In case you were wondering my stance on intros, don’t worry, I’d never flip-flop. They are still, and will forever remain, dumb as crap.
Why ZTF rules
Here’s what we’ve learned about ZTF over the last 10 halves he’s played:
1) When he’s on the field beating up an opposing Very Large Manchild, it’s with the unsettling joy of a transient orca hurling a harbor seal six stories into the air before finally ending its misery, and
2) When he leaves the field having just beaten up an opposing Very Large Manchild, it’s with the endearing joy of a puppy who destroyed your couch while you ran off to Bartell’s to refill your psoriasis meds, whose brain’s only thought is “Gee, that destruction sure was fun!” (In this scenario, the right tackle is the owner of what remains of the couch.)
Now there’s few things I roll my eyes at harder than shart-faces who have big thoughts about how “the game should be played” and blah blah blah — shports are made up of individuals, and individuals have different personalities and motivations, and if they were all the same it would be at best eerie, not to mention boring.
But I will say there are very few players whose game is more fun to watch than Zion Tupuola-Fetui. Because there’s very few players who look like they’re having more fun playing than ZTF. It’s contagious.
How can you be unhappy seeing him have that much fun? You can’t, it’s impossible. Even if, the moment before, I’m unhappy because of Washington Football’s latest way to look garbageesque and, the moment after, I’m unhappy because of... well, the same thing — in that in-between where we’re just watching ZTF blast dudes into oblivion and then frolic back to the sideline with a smile the size of Liechtenstein on his face... in that moment we get to be happy. So thanks, bud.
Dylan Morris has been failed by the coaches
My main bitch Andrew Berg and I have talked about this a wee bit on our award-winning* podcast All We Hear is Purple, but everything a quarterback does, Dylan Morris did better last year.
Pocket presence? Accuracy? Poise? Mobility within the pocket? Mobility outside the pocket? Anticipation? Throwing on the run? Even having the confidence to consider throwing on the run? Decision-making?
While progress isn’t linear and so, over one’s athletic career, their improvement won’t be clear cut and constant, athletes don’t just get worse at every aspect of their job for no reason. When they do, it’s usually related to aging or some sort of change in circumstances, whether that’s coaches, scheme/philosophy/what they’re being asked to do being outside their strengths, different teammates, off-field struggles, etc.
So let’s check in on Dylan Morris in this regard:
A) Aging: While he is aging, 20-ish is hardly the point where athletes start declining (unless they’re part of the Russian figure skating juggernaut).
B) Change of circumstances: New coaches? Nope. New offense? Nein. New teammates with whom he shares the field? Not really other than the loss of Puka. New scheme? No. And while there’s always the chance any athlete’s life off the field is going through a rough patch on the basis that they’re a human and humans’ lives go through rough patches, it’s hardly reasonable to conclude anyone’s given on-field decline must be the result of some off-field drama or private tragedy. (While we’re at it, can we as a society get over the whole “So and so is sucking at his sport, which must be his new girlfriend’s fault” thing?)
What we do have evidence of is that John Donovan has made preeeeetty everything he touches worse — and lo and behold, Morris looks worse this year! After finally getting a full, in-person off-season with JohnDon!
Last season, his main weakness was the deep ball — a straightforward fix, with an already low percentage of success from even generational talents.
Last season, Morris was instinctive, poised, accurate, unafraid in the air, in the pocket, and on the run, and never appeared intimidated by adverse circumstances or Herculean tasks asked of him. Seemingly all of that is gone.
Whether it’s the inefficacy of the system getting into his head or the hands-on coaching itself or other factors, the specifics and all-encompassing nature of his decline clearly point to the professional adults being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to not screw him (or this program) up.
Furthermore, beyond John Donovan, Scott Huff is massively implicated in Morris’ decline. Obviously it’s not Huff’s fault that this Godforsaken running game “system” works against the type of linemen he’s been recruiting the last five-ish years — athletic in space, quick feet, etc. — but my God could you get a worse pass protection product out of a group with this much baseline talent? I’d like to see that, because that would be glorious in the most horrifying way.
