Sunday, December 26, 2004

Maverick is en fuego

These comics are hilarious.

So is his editorial (Mav needs permalinks Post this stuff on the blog -- which is now mysteriously deleted:

Looking at UCLA athletic history, when the basketball team performed poorly on the court, Steve Lavin was fired. Walt Hazzard was fired. Larry Farmer was made to feel unwelcome enough that he “resigned.” When the football team performed poorly, Bob Toledo was fired. Even Terry Donahue arguably was forced out, because football is what happens on the field.

By that standard, Karl Dorrell is a failure as a head coach. He took over a program whose 15-9 record over the previous two years, including some big wins but also some embarrassing losses, got Bob Toledo fired.

In the two years since then, Dorrell is 12-13, with no big wins and many embarrassing losses. Dorrell’s losses have demoralized many formerly sane Bruin fans to the point that some have even taking to claiming that one of Dorrell’s losses – to USC this season – was a win. This is akin to someone in a failed, loveless marriage who, to avoid facing reality, nevertheless convinces himself or herself that everything is hunky-dory.

The most remarkable element of Dorrell’s failure, though, is the amazing phenomenon that the more he fails, the more support he gets from the core UCLA football fans – the same fans who ran Toledo out of town for a far better record than Dorrell’s, but nevertheless tolerated a 20-year Terry Donahue regime that bookended a pretty decent 7-year run from 1982-1988 with 13 years of mediocrity and passivity.

If football is what happens on the field, then Dorrell is a dismal and embarrassing failure. But for whatever reason, this core group of fans who embrace mediocrity are more interested in keeping Dorrell as coach than in having a successful football program that brings pride to the university.

So these Bruin fans have to ignore what happens on the field, and focus on those subjective and unprovable factors we talked about earlier – the same kind of squishy, mind-numbing “intangible” stuff that gets trotted out by every failed head coach and was not enough to save coaches like Solich, Willingham, Gilbertson, or Holmoe.

Even calling these arguments “excuses” gives them too much dignity. They’re just deflections. They’re used by people who, for whatever reason, refuse to face reality, refuse to deal with the fact that football is what happens on the field.

1. It’s the prior coach’s fault. After the Wyoming loss, I heard one fan say that this was “the last of the Toledo regime.” Toledo, who hasn’t coached a game for UCLA in over two years?
2. It’s the players’ fault. After all, Dorrell can’t throw and catch and run for these guys, can he? Of course, neither could Holmoe, Gilbertson... you get the idea. Football is what happens on the field.

3. It’s the assistants’ fault. This one doesn’t quite work here, though, since Dorrell just professed tremendous satisfaction with his assistants and their performance not one week ago.

4. It’s the fans’ fault. Here we have the classic mixing up of cause and effect – claiming the team performs poorly because the fans are negative, when in fact the fans are only negative because the team performs poorly.

5. It’s the administration’s fault. How can we beat Wyoming when we don’t have an on-campus stadium, or when we won’t allow the coach to bring in any more Billy Don Jackson’s, or when there are so many distractions in a big city like Los Angeles (like, I don’t know, the national championship winning university across town?).

6. It’s the underbelly’s fault. I don’t even know what this is, but it sure sounds good. Someone needs to tell me, after two full seasons as coach, when two players are sent home days before the loss to Wyoming for coming to a team meeting drunk, is that an example of the coach cleaning up the underbelly? Or, rather, demonstrating that he is incapable of cleaning it up (whatever it is)?

7. Things will get better soon. When all else fails, point to the future. Apologists love to point to intangible and unmeasurable things and just hope that things will miraculously change. Hence, we hear about how some strength and conditioning coach will work wonders with the players’, well, strength and conditioning, or that the team is “young” (as opposed to all those college teams with a bunch of old men all over the field), or that the new recruiting class is filled with breakout stars (even though the quality of Dorrell’s recruits, by any objective measurement, is below Toledo’s) or players with better attitudes (conveniently, a completely unverifiable claim).

