clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

15 in '15: Chris Petersen is Firmly in Charge of Washington Football

Whatever you thought you knew about Chris Petersen prior to him taking over UW football has now been corrected.

What was once a little hazy has become more clear as the truth of Chris Petersen emerges.
What was once a little hazy has become more clear as the truth of Chris Petersen emerges.
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

All men, I believe, exist under the brightness of many truths but are often identified by the light of just one. To my children, I'm "Dad." In that light, they probably see me as a bit of a goofball with a caustic wit, an obsession with folded laundry and a liking for beer. To my colleagues on the job, I'm probably seen under a completely different light. There I am the vocal leader who enjoys the hunt for a deal and the camaraderie of happy hour. To my Dawg Pound friends, I may be seen as a dedicated fan who perhaps is  a bit sensitive with the trigger finger but who undoubtedly enjoys a couple of rounds at a tailgate.

Now that I've re-read what I wrote, perhaps some truths are evident in every light (/opens a beer).

The point here is that any single person exists simultaneously on a variety of planes that are defined by the relationships he or she enjoys on each single plane. While it is true that the definition of the person is the total sum of all of those planes, it is also true that the perception of that same person held by another is mostly limited to how one presents oneself on a single plane.

You following me?

The great American philosopher William James once wrote, "The greatest enemy of any of our truths may be the rest of our truths." James notes in this quote that it is entirely possible for a perception of a person held by someone to be both valid and seemingly at complete odds with a different perception held by another of that same person.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Washington Huskies head coach Chris Petersen.

Since he took over the Washington program at the end of calendar 2014, somewhere near half a million words - I kid you not - have been spilled on these pages discussing the question "Who is Chris Petersen?" Two years in, we finally have our answer:


Before he even stepped on campus, most of us already agreed on a bushel of adjectives that characterized Petersen.


Those are but a few of the truths that we perceived of the man who would be our coach, even before he signed his first recruit or coached his first game in purple.

However, we had many gaps in our understanding of the full character of person. Some people, when confronted with such gaps, will go ahead and fill those gaps with their own biases and presumptions. We saw this dynamic play out repeatedly when debating what exactly an "OKG" was. By definition, an OKG is a Chris Petersen "kind of guy." But minus a complete understanding of what kind of guy Chris Petersen was, it was not logical that we could have a complete understanding of what an OKG was.

Oh, those were some fun discussions.

Fortunately, when confronted with gaps in understanding most people jump not so much to making presumptions about what is in those gaps but, rather to asking questions. Some of the questions that we asked about Chris Petersen included:

Can he put together a PAC-12 quality staff?
Can he sell high-level recruits on the program?
Is he drunk on the success he had at Boise or humble enough to do the work to succeed at this level?
Will he show enough competitiveness to stand up to the Oregons, USCs, and Stanfords of the PAC?
Does he have the right attitude to be a Power Five coach?
Will he make the hard decisions he has to make in order to win?

Those are just a sampling of the kinds of questions that, truth be told, gave Huskies fans everywhere real heartburn. It is, of course, completely understandable that such questions would exist given that every truth that we knew about Chris Petersen existed only on the plane of him as a wildly successful coach for an oddity of a football program (and I do not mean that as an insult...quite the opposite, in fact) that existed in a somewhat noncompetitive conference.

Many people presumed that Petersen would give such an experienced coach and friend a long leash. Instead, we learned that the CEO of the program was as serious about results as the rest of his supporting fanbase.

Isn't it funny how so many of those questions around Petersen - his "gaps" - have been answered as the truth of his existence as the Huskies' football coach becomes more apparent? We no longer talk about the quality of his staff and whether or not it was stupid to not retain Marques Tuiasosopo or Justin Wilcox. We revel, in fact, in the quality of the staff that he has assembled (mostly) and how he empowers and grows them.

We no longer worry about whether or not he can recruit a PAC-12 caliber athlete.  Instead, we bask in the light of classes that feature, among other things, high-level talent in the trenches (Kaleb McGary, Benning Potae'e, Trey Adams, Luke Wattenberg, etc) and "diamonds in the rough" in skill positions (Sidney Jones, Myles Gaskin, Isaiah Renfro, etc). Yes, we are waiting for that high level receiver to pick a UW hat. But the evidence that the "Built for Life" philosophy resonates with a segment of prospective recruits is not deniable.

Competitiveness? Check.

Right attitude? Yup.

Committed and motivated to work? Yes and yes.

One by one, the questions that we had about Chris Petersen have fallen away. In fact, most of them were answered satisfactorily before the 2015 season even started. That is but for one big one.

Was Chris Petersen loyal to a fault? Could he hold his staff to account in the interest of the program, or would his loyalty to people - an attribute that we think of as a strength of his - prevent him from making the hard decisions?

This question was a particularly acute one given that Petersen had no track record of having ever fired an assistant.  He had moved on previously from one offensive coordinator by not inviting Ron Prince to join him on the Washington staff, but we had no evidence that he had actually ever severed a coaching relationship. Husky fans who were disappointed in the performance of the 2014 team, particularly in the play of the offense, wondered in a vociferous manner whether or not Petersen had the constitution to make these assessments objectively.

The answer to that most dire question was delivered in emphatic fashion when Petersen relieved his longtime friend and coaching associate Brent Pease from his position as the Wide Receivers coach at the end of the season. Pease, by all accounts, is a quality person and a coach who was not long ago to be considered of high enough status to have held the role of offensive coordinator for the Florida Gators. Many people presumed that Petersen would give such an experienced coach and friend a long leash. Instead, we learned that the CEO of the program was as serious about results as the rest of his supporting fanbase.

A few weeks ago, we also learned that extensions and promotions for assistants were being handed out. In a very unusual move, the UW made those actions public through a press release. This tactic immediately revealed a single outlier with offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith being the only coach among the regular staff to not receive a raise plus a two-year extension. Petersen didn't have to comment on that move (and he didn't) in order for the message on accountability to be clear.

WIth 2015 now behind us, there are no more questions left to be answered about the truth of Chris Petersen. All that remains to be revealed is whether or not what he is and what he does can lead to a higher level of success for a UW program now 25 years removed from its National Championship zenith.

That truth, like all others, will come in time.