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve seen a quarterback who trusts his offensive line less than Morris does his — and I don’t blame him an iota. (For a fun** exercise, go rewatch the Arizona game*** and take note of when he bails from the pocket, then go back and look at the circumstances just prior to him bailing, and you’ll see just how little he trusts his line to hold that thing.)
And to be clear, I don’t blame any of the offensive linemen either; it’s not their job to coach themselves. That’d be like if each time you went to your Roman history lecture, the professor spent all class playing Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up on repeat — it’s not your fault then when you can’t tell them how many legions were eviscerated by Herman the German, or why he’s an absolute mad lad. (Sidenote: I actually did take a class on the Roman army in college, and to this day I’ve never seen anyone more really, really, ridiculously good-looking than my lecture crush. If you’re reading this, are a dude in your late 20s, and were in a Roman army class at UBC circa 2014, congratulations on being the best-looking person in maybe the whole world. Certainly North America.)
And of course, all that comes back to Jimmy Lake, because he’s responsible for the guy responsible for running the offense and coaching the quarterback. And he’s responsible for the guy who’s responsible for the guys who are responsible for protecting Dylan Morris.
*This is a blatant lie.
***Do not do this.
Lastly, let’s give some attention to the programs that work just as hard and represent Washington with honor
None of this is talking smack about the actual players in the football program. I know they work hard as hell and what little maternal instinct I have wants them to get what they deserve, which is coaches that help them reach their potential as players and good human beings. I also think, until given evidence otherwise, that Jimmy Lake is a good dude off the field — who clearly gives a shit about on-field performance, too, based on how high a standard he held in his previous roles — but who has a couple blind-spots that unfortunately will continue to limit his efficacy until he unlearns them.
But in the meanwhile, there’s Washington programs whose players aren’t just trying to play well, but whose coaches are putting them in better positions to succeed. And unlike football programs everywhere, none of these programs take for granted your support, despite how much they deserve it.
Football and men’s basketball are the “default” sports for people to support the most zealously pretty much no matter the school, save for those with no football team; in Washington’s case, shouldn’t the default be the programs that wear the W with dignity?
It’s not like you have to pick one or the other, but if you’re frustrated with football right now (and if you’re not, um... what?), might I suggest that men’s soccer only just lost their first game after 12 straight wins and is ranked #4 in the country? Or that volleyball, who’s kicked ass for decades, continues to do so and is #8? And of course there’s both crews (men’s just won in the V8 at Head of the Charles) and softball (Heather Tarr was just named the head coach of Team USA, for crap’s sake), all of whom are perpetually the pride of Washington.
Not to mention non-revenue programs are disproportionately active in the community. Ask anyone who grew up playing one of these sports even semi-seriously in the Puget Sound area, and we probably had many positive interactions with these teams. (Seriously, why do you think I’m all heart eyes whenever softball comes up? Because 10-14 year-old me had a dozen-plus encounters with them that were always positive, duh.)
If you haven’t been to UW Volleyball in person, do it. So much fun. But also stressful. Worth every penny.— Coker - So Called Fan (@coker_UDub) October 24, 2021
USA Softball announced that Coach Tarr has been named the Women's National Team Head Coach!— Washington Softball (@UWSoftball) October 25, 2021
An obvious choice and no one more deserving!
>> https://t.co/VbTqEiaQxV#MightyAreTheWomen pic.twitter.com/UV5KfrsycG
And before someone comments about this being “bandwagoning” or being a flakey fan about football or whatever: It’s not about ditching football, it’s about supporting athletes who deserve our support just as much as the two programs who get it regardless of how they represent Washington. Maybe they deserve it even more, considering they work just as hard without the promise of always being on TV, famous and beloved by hundreds of thousands of people.
By the way, volleyball plays Saturday and their next home game is November 5th, and men’s soccer plays Thursday at home, at 7. Tickets are $15 and $10.
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.