Mitch Levy hosted Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen today on his "Mitch in the Morning" show on KJR. It was an interesting interview both in terms of the topics covered and the tone in which Petersen addressed those topics. Petersen was at times solemn, fiery, politically correct and brutally honest while still managing to stick to his message about how difficult transition years are on both the players and the coaching staffs.
Credit to Levy for administering an effective interview with Petersen. While I find his jabbering cynicist shtick a little tiring, I must admit that he has a penchant for both approaching the typical sports questions from his own angle and for occasionally traversing the unbeaten path with his guests. There are many interesting nuggets in this interview which you can listen to right here:
I'm sure that one of the beat reporters will post a transcript. Since we are a blogging outfit here, I thought I might try to read between the lines and offer some interpretations/observations coming out of the interview. I offer these with the caveat that none of these suggestions should be taken as fact and that I hope you enjoy debating them in the comments sections.
1. The Marcus Peters Fallout has Yet to Be Fully Felt
Levy kicked off the interview by asking Petersen about whether or not he "had fun" with the season and what parts of the job were not enjoyable for him. Petersen responded by noting that he didn't particularly enjoy the media coverage aspect of the job, especially as it related to the public nature of handling discipline issues with the team. This particular give and take took up a considerable portion of the interview and included much conversation on the Marcus Peters situation. Petersen was perhaps at his most stern when he called out the media for "flat-out lying" in reports that Peters assaulted a coach.
It is clear that Petersen was not pleased with how the media covered the Peters situation, calling himself "really, really bent" about the reporting and then chiding Levy for how the media was "making stuff up". He also seemed to allude to the situation with Cyler Miles and Demore'ea Stringfellow in some of his comments when he noted how most people don't really know what "was really happening". While not going so far as Mike Gundy famously did with his "I'm a man" rant, Petersen clearly indicated that he feels the players require a certain level of privacy and protection from the kind of scrutiny that would otherwise be appropriate for him and his staff.
I'm not sure if this all translates into eventual changes in policies in terms of player access going forward, but I would expect that there will be some changes in attitude and transparency when it comes to the program and the media. You could tell that the topic is on Petersen's mind as he even went so far as to address Husky fans at the end of the interview by noting that he really wants to find ways to connect and share insights with them. He's clearly struggling to balance access for the intense Seattle Media with the need to protect his program from distraction. I for one would expect Petersen to alter some of the ways that fans, media and players are allowed to interact starting as early as this spring.
2. Petersen is Internalizing the 2014 Season
The most interesting aspect of the interview came when Petersen was asked by Levy to grade himself in his first season. Petersen did not hesitate in giving himself an "average" rating and noting that his performance mirrors that of his team. The tone in which he delivered the response was one of the more earnest moments of the interview.
Interestingly, Petersen gave a few other hints about he felt about 2014 and what he was looking to see change in 2015. For one, he opened the interview talking about the intensity of a workout that he had observed earlier in the morning noting how he had "a scowl on his face" following the "extremely hard workout". Second, he made reference, as he has in other interviews, about how the players need to acquire a "killer edge" in order to compete in conference. Finally, on the subject of discipline, he noted how the "Boise kids knew how we did things". While I risk taking that comment out of context, he clearly intimated that, at best, his team did not reach that state of enlightenment until late in the season.
Maybe it is just me, but I couldn't help but to get a sense of the disappointment that Petersen seemed to harbor about how the season turned out. For a guy who seems to try to stay on message with the media and who always tries to portray a sense of optimism without being too flowery, there was some authentic humility and disappointment in both his tone and his words. He seems to be internalizing that disappointment and it seems to be steeling his resolve and increasing the intensity with which he his managing his staff and attacking his preparation for 2015.
3. Expect a Simplification of the Offense in 2015
When Levy got onto the topic of the competition for the Quarterback position, Petersen made several interesting comments ranging from his belief that the position will improve (thus hinting at his dissatisfaction with the output in 2014), there will be a "seating chart" going into spring, and how hard the QB job is. What I found most interesting was how Petersen addressed the sophistication of his offense.
Petersen talked about how he felt that being too complicated in scheme was undesirable but also how complicated the playbook becomes ultimately depends on the answer to the question "What can the Quarterback do?". When you combine this commentary with the earlier comments that Petersen had made about self-evaluating the performance of him and his staff (a performance that he termed "average"), it isn't a particularly daring suggestion to say that we can expect a simplification of the offense in 2015.
How that simplification manifests itself is anybody's guess. We know that Petersen values being able to play fast, but that he also makes heavy use of both formations and pre-snap motions in order to gain numbers advantages and to help the QB in pre-snap decision making. It wouldn't be a shocking development, in particular given the youth on the offensive line, to see a reduction in formations, fewer QB reads and more use of run-pass options to become a reality in next year's playbook.
4. Jake Browning is a Clear Underdog in the 2015 QB Competition
Petersen seemed to intentionally wish to throw cold water on the notion of Jake Browing playing in 2015 when asked about his QB race by stating, "I'm shocked when we play true freshmen at any position." He went on to detail his views on the how complex the QB position really is and how unfair it is to put high expectations on young players like Browning and KJ Carta-Samuels when they have had so few "banked reps" at a higher level of competition.
You don't have work too hard to read between the lines when you combine those comments with the earlier hint that there would be a "seating chart" to the competition. Petersen is clearly intimating that Browning, and maybe even KJCS, should be viewed as underdogs in the QB competition and that Husky fans should temper their expectations. His other comments about how UW will definitely improve at QB would hint that he wants us all to know that whomever gets the job - even if it is Cyler - the coaches expect to be able to coerce more production from the position, even if Cyler ends up winning the job.
The last point is important. I think Petersen would have to be blind to see the anti-Cyler sentiment that is raging through the fan base. However, he keeps making comments about how the QB position will get better and how he is interested in seeing how each of the players show up and compete. I definitely get the sense that he is trying to create space in the minds of the fans to the notion that Cyler may still be the guy even after a full position battle has taken place.
All in all, a very interesting interview administered quite deftly by Mitch Levy. I'm curious what you all gleaned from it and how it shapes your thoughts on what you'll be looking for when spring football kicks off next month.