Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where exactly do you go now?

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.

13 comments:

K.K.H. said...

John,
In your opening paragraph I believe you meant to say we will finish with a losing record.

Unfortunately, I think that we will be the cellar of the PAC-10 again this year, no matter how hard we fight. I don't think we will win against Cal, and WSU will be tough.

However, I fall into the camp that feels we should be keeping Tyrone as the head coach. It is my opinion that we are where we are because of the instability at the head coach position. What's it been, 4 coaches in the past 12 years? That is too much uncertainty to result in excellent recruiting. Washington has a lot to offer for a recruit that neither WSU, OSU, or OU can't; namely the location (a city, rather than the sticks), the tradition, and Husky stadium (which Autzen stadium now matches). If I was a 19 year old kid wanting to commit to a program, why would I choose a school that changes head coaches at the drop of a hat? For kids that age stability and winning are probably the most important aspects driving their decision making.

Bringing in a new head coach will just take us back to square one; new personnel, new schemes, poor recruiting. I would even predict another three years of no bowl games.

Why not bring in Mora as the Defensive Coordinator? It brings him back to the UW. He would bring fire to the program, and emotion to the kids. And he would actually bring some defensive schemes and play calling that has been lacking for the past three years. If he really loves the UW as much as he says, he should be willing to take the job. He's eight years younger than Ty, and if he does well would certainly be in place to replace Ty in the future, particularly if/when Ty can't raise the level of results.

I do think that overall it appears that Husky athletics is in disarray. I would love to see Todd Turner put to pasture. I am not an expert, but he really is out of his league as an AD in the PAC-10.

John Berkowitz said...

You can make a case for keeping Tyrone. I haven't made up my mind, sometimes I want to give him another year, other times I want him to move on so we can hire Mora.

Mora won't come here as a DC, and Ty would never offer him a job as a DC.

If you are going to give him half the team, why not just give him the whole team and keep Lappano?

Why you are at it bring in real AD who knows how to get things done out here like Bill Moos?

hairofthedawg said...

Like most everyone that posts on here I can understand both sides of the argument and have leaned toward keeping Ty. I think he's a good recruiter, at least based on the young guys we have. I'm just repeating others' arguments at this point...so I'll stop.

The program needs a lift. I enjoyed the dawgman thread about the way Seahawks' fans behave and think that HS should be the same again. What sways me is that I don't feel TW has the right personality to create the buzz the program needs to grab all the recruits we need. He gets quality individuals but we need a few elite to go along with them. The elite need buzz.

What I've read about Mora leads me to believe that his, hopefully infectious, enthusiasm would bring the buzz. He would also be inheriting a program that will be in much better shape than that which Willingham inherited so I don't really buy the argument that it will be another 3 years of rebuilding. I think Mora's enthusiasm keeps Ty's kids in the fold and his pro experience helps attract the elite. Plus he's a defensive oriented coach...nice post k.k.h, I don't completely disagree with you. I'm also glad I don't have Emmert's job.

hairofthedawg said...

I also don't feel that what I suggest is fair to TW. Life isn't always fair, especially when making that kind of money.

John Berkowitz said...

I am leaning strongly toward making a change but I am willing to wait till the end of the season to see how it shakes out.

Nothing against Ty, but I see it as the only way getting the excitement and enthusiasm back.

hairofthedawg said...

I can understand that, but what would it take for you to want to keep the current coach, and if you keep him, what about his staff? I'm afraid it's all or nothing regarding the staff, but I don't know that.

Come damn close or win against Cal and win out...I'd think hard...otherwise...

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your blog very much, and this even handed assessment of the state of the team is great.

My only comment is that I think things were worse in the late 60s and early 70s. We were always losing to the So Cal schools and it just didn't seem like there was any hope of ever beating USC or UCLA.

As bad as things are now I still see improvement and hope in a way I didn't see or feel back then.

But still, Gordy Gwin, is still one of my favorite players -- after all these years. They were a fun team to watch, even if they never won much.

hairofthedawg said...

You're right about the improvement, but is it that the fans are too impatient or that the coaches are incompetent? I'm not a coach so I don't know, but I certainly, as a fan expected more this year. I also don't consider myself impatient unless you've caught me when I've had a few.