We could go on and on, but we’re just wasting our breath. Because Paul Hackett didn’t fail at USC because of the facilities, or because John Robinson’s players were soft, or because of his assistants or USC’s intolerant fans, and Pete Carroll didn’t turn the USC program around in less than two years because the fans or the administration suddenly got more supportive.

Carroll succeeded where Hackett failed because Carroll is a far, far better coach than Hackett.

Dorrell will not be fired now. They just gave the guy a two-year extension, for God’s sake (brlliant). But after next season, when UCLA struggles yet again to stay over .500, we can only hope that even those delusional Bruin fans who think we beat USC and are “going in the right direction” if only we can “clean up some issues,” will start to recognize that all the deflections in the world can’t change the fundamental, no-excuses fact that separates a coach that deserves to keep his job from one who doesn’t:

Football is what happens on the field.

Read the whole thing.

And the quotes:

"I am just gushing with happiness because I know Karl will have an immediate impact....He won't need a two-year window. He'll do things early." -- Matt Stevens, December 19, 2002, Orange County Register, after UCLA finished 7-5, and 4-4 (tied for fourth) in the Pac-10

"Our goal is to ultimately be the best in the conference. We're making strides in that direction and I don't think it's going to be long before we get exactly what we want. Is that next year? Who knows?" -- Karl Dorrell, December 18, 2004, Los Angeles Times, after UCLA finished 6-5, and 4-4 (tied for fifth) in the Pac-10

"I guess I can smile now. That was fun." -- Karl Dorrell, December 4, 2004, giddy with excitement after leading UCLA to its sixth straight loss to archrival USC

"Football is what happens on the field." -- Anonymous

"I was interested in seeing how hard we would play. That was the one thing I wanted to observe. I saw our spirit and guys playing hard. The sideline was alive. That was what was exciting to me." -- Karl Dorrell, on February 3, 2003, asked how he felt watching the UCLA football team win the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, just before he began coaching the team

"We all have to question how we play this game....I don't know if we put everything into each and every play." -- Drew Olson, on December 22, 2004, after the Bruins lost to Wyoming in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl after two seasons under Coach Karl Dorrell

Also read this hilarious and sarcastic statistical breakdown:

Much has been written about how much Karl Dorrell has changed the UCLA football program for the better since taking over from the fired Bob Toledo in 2002. What better way to chart Dorrell's remarkable progress than by a statistical comparison of the quality of play that got Toledo fired with the quality of play
that got Dorrell a contract extension and has so many Bruin fans giddy about the program's future?

Let's go right to the numbers:

2002 2004
Points 387 361
Per Game 29.8 30.1
Points Allowed 326 309
Per Game 25.1 25.8
First Downs 237 242
First Downs Allowed 237 256
Total Yards 4643 4920
Per Play 5.2 6.0
Per Game 357.2 410.0
Total Yards Allowed 4651 5195
Per Play 5.1 5.8
Per Game 357.8 432.9
Fumbles Recovered 8 5
Fumbles Lost 12 12
Interceptions Made 17 14
Interceptions Allowed 11 13
Turnover Margin +2 -6
Penalties 78 65
Yards 756 521
Per Game 58.2 43.4
Touchdowns Scored 46 45
Touchdowns Against 41 37
% Scoring in 2d Half 48.8 41.6
Pac-10 Record 4-4 4-4
Result of USC Game Loss Loss*
Overall Record 8-5 6-6

*Moral victory

Pretty impressive. The Bruins scored 0.3 points more per game than the dismal 2002 team -- though they gave up 0.7 more points per game. The team gained 52.8 more yards per game, but gave up 75.1 more yards per game (oops!). The team
recovered fewer fumbles and made fewer interceptions and its turnover margin declined from +2 to -6. But on the positive side, penalties declined by about
one 15-yard penalty per game.

Based on numbers like these, it is no wonder that UCLA's Athletic Director Dan Guerrero decided to extend Dorrell's contract. It would be a pity if some other
school like Notre Dame or Florida snapped Dorrell up just when he is beginning to clean up some issues and get everyone on the same page.

