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Mailbag: "Anything Interesting Happen Lately?" Edition

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The answer is yes. Something interesting happened.

ASU v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Now that it’s all settled, was the firing warranted or was it an overreaction? - Ragu

I think it was warranted. I also think that if Jimmy doesn’t make the headlines with the 2 incidents from his final week then he still has his job right now. On the face of it I don’t think one failed attempt at trash talk and a shove on the sideline are grounds by themselves for a firing given the $10 million buyout. But those 2 errors made it so that I don’t think it was possible for Lake to pull out of the spiral.

Let’s say on the Monday of Oregon week Lake had responded with something along the lines of “Oregon has done a great job recruiting but ultimately it’s about the results on the field and how well you can coach up talent. They were a little above .500 last year and have won some close games this year so credit to them”. Still a tiny shot at Oregon but there’s no way it makes national headlines. Then he just doesn’t touch Fuavai on the sidelines and simply points to the bench while between him and Oregon. Those 2 little things happen and I think Lake still has a job and likely does going into next year as well.

If there’s never a point where Lake makes UW a national embarrassment let alone does it twice in the same week then he fires Donovan and makes him the scapegoat. In the offseason Cohen authorizes Lake to spend as much as he needs to get the best OC candidate possible and he tries to reboot a team that finished somewhere between 4-8 and 7-6. The optics of firing an African American head coach with no scandals off the field after 1.5 seasons for having likely either a 4-5 or 5-4 conference record aren’t great. Throw in that Lake became the laughing stock of the college football world for a week and it becomes not just justifiable but likely necessary.

With instant eligibility in the transfer portal there’s just not nearly as much time as there used to be for a coach to recover from a bad season. On paper Washington would have a chance to recover next year with an improved OC and subsequently improved QB play. However, that wasn’t possible if on top of everything else UW lost 3 starters on each side of the ball through the transfer portal. I don’t know if that would’ve happened and Jen doesn’t know if it would’ve happened but the risk of it maybe happening helped make the firing warranted.

Which assistant coaches should be kept? Huff, Malloe, DB coach, would be my 3. - LiveInHoth

If you’re the new coach, who, if any, of the existing staff do you retain or do you get rid of everyone? - GU1966

The first question didn’t explicitly phrase it this way but I’ll interpret it as you asking the 3 coaches I would be most likely to keep around. I’ll preface with the clarification that a large part of this depends on who gets hired as a head coach. If we hire someone as head coach or OC who has a specific background with the position group I choose to keep then it makes less sense to retain them.

I think Ikiaika Malloe is a no-brainer on the list. Depending on what the rest of the staff looks like you could leave him at OLB or switch him back to DL. He has shown to be one of UW’s better recruiters at a crucial position and also has developed talent. Plus he’s an alumni who can help keep up the connection with the school. If he isn’t retained he’s going to instantly find another job at a different Pac-12 school.

I’m going with Junior Adams for my second choice although it’s close. Since Adams arrived, the WR position has been one of the most consistently well recruited. I’m going off the assumption that Odunze and McMillan would prefer to keep Adams around but one of the highest priorities for the new coach should be keeping them out of the transfer portal. I don’t think Adams is the perfect WR coach but I would rather take him over an unknown in door B.

Finally, I’m going with Huff at #3 but could be talked out of it quite easily. Huff has been one of UW’s best recruiters during his tenure. However, it’s tough for me to put this year’s O-line performance out of my head. It definitely feels like given the way UW has recruited that the product on the field has consistently underperformed ever since 2016. Maybe UW loses a few guys to the portal if Huff isn’t retained but I’m curious to see what a better tactically sound OL coach might be able to do with what’s on hand.

You mentioned Harris or Brown as DB coach but the recruiting results the last 2 years have been lackluster and it’s tough to know how much of the on-field performance to attribute to Lake versus Harris/Brown. I think we could do better.

Gregory is pretty obviously a no for me since a new coach will want a new DC. Keith Bhonapha has been fine and helped open up Texas but again it’s tough to feel like he’s irreplaceable. Rowan and Cato are so new that I don’t know what to think but if a new coach interviewed them and felt like they had enough potential to keep on then I’d be fine with it.

Ultimately, I’m guessing that the new coach will make a clean sweep but the next most likely scenario in my mind is Malloe is the only one that stays.

In multiple games this year we come out in the first offensive series and throw a quick out to Rome in the flats and he has subsequently gotten around 5 yards except against Oregon, why do we never come back to that play or even a fake to it then throw a slant or Rome on the fly as the DB breaks on him? - RockDawg

In general, I would say that little things like this are part of the reason why John Donovan didn’t see success. The best offensive coordinators have multiple, very distinct plays which look very similar to the defense. Maybe you run the ball with the offensive line blocking the same way two times and the third time the defense thinks they know exactly what’s coming but this time it’s play action and you’re able to find the hole behind the linebackers.