Like I said in previous posts, I like the type of person TW recruits very much, just not sure I like the way he coaches them.

It sucks that Jake took the hit, but it may be TW's saving grace as it seems to have lit a fire under the team.

Regardless of the result, I'll always be a fan of the team and am, with some trepidation, looking forward to how the season plays out.

Richard said...

There's only one thing that can make this season right...win the apple cup my friend.

Don't Worry, WSU'll Coug It

John Berkowitz said...

Winning the Apple Cup is great, wearing one of your T-Shirts and winning the Apple Cup is even better.

Anonymous said...

Keep Willingham.
As hard as it is, stick it out.
The DNA of the Husky football program has been badly damaged. Switching head coaches every few years won't restore it to health.
People keep talking about 'turning the program around,' as if it were a horizontal operation. It's not.
It's vertical. The team fell off a cliff and has to climb back up. One trip was shockingly quick, the second is agonizingly long. But it just has to be this way.
Everybody chill about Mora. I don't know why everybody makes him the saviour. How do we know that he's not an ambitious job hopper? Many head coaches are. The Bellottis are the exception not the rule. He may stay a few years, get the program semirespectable, then go to the NFL or a higher-profile school.
Also, think about the effect on recruits of more instability.
I read a South Bend paper the other day. Do you how many of the 25 guys Willingham recruited in 2004 will be seniors for Charlie Weis? Nine.
Hard to build on experience that way.
Listen, I know it's hard. But we've got to stick it out.

Anonymous said...

John,

I agree with k.k.h's post above in regards to keeping Ty as the head coach. It seems especially crucial to keep him on at least through 2008 with the number of scholarships we need to fill this Feb. As for his staff, I for one would welcome some turnover there, at a minimum for Special Teams, and short of some drastic improvement over the last 3 games, at DC, too.

Like k.k.h, I would *love* to see Mora on board as the DC, although there are many reasons to think this would never happen.

From Mora's perspective, the DC position might seem beneath him (as you put it it's 'half' the team rather than the 'whole') and perhaps even a little lean on the salary side. I'd think any salary issue could be addressed by kicking in some Booster money that would have had to go towards a buyout. As for appeal to Mora, perhaps the deal could be sweetened if the offer was for multi-hat duty of, say, DC + Special Teams + Recruiting Coordinator. Imagine the one-two punch of Mora and Tyrone on the recruiting front. Mora to win the kids over, and just as importantly, Tyrone to win their families over.

From Tyrone's perspective, I agree that he would probably never *choose* to fire Baer on his own - or any of his current staff, for that matter, let alone offer it to Mora. Nevertheless, I'd think Pres Mark Emmert would have sufficient leverage to force his hand if he saw fit, whether it be contractual that Ty should have the final say on his staff or not. The alternative to him could be an early departure (buyout). There certainly is some precedence for Emmert asserting his authority as when he hired Nick Saban while at LSU.

For the long run, the writing would be on the wall that Mora is next in line to be UW's head coach; it would just be a matter of when. Goals could be set to determine that. With sufficient success, like say, top 3 in the pac-10 by his fifth year with a minimal win/loss - or whatever it may be, Tyrone gets his extension and the next goal is set. If or when he falls short, Mora assumes the head coaching role. In the best case scenario for Tyrone, he never falls short of those goals and eventually retires at UW, which would likely mean UW is a top tier program participating in BCS bowls regularly. Someone of Mora's stature would likely jump ship after awhile but would it really matter under those circumstances. In the worse case scenario for Tyrone, UW continues to improve but not enough by end of 2009 and the Mora Era begins.

I personally would love to see Tyrone succeed here at UW. For his fifth year, Locker will be a third year starter (God willing), so he should have every opportunity to succeed. If the recruiting is at least status quo, continuing to bring in solid if not flashy players, and with some staff turnover, the I think we should expect to be in the top third of the Pac-10 for 2009. Of course, we're all hoping for much better recruiting, and ultimately better W/L's than that.

John Berkowitz said...

I was completely in that boat till the Arizona game, now I am not so sure about it. I want to see what happens over the next three games.

I have no problem with Ty Willingham surviving at Washington if it comes to that.

Just think of this,no coach in the history of Husky football has ever had three consecutive losing seasons. We are talking about over 100 years of UW history, it means something.