Also take a look at Lonnie White's post bowl breakdown:

The atmosphere in the UCLA locker room after the 24-21 loss to Wyoming in the Las Vegas Bowl on Thursday night was tense. Some players wore angry faces, while others appeared sad or simply stared straight ahead with a blank look.

Four of the last players to leave Sam Boyd Stadium were juniors: tight end Marcedes Lewis, linebacker Justin London, defensive tackle C.J. Niusulu and receiver Junior Taylor.

Four players who began their UCLA careers with hopes of playing in big bowl games against national powers. Instead, they'll be entering their senior seasons playing for a program that lost in minor bowl games two consecutive years against teams that love to upset a Pacific 10 Conference opponent.

"Our team effort has to be focused on every snap," said Lewis when asked about the 6-6 Bruins' problems with consistency. "We were ready for Wyoming, but we were not ready to play every play…. That pretty much sums up our season: lack of focus when we needed it the most."

Not being ready to play doesn't sound like "working on issues" and "cleaning up underbelly" to me.

Added Taylor: "I'm not saying that we took [Wyoming] for granted, but it wasn't the same UCLA team that played USC, Oregon and other teams during the season."

The defeat certainly did not enhance the Bruins' image. It raised more questions than anything. And Coach Karl Dorrell's critics have more ammunition because UCLA lost to a Wyoming team that did not come close to having the same talent as the Bruins.

For whatever reasons, Dorrell's team did not get the job done, which happened too many times this season.

"We have to learn how make our own plays," Niusulu said. "We can't keep doing things right and then make a mistake that costs us. We have to force the other teams into mistakes more. That's what killed us this season."


[Marcedes Lewis said,] "This season, we've lost in every possible way. We've had games when we've been ahead and let teams come back; we've had games when we've started out late and then finished strong, and then there were those when we just didn't finish."

Showing consistent progress is something quarterback Drew Olson has struggled with.


The offensive line made great strides under coordinator Tom Cable, led by center Mike McCloskey, who may be the team's most consistent and complete player.

UCLA will miss seniors Steven Vieira and Paul Mociler, but freshman guard Shannon Tevaga emerged as a solid blocker over the second half of the season. If Cable can get 6-foot-9, 345-pound junior tackle Ed Blanton to play in a dominating fashion, the Bruins could be even better across the front.

Defensively, UCLA spent a season learning on the job. Sophomore tackle Kevin Brown has shown potential to be a star, and freshman end Brigham Harwell made his share of great plays. Junior college transfer ends Kyle Morgan and Justin Hickman improved with each game.

Freshmen linemen Bruce Davis, Nikola Dragovic and William Snead took their lumps but gained valuable experience.

The defensive strength next season will be at linebacker, with starters Spencer Havner, Wesley Walker and London returning along with backups Aaron Whittington and Fred Holmes.

Junior safety Jarrad Page and freshman cornerback Trey Brown will return as secondary starters. Backups Eric McNeal, Chris Horton and Dennis Keyes along with a couple of incoming freshmen will give UCLA more speed in its defensive backfield.

"This says nothing about our future," London said. "This is a different team in a different situation than teams in the past. We're going to be cool. We're going to show how we learned from our mistakes."

Most telling is this:

Not Two Easy

Karl Dorrell has the worst record over his first two seasons at UCLA since Edwin C. Horrell went 7-9-4 in 1939-40. A look at how UCLA coaches have fared in their first two seasons since then:

Coach Years Record Pct.
• Bert LaBrucherie 1945-46 15-5 .750
• Henry R. Sanders 1949-50 12-6 .667
• William F. Barnes 1959-60 12-6-2 .650
• Tommy Prothro 1965-66 17-3-1 .850
• Pepper Rodgers 1971-72 10-10-1 .500
• Dick Vermeil 1974-75 15-5-3 .717
• Terry Donahue 1976-77 16-6-1 .727
• Bob Toledo 1996-97 15-8 .652
• Karl Dorrell 2003-04 12-13 .480

Don't say we didn't warn you.

Also take a look at the talent excuse, the budget excuse, the youth excuse, the Ben Olson as savior argument and the tradition straw man.

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