'Pound-Table: Reactions to the Hiring of Chris Petersen

Husky Stadium has a new man of the house. - Otto Greule Jr

The UW Dawg Pound staff discuss the hiring of Chris Petersen.


The Washington Huskies this weekend filled their open head coaching position with Chris Petersen.  After a surprise visit to Boise on Thursday night that saw Scott Woodward boarding a chartered plane after a relatively brief 90 minute meeting and without Chris Petersen in tow, things looked pretty bleak.  Fast forward 8 hours and all of Husky nation was shocked by the coup that Woodward pulled off.  We decided that we should pull the Dawg Pound war council together to discuss our instant reactions.


What were your immediate thoughts last Thursday night when you heard that Woodward was leaving Boise without Chris Petersen in tow on that chartered plane?

Chris Landon:

I commented in the article I posted that the gesture by Woodward to go out to Boise made it abundantly clear that he was prioritizing Petersen as his top choice.  However, I was sure that the trip had been a failure based on how brief the meeting was.  What is clear to me now is that there was already a declared mutual interest and that the meeting appeared to be a formal agreement on the main terms.  But, at the time, I was resigning myself to choice 1-B in Doug Nussmeier - an option that I thought would have been great.

Ryan Priest:

I didn't think it meant much, one way or the other. Petersen has never struck me as the kind of coach to leave his team in the middle of the night, so it made sense that he'd want to stick around to personally inform his players of his departure.

Kirk DeGrasse:

I didn't think it meant anything one way or the other. At the time I commented on the blog that even if Petersen had accepted an offer, I didn't expect him to leave Boise before talking to his players in person first.

Brad Johnson:

I honestly missed all of it. I didn't hear anything until the rumors this morning that he'd been hired.

Ben Knibbe:

I didn't think that it meant anything. So he didn't take the plane with Scott Woodward? It could have meant he needed a night to sleep on it. It could have meant he needed to talk to his wife. Maybe he wanted to talk to his players first. Or he declined the job. It didn't really make too much of a difference.

Fast forward a few hours: what was your immediate reaction when you heard that Petersen had accepted the job?

Chris Landon:

Disbelief.  I had gone to bed the night before already adjusting to the reality of Nuss and bracing myself for the "oh, we didn't want a coordinator" debate that would have exploded in the blog.  Being in the central time zone, I was up early enough to polish off the article that Ben had written the night before (he wrote one on Nuss, too) and then soak in the glory of the reaction.

Ryan Priest:

Honestly, I was shocked. Petersen has declined so many chances to join highly regarded BCS programs in recent years that I thought him the type of coach unlikely to ever leave. Now that it's official, though, I'm totally on board. It's hard to have legitimate gripes with a coach who has won two BCS bowl games and has won 92 of his 104 games.

Kirk DeGrasse:

Surprised, but very happy. Given all the futile pursuits by other big programs, the interviews he's given where he indicates a weariness for the spotlight, the reports about how uncomfortable he is dealing with the press and boosters, I had come to the conclusion long ago that he wasn't ever going to leave Boise State for a "bigger" coaching job.

With all the buzz this week about him and Washington, and the rumors that things were different with him now, I started to allow myself to hope, and that hope has now been rewarded.

Brad Johnson:

Wow.

His name comes up for every job opening on the west coast, and even into the Midwest. I thought he might give cursory interest, but I never expected anything to come of it.

My initial concern was how he'd fill out his staff. And the comments that he's made that sort of make it sound like he doesn't have the same fire for coaching he once did. Now, I wonder if it's just that he's a bit more forthright than a lot of coaches out there; that he'll give you an honest answer without resorting to coachspeak.

Ben Knibbe:

The best man that could have potentially been hired. Unless Woodward was going to pull something crazy out of nowhere, this was the best possible hire he could have made. I then went back to sleep.

Anthony wrote an article on what Petersen has to get done this weekend. In your opinion, what is the single most important task that Petersen has to tackle starting today?

Chris Landon:

Of course, nailing down the staff is a priority.  However, if I'm Petersen, my first order of business is to get in touch with my new team (assuming I've already spoken to my Boise team).  There are a lot of emotional and confused kids who are in the midst of getting ready for a bowl game.  There are also a few that may need a little recruiting if they may be on the fence in terms of declaring for the NFL draft.  Getting them straightened out and opting in is my first task.

Ryan Priest:

Get his assistants in place to start recruiting. With just two months until signing day, it's imperative that he gets his lieutenants in place to start bringing in as many talented players as possible for the 2014 class.

Kirk DeGrasse:

His absolute #1 priority right now is figuring out his coaching staff. It's going to be a complicated operation, as there are guys on his current staff that will likely be considered to replace him at BSU, as well as the fact that Justin Wilcox and Tosh Lupoi are still out there in limbo. Before he can really get his bearings re-aligned for this recruiting class for Washington, he has to have a staff.