For what it’s worth we did go back to it on Saturday. On the first play of the 2nd half we again tried the quick throw out to Rome except Arizona State’s defensive end got into the passing lane and batted it down at the line of scrimmage. Similar to as I mentioned before, if you’re going to run that play multiple times maybe don’t have it be the literal first play of each half in order to be slightly less predictable. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Adams saw that things were unraveling and kind of just went back to the scripted 15 to see if he could run through a few of them and when the first one didn’t get any yards he bailed on that idea.

So you’re in charge of hiring the new head coach. At the risk of massively over-simplifying it, Do you lean towards A) sitting power 5 coach? The risk being they’re possibly just a re-tread. B) mid-major / group of 5 head coach? Risk being they dont have experience on the biggest stage. C) hot assistant / coordinator at a major program? Risk being they’ve never been a head coach, so may be great and Xs & Os but not cut out to lead a major program. Any of them could be fantastic, but which level of risk do you choose? Asking for a friend….. - 503Dawg

Given what Washington just went through I don’t see how they could realistically go with option C. For someone who is in the mold of a coach in group C, Jimmy Lake was about as close to textbook as you could want. Track record of success at every level, knew the system, learned under a great coach, history of being a great recruiter...it just didn’t work out.

It’s a cop out answer but it really does depend on who the candidates are in order for me to pick between A and B. I don’t think one is inherently better than the other. If you have the chance to get a coach that has had an incredible amount of success everywhere they’ve ever coached then yeah, sign me up. That’s what Chris Petersen was even if Boise was in the Mountain West. If it’s someone who has coached at the P5 level but never consistently won or coached at the G5 level and never won their conference then I’m not going to be very impressed.

If you’re saying that the true no-brainers in group A are taken then I guess I’d lean towards group B with the G5 coach. I would need it to be an offensive coach who has shown innovation on that side of the ball and a strong grasp of analytics. Ideally they improved recruiting at their current school even if they didn't magically take give a MWC school a top-20 class. Then you go back to having the highest assistant pool salary in the conference and get them elite recruiters/experienced coordinators to supplement.

Sam Huard successfully hands the ball off 8 times to the one yard line. Why bring Dylan off the bench? - Gary from MI

Seems pretty clear that Washington wanted to live up to whatever promise they made to play Huard every 3rd drive but also didn’t fully trust him especially at the goal line. If you put Sam into the game then I feel like that has to mean that you entrust him to run the whole offense. But it clearly seemed like the coaching staff was talking out of both sides of their mouth a bit trying to claim they gave Huard a shot but then handicapped him most of the time he was out there.

Will Lake get hired elsewhere as a head coach? Maybe a small program? - Ragu

My guess is his next job will be as a DB coach in the NFL. If this had been his 3rd head coaching job then I’d say he just waits out the offset period in his buyout like Jim Mora Jr. has done at every step. But he’s young enough and I think wants to end up getting a shot as a head coach again that he wants to get back out there sooner than 3 years to work his way back up the ladder. I certainly wouldn’t blame him though if he decides he’s made over $20 million in his career from coaching and cruises for a while. If he wanted to stick with college I think he could get hired instantly as a DC at any G5 school and as a DB coach anywhere in the country. Don’t know if that’s what he wants though.

Should West Coast recruiting experience matter in choosing the new coach? Seems like coaching and general recruiting are what count- Stevie

It definitely wouldn’t hurt a candidate’s chances. I agree though that I’m less worried about a coach adapting to the West Coast if they’ve shown to be an effective recruiter somewhere else in the country. There are specific micro-environments like the state of Texas or the city of Miami where I think someone knowing the lay of the land is immensely important. If a coach is coming in with a track record of success and/or shows they’re an extremely active recruiter then I think that’s good enough to fix a lot of the recruiting woes we’ve seen under Lake.

Does this mean it’s the end of DB U for Washington? - Ragu

It doesn’t have to be the end. Obviously without Jimmy Lake it’s less likely that Washington pumps out a number of high NFL draft picks at the cornerback position. The best way to get the moniker for any Position Group U though is to be good enough that a large portion of your roster ends up in the NFL.

Schools like Ohio State, LSU, Florida, and Texas have all had coaching changes and continued to tout themselves as DB U. How? They just kept accumulating 4-star and 5-star DB recruits.

Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon could each potentially be off the board this year by Day 2 of the Draft. If Mishael Powell and Jacobe Covington end up becoming NFL level talents then it really just takes one hit in either this class of the next by the new coach to keep the momentum rolling on that front. But the best way to keep Washington as the West Coast DB U is to start winning and recruiting again at an elite level. The days of turning low 3-stars consistently into NFL draft picks might be over but if UW recruits the next Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon then they’ll be just fine.

Is it time to start watching UW Women’s Basketball instead? - SportsJessika

This is almost undoubtedly the answer. Who doesn’t want to watch Nancy Mulkey block 4 shots per game? Throw in UW Volleyball, Men’s Soccer, Crew, and Women’s Softball and you’ve cracked the code. So basically anything but Football and Men’s Basketball.