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The View From Section 40: Get Off Of Sark’s Back!

"I loooooooove winning!  You know, as opposed to losing."   - Ebby Calvin "Nuke" Laloosh, from the movie "Bull Durham"


My greatest loves in this world:  1) My wife;  2) My Kids;  3) Anything Huskies.

My greatest "hates" in this world:  1) Losing;  2) Anything Oregon Ducks;  3) Losing to the Oregon Ducks in anything.

That said, let me just make it eminently clear that this decade—rephrase that, this decade POST-Marques Tuiasosopo—has been rough.  Losing 65-7 to Miami in 2001.  The 2002 Sun Bowl loss to Purdue.  The Neuheisel debacle.  Gilby diving on the grenades to protect the program.  Paint-dry Ty .  0-12.  A losing streak to the Ducks stretching three Head Coaches.  Painful, one and all. 

Following this year’s BYU game, I went into two days of solitary confinement until I was sure I could walk around the neighborhood without kicking any kids or punching the grouchy neighbor lady in the face for complaining about my dog for the umpteenth time.  I dealt with the Nebraska game because, let’s face it, they were better than us.  Much, much better.  After ASU, shoot, I was pissed for days, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out Sark’s or Holt’s game plans…or if any game plans really even existed.

But I’m a Husky to the core, and I wore my purple the next day each and every time. 

I bring this up in light of the growing BS regarding Sark and Holt on the various message boards.  If we are to believe what's out there, we have two giant morons running our football program.  Sark can’t call plays…he passes too frequently…he bails on the run too early…he ignores the tight ends…he can’t adjust mid-game…he’s clueless.  Holt clearly was a figurehead at USC while Pete Carroll ran the defense…he calls too many blitzes…he doesn’t blitz enough…his coverage packages are too soft…he can’t adjust mid-game…he’s clueless.

For crying out loud, get off the coaching staff’s back, people!

OK, so I drank many a purple beer this off-season, too.  I looked over the schedule in May and ambitiously saw 9-3, maybe 10-2 if we got rolling.   Figured we’d have 72,000+ weekly at the Stadium.  Jake would be headed to New York in December as a top-five Heisman pick.  Polk would roll up 1,400 yards.  Foster would be a Butkus award contender.  Sark would win National Coach of the Year.  Holt would be a coveted head coach for every major opening. 

Reality sucks.

But before we get crazy and join the parade in ripping everyone from Sark on down to Billy the Equipment Boy, realize a few things:

  • A load of unrealistic expectations had been heaped upon the program based on 2009’s big finish.  Recall, we shut out an all-time bad WSU squad and spanked a Cal team who was mailing it in at the end of the 2009 season.  Too many "fans" forget we had lost 6 of 7 leading up to the conclusion, the lone victory coming via Mason Foster’s "Miracle on Montlake" pick-six against Arizona.
  • We lost our two best defensive players—Donald Butler and Daniel Te’o Nesheim—to the NFL following the 2009 season, and a third key in senior EJ Savannah.  Who started at Arizona last weekend in their stead?  True freshman Hau’oli Jamora, true freshman Princeton Fuimaono, physically undersized (but with the heart of a warrior) Cort Dennison. 
  • We’re undermanned, and if Jake Locker doesn’t play an otherworldly game, we lose.  Plain and simple.

Look at our offensive line:  would any of them crack even the two-deeps at #1 Oregon?  Really?  Erik Kohler and Colin Porter ought to be in the midst of redshirt seasons, getting stronger weekly under the expert guidance of Ivan the Terrible, not forced into action against men four years older and stronger because the previous coaching regime was incompetent and unable to attract Pac 10-level talent.  Unable to lure Steve Schilling and David DeCastro, we brought in Cody Habben and Mykenna Ikehara, short of injury neither of whom are likely to find the field again.  Kohler and Porter will clean up that mess nicely, albeit with one less year to develop than deserved.

Go on?  Would any of our defensive starters see consistent playing time at any top 10 school?  Mason Foster?  Absolutely. Desmond Trufant?  Nickel-back on third and long at Oregon or Boise St., tops.  Nate Williams?  Maybe as an extra Safety.  That’s a BIG maybe. Cameron Elisara?  Right.  Everrette Thompson?  His future would shine a whole lot brighter as a bulked-up redshirt sophomore, rather than the undersized true junior he is. 

What would Jake Locker look like this season if he wasn’t running for his life for 60 plays each week?  He’s a warrior, and don’t even think of spouting about how Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Nick Foles, or Kellen Moore would have any greater success in purple and gold this season.  Shoot, I counted no less than five plays Saturday evening when Arizona backup QB Mark Scott (who?) had over SIX seconds to find a receiver.  Shoot, the same people complaining about Jake’s win-loss record at UW are the same ones claiming Felix Hernandez is a crappy pitcher because he went 13-12 in 2010.  How many yards would Chris Polk have behind an O-Line of seasoned, conditioned, top-flight athletes?  How many fewer shoulder problems would he have incurred?  Would Jermaine Kearse still average two-plus drops a game had he not been thrust into game action from the moment he arrived on campus and had a year to develop…as former Husky-commit Keanon Lowe is rightfully getting this season at Oregon? 

For those complaining about Sark, Holt, et al:  I turned 45 years old two weeks ago, and if I could blow out the birthday candles all over again, I would not-so-secretly wish for the naysayers to shut their collective traps.  Do you really believe Nick Saban could do anything more with the athletes Sark inherited?  Chris Petersen?  Jim Mora?  Don James?  Shoot, Knute Rockne?  

We’re less than two years into a massive reclamation project on Montlake, the likes of which were never seen before the Neuheisel-Gilbertson-Willingham failures.  To the 2011 recruiting class, the University of Washington football program has "always" been brutal.  Trust me, as a former classroom teacher, to today’s high school athlete the 2001 Rose Bowl may just as well have been 1901, and the 1991 National Championship is ancient times.

We’re getting there. Saturdays at Husky Stadium are fun again.  I go to games expecting to win and my understanding wife gives me the basement man-cave to stew for hours when we lose.  I believe in moral victories about as much as I like it when my kids get participation trophies at the end of their soccer and basketball seasons.   But this is not the time to blow the whole thing up again and bring in a new coaching staff, as many message board posters would have us do.  Stay the course.

And get off of Sark’s back.