I wrote out a whole intro and everything before the John Donovan news broke. That was then, this is now, and I really don’t want to rewrite it. I’ll take a play out of Gabey’s playbook and just skip to the important part.
Rudderless at the Top?
What an unmitigated disaster. Many were saying that after the Montana game. Others were saying that after the Oregon State game. Yet more were joining their ranks after the UCLA game. And now we have this...
Now all things considered, this was not the worst on-field performance by this team by any stretch. The defense looked dominant for the first quarter, it was at least solid for much of the game, and our special teams was playing lights out (@UWonSBN being the official stan account for Race Porter). Additionally, there was legitimate energy on the sidelines for the first time in a long time (somewhat understandably for this rivalry game). However, never before have I seen a team fight so hard for a coaching staff that has done little to reward our faith in their abilities. This loss has little to do with Oregon actually beating us, and it has everything to do with us beating ourselves.
The obvious and on-going issues with the offense bit us again, and the clear regression of Dylan Morris makes me concerned if he’s legitimately the best option we have (as the staff’s comments would indicate). The boneheaded interception in triple coverage is the most recent and damning indictment of the staff’s inability to develop him. Firing Donovan addresses at least part of the issue on offense, but it doesn’t fix the offense, and it certainly doesn’t fix Morris’ play. The problem is that I don’t know if I trust those at the top of the program to know where to look for answers.
Through 13 games I was relatively optimistic about Jimmy Lake’s ability to steer this program, but that confidence in him has all but evaporated. This last week was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had already started to get antsy about the fact that we hadn’t taken more significant steps to address our weakest areas. While the defense was at least cycling through line ups to find the right players (granted, it was partially due to injuries) and yielding a noticeable week-to-week improvement, the offense has continued to spiral. As Andy Staples repeatedly says on his podcast, “what should be done eventually must happen immediately.” The ineptitude on offense that we saw against Oregon was no worse than what we’ve seen in most weeks, so why the change now?
That wasn’t the last straw for me though. Even proven HCs get coordinator hires wrong. No, for me, it was the series of mostly off-field blunders that brings Lake’s basic competencies as a HC into question. Rule #1 of any job is to avoid negative attention for your boss, and the “academically prowess” quote leading up to the game was just plain embarrassing for everyone associated with the university. Then there was the sideline incident with Ruperake Fuavai. Personally, I think the situation was a tad bit overblown, but I think we can all agree that this was not the best resolution to the scuffle and that the optics are terrible for the program (which again, circles back to Rule #1).
Finally, there was the final near punt of the game. While I guess I can understand Lake’s explanation that our 2 timeouts hypothetically gave us a chance at having ~50 seconds left if we got a stop on defense, that logic just makes absolutely no sense to anyone watching the game. It took 30 yards of penalties to stop Oregon’s preceding drive, and the UW offense had put together exactly 1 scoring drive on its own all-night, so what made him think that we could march 80+ in under a minute with no timeouts? If it were up to me, I would want to control my destiny as long as possible, and that means going for it. The punt call looked like Lake was trying to keep it close and avoid Oregon from adding to the deficit rather than actually trying to win the game. If there’s one way to lose your team, its to appear like you aren’t trying to win. If you can’t do the basics like keeping the team on your side and avoiding looking stupid, then how are you going to be able to make the tough decisions like hiring and firing staffers?
This is all to say that Lake has managed to use up all of his goodwill with the fans, made it hard for his boss to give him cover, and he might be on his way to losing the team. Firing Donovan was the first move, but I doubt that its the last. With so much change already set in stone, more likely to come, and little left to play for other than the opportunity to have a few more weeks of practice if we get to bowl-eligibility, now is the time to look towards the future, however radically different that ends up being.
There’s some chatter of further announcements coming soon, so we’ll be keeping you posted here whenever we hear something.