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Gekko Chats: Q&A with UW Dawg Pound Founder John Berkowitz

That's right. The big man is back. And I'm not talking about the guy from the North Pole. This is bigger.

JohnBHusky on a cold day in Chicago.
JohnBHusky on a cold day in Chicago.

If you are a Husky fan whose fanhood predates the 2001 Rose Bowl, then odds are pretty good that you remember how difficult it was to find forums online where you could connect and interact with fellow fans who had a proclivity for civilized, intelligent and passionate sports debate.  There were a few for-pay sites, a blog run by Nathan Ware over at the Seattle P-I and Bob Condotta's blog.  But each of those sites had their weaknesses - not the least of which was a lack of moderation and respectful discourse.

Turn your clock back to 2006 and your browser back to an old site launched by John Berkowitz.  JB is a connected, passionate Husky fan who ran his own business out of Chicago.  Motivated by his friends, all of whom were desperate for an alternative, he launched his blog.  Two years later, the bigwigs at SB Nation asked JB to bring his blog to their network.

You know this blog as the UW Dawg Pound.

JB moved on to chase other pursuits in 2012 leaving behind some big shoes for Kirk, Anthony, Ben and I to attempt to fill.  While the names and the faces that have worked behind the scenes to keep this blog going have rotated, this forum remains true to the legacy that John built.

Today, John has come back for an encore performance.  My Q&A with UWDP founder, John Berkowitz.

JB - I get emails every week asking me where in the world is Johnny football. What can you tell your fans about your new venture?

JB: I started a company called Affordable Social Marketing. We provide social media management packages and solutions for small business. It has been very successful so far and it really has eliminated all the free time I used to have.

The Dawgs just finished up an 8-5 regular season campaign. Did the season meet your expectations, exceed them or disappoint? Why?

JB: I have to say that the 8-5 finish was disappointing. I expected a lot more out of Petersen and his staff even though there is always a period of adjustment when taking over a new program. The losses to Arizona and Stanford were inexcusable. Everyone makes mistakes but when you are being paid $3 million a year you are not supposed to be making glaring ones that cost your team victories. The feeling among the uber boosters is that CCP and his staff were in over their heads last season. That being said most folks feel that CCP and his staff will learn from this and be much better in the future. Most think he will retire at Washington.

There are a number of areas - whether it be Jonathan Smith’s mysterious playcalling, the Marcus Peters situation, the Arizona controversy, the questions concerning utilization of players like Mike Criste and Kasen Williams, etc - that left Husky fans scratching their heads all season. What are the biggest questions or disappointments that you had over the course of the season?

JB: The losses to Arizona and Stanford were simply inexcusable. CCP and his staff did a terrible job all season managing in the clutch. A friend of mine refers to him as Coach Choke Peterham.

Sark and his staff had a lot of problems with Peters. They chose to overlook a lot of it but internally he was a big pain in the ass. I think CCP handled that correctly. Criste isn't one of our top five linemen. So I completely understand the logic behind moving Tanigawa to center. What CCP and his staff didn't know because of lack of familiarity with the roster is that Criste is the best center even though he isn't one of the top five linemen. Panda is much better at guard than center. It amazes me that they didn't figure that out until the end of the season.

Kasen should have sat out to get healthy this season but he decided not to. That is completely his choice. It was pretty obvious that one of the main reasons they weren't throwing to him was he couldn't get any separation from the DB's until the last few games of the season.

Jonathan Smith is a talented coach but he wasn't ready to be an OC at this level. After the trial by fire of this season perhaps he now is. To be kind this was a big step up for him and there was a definite period of adjustment. There is a good chance that he will be next head coach at Oregon State if BYU's Bronco Mendenhall turns it down.

My biggest disappointment is literally wasting one of the best defensive front sevens we have seen in over a decade.

Cyler Miles - the most controversial player on the roster this year (now that Peters is gone). The debate here has raged on how much of a handicap his mechanics and arm strength are in leading the Huskies to wins. What is your assessment of Cyler and the season that he had?

JB: Missing Spring football really hurt Cyler and the entire offense. Cyler got better every game and that is what you want out of a young QB. Competition will be open again in the best spring and the best man will prevail. If CCP thinks that best man is Cyler than so be it. If he keeps improving over the winter he is going to be tough to beat out. His arm is never going to be world class but if keeps progressing he will be able to get the job done.

The good news is that the team finished the regular season on an upswing. When you look at how the staff managed the player rotations and balance that against what the team is likely to lose from it’s roster, what are your initial impressions on how 2015 may play out?

JB: I haven’t really had much of a chance to analyze the 2015 roster yet. I think it safe to say that the offense will be improved and the defense will have some major holes to fill up front. You don’t simply replace players like Shaq, Shelton, and Kikaha with equal talent. Maybe you do if you are Alabama or SC.

You founded the DawgPound about a decade ago to provide an alternative for Husky fans who wanted to have a higher level of debate than what is found on most message boards. Unfortunately, you had to contend with a few vitriolic types. I’m curious, who did you have to ban more frequently? Me or Lear Pilot?

JB: Ha! It was definitely you!

Thanks for stopping by your old stomping grounds, John. Are there any messages that you want to leave for the old-timers on this blog who signed up with you in the early years?

JB: I just hope that everyone is happy and healthy! I wish everyone a great holiday season! Go Dawgs!


Thanks to John Berkowitz (JohnBHusky) for taking the time away from his new business to check in with his brethren on the 'Pound.  If you want to check out John's new business, click here to go over to his website.

Go Dawgs!