IMO, it would be a major mistake to not retain Wilcox & Lupoi. And if it's possible, he should see if he can get Sirmon & Heyward to change their minds. Sirmon especially, as he was the UW recruiting coordinator.

Brad Johnson:

Rounding out his staff. Namely, getting Wilcox and Lupoi in the fold.

Ben Knibbe:

Establishing what his culture is. Sark established a culture of playing on edge. Petersen's obsessive attention to detail is going to establish a culture of focusing on that. If he cannot get the players believing in everything he does, then there could be some problems with him having immediate success. I do think he will be able to.

What do think will change most dramatically in the program as UW transitions from Sark to Petersen?

Chris Landon:

I can envision the Petersen regime being a little bit orderly and a little less casual than the Sark regime.  The "hip" factor doesn't strike me as a priority for our new coach - or, at least, it is a factor that seems outsourceable to the assistants.  I think Petersen will be more Chip Kelly like in his "all-business" approach ... maybe without the overt contempt for the media.  I am guessing that I'm going to miss my favorite Sark-isms, such as "awesome" and "the beauty of ...", but I there are just some prices you must pay.

Ryan Priest:

I think the biggest effect will be the way that the program's recruiting epicenter will inevitably shift away from Los Angeles. With dynamic recruiters like Sark and Mora in L.A., there will simply not be enough four- and five-star players to go around to the rest of the conference, Washington included. Petersen, on the other hand, has as good a track record as anyone in the country in developing talent, so it will be exciting to see what he can do in pairing his skills with UW's location, resources and tradition.

Kirk DeGrasse:

We've already heard that he's much more closed to the media than Sark was, so I expect the flow of information to constrict. He's a much different personality than Sark, and so I expect the attitude of the team to change as a result too. It will be very interesting to see of some of the flashy things like the alternate uniforms, the smoke machine at the tunnel and the hype videos on the Huskytron stay.

Brad Johnson:

It'll be interesting to see how quickly the program transitions from the outwardly extroverted Sarkisian to the much more introspective Petersen. I expect things to be a little more business-like.

Ben Knibbe:

I don't think that the program will be as "fun." A lot of the practices, while there was focus, were about fun. Well, except for the linemen. I don't know if we will see the dancing on the sidelines as much as we will see glares of determination. It is a big culture shift, but it is what I believe will be the most dramatic change.

Do you have any hesitations about Petersen at UW? If so, what are they?

Chris Landon:

I really don't have any in the sense that there is no such thing as the perfect coach.  Petersen has earned his stripes and I'm more than happy to watch him make the job his own.

Ryan Priest:

I only have the requisite concerns about whether or not a successful mid-major coach like him can successfully transition to a major conference like the Pac-12, since the track record of coaches like him in doing so is far from sterling. With UW's roster, though, I think he's got as much momentum as he could possibly hope for in coming into a new job.

Kirk DeGrasse:

Sure - there's always some question when a coach at a lower-level conference school moves up to a big-time school in a BCS conference. Can he adapt to the higher talent level needed to win here? Can he recruit at a level needed here? Will his player-development philosophies mesh with the talent he inherits? Is there anything to the observation that his successful predecessors at BSU didn't find much success at the BCS level? As exciting as it is to land Petersen, he doesn't come without some question marks.

Brad Johnson:

Yes. Definitely. How does he transition from recruiting guys that are mostly happy to be able to play football in college to the prima donnas that are used to having their egos stroked several times a day? How does he fill out his staff? How long does he see himself continuing to coach?

Ben Knibbe:

I have one. How will he do battling for top recruits? A lot of the players he recruited, although he developed them into good players, were happy to get scholarships. BSU was the best school to offer them a scholarship. How will do do in battling against Sarkisian and Mora for SoCal kids?

Last question: In five years, we will know that Chris Petersen was a successful hire if ...

Chris Landon:

... the Huskies have won two division titles, started a winning streak against the Ducks, gone undefeated against USC, and managed to produce a Heisman finalist.  He exceeds expectations if he forces Oregon to fire Helfrich for not beating UW enough.

Ryan Priest:

Washington has claimed a division title, and made its first trip to the conference championship game. Ideally, that'd be topped with wins in the conference championship game and the Rose Bowl for good measure, but ... baby steps.

Kirk DeGrasse:

...if the UW has won the conference. The talent level has been re-stocked to a pretty high level - now it's time to maximize that talent. As strong as the conference is - and I'm not sure it's ever had this many great coaches - the standard is going to be winning the conference.

Brad Johnson:

...he's still here. If he's not, it's because he's unable to recruit at the level necessary to win in the Pac 12, or he's simply decided that he's done with the life of a head coach.

If he's here in five seasons, I think the Huskies will be winning lots of games. Consistently.

Ben Knibbe:

...he has at least been to two Pac-12 Championship games or has gone to the new playoff system. Expectations are sky-high for Petersen.

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