Where exactly do you go now?
The program won't finish with a winning record, there will be no bowl, and public confidence is eroding as far as the coaching staff is concerned.
This is Willingham's third year and the seat is starting to get pretty hot after losses to Arizona, and Oregon State. Those losses guarantee that Washington will be fighting to avoid the cellar this year. For most Husky fans it is unacceptable, no Husky coach has ever had three losing seasons in a row, Willingham will be the first.
The questions most fans have is if Ty should get another year to try to turn things around. We all have mixed feeling about it, but most feel that at the very least there should be turnover as far as the coaching staff is concerned. While Coach Baer has put together a couple of decent defensive outings the last two weeks most fans want him replaced.
Jim Mora Jr is they guy that everyone would like to see become the new head coach at Washington. There is a little urgency there because he also might be in line to become the next head coach of the Seahawks. The situation reminds me a quite a bit of Urban Meyer and Notre Dame. The boosters wanted Willingham out so they could grab Meyer. Meyer surprised everyone by choosing to go to Florida. Washington boosters don't want to miss out on this window of opportunity concerning Jim Mora Jr. while he is still available.
This is the third time Mora's name has come up in conjunction with the job. The first time was when Neuheisel left. Both Charlie Weis, and Jim Mora Jr expressed interest in the job that went to Willingham. When the Huskies canned Gilbertson he was the hot first year coach of the Atlanta Falcons, so even though he wanted the job he wasn't in the position to take it. Now with Ty on the hot seat he is the obvious choice to take over if Washington makes the move.
What makes Jim Mora Jr a great candidate is that he has always wanted this job. It is something that the has been working toward for over twenty years. He understands Husky tradition and culture because he has been part of that culture most of his adult life. Jim understands what Husky fans want in their head coach.
The question is do you make the move at the end of the season, or do you give Ty another year to show that he has the program headed in the right direction?
You can also build a case for keeping Ty at least one more season. I don't think any coach could have turned this program around in three years. Most of his recruits will be sophomores, redshirts, and frosh next season, you win championships with juniors, and seniors. You can fairly make a case saying that Ty needs more time.
You can point to a 2008 recruiting class that will have up to twenty eight players that is currently half full with the best of Washington still trying to make up their minds. Players like Kearse, Middleton, Thompson, and Ta'amu like Willingham and his staff. Kids also like to win, and they also want to spend their four to five years of college with the staff that recruited them. It isn't like these kids, and their don't know that Willingham is on the hot seat.
Do you roll the dice that Ty is going to, change up his staff, bring these kids in during December, or do you make a move and see if Mora can close the deal? You could always let Ty give it a shot through Christmas and can him in January if recruiting isn't going well. That decision while cold would save the UW around two million, and it would also coincide with the time you would expect Mora to be available.
The future of the program over the next five years is closely tied to this upcoming class. You can't screw up when you are planning to bring in twenty eight players which would just happen to be over one third of your roster. These are the kids that are going to help flank Jake Locker and bring championships back to Washington.
I haven't seen the Husky Nation ever this down, I really haven't. We have had some great years, good years, and real bad years, but this five year stretch has really taken the steam out of the program. I like a lot of the things Ty has done, but overall the program lacks pizzazz as Todd Turner would say. It also lacks great game day coaching. Even though they are rebuilding, the Huskies should be beating OSU, and Arizona by now. They should be getting better, and overall they are not even though the players are going at it hard.
Oregon is on the verge of winning a national championship and having a Heisman Trophy winner. That is make quite an impact as far as recruiting goes. Does Coach Willingham have what it takes to compete against Oregon for the best players in Washington, and California? I mean that is all it really comes down too. Can he being in a top twenty class, put a fence around the state, make changes to his staff, and finally, lead us to a bowl game in 2008?
President Emmert has some big decisions to make in December. This program needs the excitement, and enthusiasm that Jim Mora Jr can bring. The window isn't going to be open long for Mora, the Seahawks, or another NFL team will likely come calling in the off season. Washington either needs to bite the bullet on Mora or give Ty Willingham an extension so he can continue to recruit with confidence.