Welp, with as unconventional of a post-Apple Cup week as this is, who needs a normal game takeaway-based article? Not I, surely. If you do feel the need to read about any of my Apple Cup thoughts, they’re no more elaborate than “The offense took baby steps to get out of their funk — too bad there’s only one game left, whomp whomp,” and “The defense is ending on the high-variance high note we always knew they would, woooo next year’s gonna be fun!”
And then Coach Pete said that thing, and now we’re here.
And somehow, despite it being the most unbelievably surreal breaking news I’ve read on Le Internet™ since probably the death of Osama Bin Laden, it kinda makes sense. After giving it 48ish hours of mulling over, this whole thing feels so perfectly Pete. More than that, though, it’s proof of Pete.
After all, what better proves the legitimacy of Pete’s philosophy — and his own preaching of it over the time at Boise State and Washington — than for him to practice it no matter how shocking the circumstances are to outside observers? Granted, I don’t think many people questioned whether his Built For Life stance and the tenets contained therein were genuine — but if anyone did question it, they’ve now been emphatically proven wrong. And Pete, in a unification of principles, proved himself right.
This whole scenario does feel something like a Cascadian-specific Schrödinger's Cat; on one hand, there’s now years’ worth of alternate universe players who’ll no longer receive Chris Petersen's coaching, and who subsequently won't have the benefit of his (direct, anyway) influence. But on the other hand, by practicing the core values he passed on as a coach to 14 years’ worth of real, this-universe players, he ends it all as the ultimate, living validation of his teachings.
After all, with his core convictions, it would be hypocritical of him to not step down considering he feels the way he does — even if the victim of that hypocrisy would just be himself. But Built For Life, "more than football,” whatever you want to call it, was always about valuing that which is most valuable. Arguably, the unifying pillar of all valuable things was the betterment of people's lives — wasn't that, really, what football was a means of, anyway?
Then, perhaps forgotten in all Pete's years of service towards the betterment of others’ lives — players, fans, younger coaches, the community — was the betterment of his own.
Because for all the talk about how the human body isn't meant to play football, we still collectively neglect to consider that the human brain isn't meant to coach football, at least not the way you have to as a college head coach in 2019. With the nature of that job, certainly one cannot be happy as a decades-long college head coach. I'm sure you can be satisfied, have peaks of euphoria, times of fulfillment, and other positive feelings. But happiness? Sustained contentment? Contentment necessitates stillness, stillness begets stagnation, stagnation begets losing, and losing gets you fired (not to mention hated). So contentment? Certainly not.
So, once the sacrifice of happiness compounds enough where the short-term moments of fulfillment, satisfaction, and joy no longer cover for it, what is left but a net negative? Put differently, what is left but the opposite of Chris Petersen's whole reason for football in the first place?
Pete was never a martyr whose years were to be sacrificed in the service of others. He was, rather, an example for the benefit of those under his tutelage (and those, like us, who witnessed it from afar); thus, this decision must have been the only one that could be right.
In the end, his last lesson through football was the unification of everything he's done and said for 30 years. Of course, that was the whole point.
Now, naturally, Washington's at a critical juncture. Given that Pete's mental fuel ran out, we know current Jimmy Lake has a higher ceiling than current Chris Petersen. Now we get to find out if current Jimmy Lake has as high a ceiling as peak-Chris Petersen. Can he put up a team like 2016 Washington? 2009 Boise?
On one hand, Lake has the energy to maintain the attention to detail that made Pete's teams so special and which Pete has since run out of. He's also a soul-crushingly good recruiter (hi, Notre Dame), a charismatic leader (but like, not in the Hitler-y way), and a preposterous developer of defensive back talent (as if we need reminding). Obviously, though, given the other duties of a head coach, the floor with Lake — especially as a first timer — isn't guaranteed.
Subsequently, my headspace as a fan is cautious optimism, preparation for the inevitable bumps along the way, and excitement knowing Jimmy has the energy and experience to execute. Coupled with that excitement, though, is reminding myself that at least some patience will be necessary. Even if, a decade from now, we've decided Jimmy Lake is a certified genius who'll be getting his own statue outside Husky Stadium, a genius still takes time to get things optimized.
Oh, and I'm excited for Kwiatkowski to be DC again.
Whatever happens, this'll be a fun experience.
Do good things, don't do bad things, and bow down to Washington.