Friday Fodder: Is Polian the right fit for Pack?
October 25, 2013
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . . Is Brian Polian the right coach to lift the Nevada Wolf Pack football program out of the murky depths of mediocrity? We are seven games into Polian's first season and, well, the answer to that question is still a mystery.
On the surface it doesn't look like Polian has made any difference at all. The Wolf Pack still can't play defense. It still can't hold leads against good teams. On the surface it looks like Polian and his staff are repeatedly getting out-coached at halftime. But football is not all about the surface. That's where the benefit of the doubt comes in with Polian. We'll assume that the changes he is making are all below the surface right now. He's a young head coach. He's never even been a coordinator before. A 3-4 start shouldn't have surprised anyone. Growing pains with Polian should have been expected.
After the loss to Boise State last week Polian asked out loud whether or not his team was physically and mentally strong enough to sustain leads. Is that a question that really needs an answer? The Pack has been blowing leads to competent teams ever since the end of the 2011 season. They have gone 11-13 since Nov. 19, 2011, when they blew a big lead at home to Louisiana Tech. The Pack hasn't been physically and mentally strong enough since Colin Kaepernick left, going a mediocre 17-16 since the win over Boston College in January 2011. This is simply a mediocre program from top to bottom right now and has been for two-plus seasons. And that includes the coaching staff, the current one and the one that got blown out of the water last January. Real change is going to take time.
The burning question with Polian is whether or not he can actually recruit. Yes, he supposedly recruited well at big-time, big-money, high-profile schools like Stanford, Notre Dame and Texas A&M. But anyone can recruit to those schools. But can Polian recruit to Nevada? Can anyone recruit to Nevada? Polian's first recruiting class at Nevada this past February really wasn't his first recruiting class. He didn't even get to Nevada until a month before signing day. His biggest sales pitch to recruits after he got here was, "Hey, Colin Kaepernick played for us." Whether or not Polian can make an actual difference in the Pack's recruiting is the question that needs answering. And it's a question we won't know the answer to for at least another two years.
Much of the focus this Wolf Pack season has been on the ineptitude of the defense. But the real story has been the decline of the offense. We know the defense is bad. It's been bad for decades. But when is offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich going to take this offense to the next level? It hasn't happened yet. Maybe Chris Ault wasn't such a horrible play caller after all. It's time for Rolovich to show what he's about. And the UNLV game on Saturday is the perfect time. Ault, after all, put 42 points on UNLV last season at Las Vegas with backup quarterback Devin Combs. Rolovich needs to do at least the same with Cody Fajardo at Mackay Stadium.
Mama, don't let your babies grow up to do anything else but pitch. Tim Lincecum has been a mediocre pitcher the last four years with a record of 49-53 and the San Francisco Giants still rewarded him this week with a two-year, $35 million deal. Lincecum is a Giant hero. We get that. But $35 million for just two years for a guy that wins 10-12 games a year? Wouldn't a statue out near McCovey Cove been a better and cheaper way to honor him?
Don Mattingly needs to get out of Los Angeles. Does he really want to manage a team with a goofball in right field (Yasiel Puig) and the bullpen (Brian Wilson) and whose two best players (Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez) seemingly get hurt every two weeks? There's also that No. 1 starter (Clayton Kershaw) who looks like an arm injury waiting to happen. And don't forget the fans who arrive in the third inning and leave in the seventh and an ownership group that probably thinks Tom Cruise (or Pat Riley) would make a better manager.
Alex Smith is the biggest mystery in the history of football. The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback is 7-0 and he still can't get picked up off the waiver wire in most fantasy football leagues. Smith is 20th in the NFL in passing yards and 22nd in quarterback rating. He's thrown just seven touchdown passes and has been intercepted four times. He's completing just 58 percent of his passes. All he does, it seems, is win games. He did the same thing in San Francisco until he got hurt. Maybe Smith, a guy who simply manages an offense and doesn't hurt his team's chances of winning, represents the future of NFL quarterbacks and not Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton. Let's hope not.
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