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Coach’s Corner: Turning the Page

Time to file away the ‘21 season right next to ‘08 season in the garbage bin

Washington State v Washington Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Before we dive in, I have to preface everything here that I’m drafting this post on Sunday night. For context, Lincoln Riley has already been hired by USC, but there is very little certainty where the UW head coach search is heading.

Yeah... the Apple Cup

Washington State v Washington Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Well at least its over. No sense in dwelling on the end of the streak. I had gone into the game mentally prepared for a loss, but it was eye opening how lop sided the final score was. I guess some of it makes sense. Breaking in a true freshman QB in a rivalry game is less than ideal, and this staff has done nothing to suggest that they’d be able to piece together a winning offensive game plan that would make that transition any easier. The 12 non-fumble/sack carries for 35 yards is simply unacceptable (and totally expected at this point). Forcing our offense to be one dimensional through the air was the most obvious game plan imaginable, and we weren’t prepared for it.

On defense, it was all about a stale game plan that never accounted for our lack of 1st round DL talent. Without an effective 3 or 4 man pass rush while passive coverage techniques, there was no way that we were going to be able to handle WSU’s Run ‘N Shoot. I’ve spoken at length about my concerns that the anti-Air Raid defensive game plan might not be successful against the Run ‘N Shoot, and especially when we were facing a dual threat QB who already has an advanced degree in the offensive system. If the game plan is to play coverage, you can’t play 2 deep safeties and also give up the easy underneath throws to the perimeter. Even then, de Laura is a good enough QB for this system that we can’t just let him work us from a clean pocket. Having worked with a HS team that faced de Laura’s St. Louis team multiple times throughout his HS career, I can speak from experience that letting him operate at his own pace is a dangerous game plan. He’s sharp enough to operate the system, but he’s also dangerous on the ground, so its almost impossible to get home with a standard rush. Committing extra bodies to the LOS and the rush is the only way to force a mistake or some sort of momentum play. I know. Hindsight is 20/20.

We’re going to be going back to the drawing board with a new staff next season anyways, so this’ll be good motivation and good game film for the staff and players to break down over the next year. I know that the scene at midfield post-game will be sticking with me.

The Cohen Conundrum

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 Utah at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So it sounds like we’re down to Campbell and DeBoer, and to be honest, I’d be okay with either. Landing Campbell would go further from a program reputation perspective, but I’ve made up my mind that each coach has enough pros and cons that I’m at peace with whatever happens. At the end of the day, its the product on the field that will speak for itself. However, as the search process winds down, I have also had to reevaluate my thoughts regarding the athletic department’s upper leadership.

Much has already been said about Jen Cohen’s track record to date. Early football and basketball success under Chris Petersen and Mike Hopkins buoyed her reputation around campus and in the fan base, but we are now in the midst of a 3-year slide for both revenue sports after Cohen handed out hefty contracts to the HCs. Lake was an unbelievable whiff of a hire, and Hopkins has struggled mightily after initially winning with Romar recruits. Now facing a full culture rebuild with a new football staff and likely facing a similar restart on the basketball front, Cohen has to live with the results of her hires.

Applying a similar assessment that I used for Lake when I finally made up my mind that he needed to go, I’ve come to a similar conclusion for Cohen. To me, its all about your ability to execute your plan and your vision. If you can show that your are making progress towards executing your plan, then I’m all for being patient. In many cases, making a hasty decision on a coach can lead to further turmoil and a more daunting rebuild for the next coach. In Lake’s case, it was his inability to land the recruits he targeted, his unwillingness to accept his mistakes on his coordinator hires, and his inability to stay out his own way.

For Cohen, this football hire will be the last straw. If she cannot seal the deal with Campbell, she would’ve whiffed on her supposed top choice, and she would’ve compounded the problem of replacing Lake with a back up choice. Now that isn’t to say that DeBoer or some other coach can’t be successful if they end up as the HC at UW, but it does mean that Cohen is incapable of executing on a plan to elevate our athletics programs according to any sort of thought out plan.

Now will any sort of move to replace Cohen actually occur immediately after making a major hire? I have no idea. All I know is that on-field results will drive the athletic department’s financial performance, and the bottom line rules all. So far, the on-filed performance has struggled, and past decisions are about to come home to roost.