board.
For the Huskies the goal is to eliminate the mistakes, take advantage of all scoring opportunities, and most importantly do what they did not do last week, and that is put the knife in their opponent in the first half and put the game out of reach. Washington was so close to doing that last week, in fact they would have been up so far in the first quarter it would have been ridiculous if they had not had the two unfortunate fumbles.
The Husky defense is what it is at this point in time, the only thing that will help it get better is healthier players, so in the absence of that the offense needs to keep them off the field as much as possible in the first half while building up a big lead.
Stanford is psychologically in better shape even though they are in just as bad as shape talent wise as Washington. Harbaugh has the one thing this staff does not, and one thing I admired Neuheisel for, he has the ability to fire his players up on game day enough to get them to do the impossible.
Ty Willingham is feeling serious heat this week, and yes the man has feelings, he cares, and his back is firmly up against the wall. While I feel for him, I also have to objectively look at the steps that have brought him to this point, and while he inherited a mess it would be hard for anyone to say that he has given 125% since he got here to turn it around.
What is missing?
Let's start with creating excitement and promoting the program. Can anyone honestly say that he has done that to the best of his abilities since arriving at UW? Look what Harbaugh is doing at Stanford, he is taking on all comers, he is firing up his players, and he actually has these kids believing they can win every week when we all now they have the worst talent pool in the league.
What can he do?
It all starts with winning next weeks game. UW has five games left on the schedule, and if they win all five this terrible week will fade into oblivion. Even if they win four out of five missing a winning season most people, including Ty's superiors will acknowledge it isn't time to make a change. Lose the next five, or only win a game, or two and the writing is on the wall.
Willingham has done a lot more right than wrong at Washington. He inherited an ugly mess, and there are a lot of things that don't show up in the win loss column that he has done that will help the program immensely over the next five years. Willingham isn't a failure, he simply has lost two games in his tenure, Stanford last year, and Arizona this year that he should have won. when you compare that to Gilbertson's tenure it actually looks pretty good.
Both of those terrible losses were caused by injuries for the most part. Let's be honest, the Husky defense that took the field against Syracuse, Boise, and Ohio State would not have given up 48 points to Arizona. The same thing can be said for last years Stanford game when he simply ran out of healthy QB's.
This years edition of the Huskies were chewed up and spit out over the seasons first seven games. By the time a breather with Arizona came along there just wasn't much gas left in the tank. What gas there is left is possessed by an offense that is getting better every game. As Jake Locker goes over the last five games so will the Huskies.
Keep this in mind, when Jake Locker starts the Huskies are always capable of winning.