Friday Fodder: Spreading blame for Pack’s 4-8 season
December 5, 2013
Sports fodder for a Friday morning … Do not blame Brian Polian for the Nevada Wolf Pack football team's 4-8 season. Blame the Wolf Pack athletic department which labored for about five or six minutes in its coaching search before selecting him as Chris Ault's successor. Polian wasn't ready to be a head coach. Out of the 31 head coaches hired after last season just two were not either a head coach or coordinator before. And the one that wasn't on the Pack sideline (UTEP's Sean Kugler) was a long-time NFL offensive line coach and a former player at the school that hired him. And, by the way, he went 2-10 this year. Polian, who loves to recruit (Ault hated it), has the potential to grow into a competent head coach someday. And when he does, he'll leave. In the meantime, though, the Pack gets to pay him a ton of money to learn on the job.
Polian insisted this week that he doesn't believe that he was too soft on the Pack players. All he did all season was pamper the players. New uniforms. New helmets. New locker rooms. Music at practice. Names on the back of the uniforms. A hero-worshipping, kissing babies, shaking hands and posing for pictures pre-game walk through the parking lot. Seemingly more practices without pads and days off than Ault had in his entire career combined. The result, even according to Polian, was a physically soft, mentally weak team that couldn't tackle and ran out of gas in the fourth quarter most every week. Go figure.
The Wolf Pack, though, will win at least three more games in 2014 than it won in 2013. And it won't be because Polian turned into Bill Belichick. The schedule in 2014 is that much weaker. This year's schedule was brutal and even Ault wouldn't have won more than six games. So 4-8 wasn't all about Polian. Polian is not a coach that affects the winning and losing of games once the ball is kicked off. He's not an X's and O's guy. He's not a strategy guy. He's not going to spend an off-season devising a new offense or defense the way Ault did after 2004. He's a guy that can sell you a car but can't drive it.
If you really want to blame someone for 4-8, look at offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich. The offense fell off considerably in 2013. The Pack rushed for nearly 1,400 fewer yards this year than last year. They scored under 30 points in a game seven times. There were many contributing factors to the fall off. The two biggest reasons were that quarterback Cody Fajardo played on one healthy knee and the offensive line was the worst at Nevada since Ault came up with The Union nickname 30 years ago. But Rolovich also never put his stamp on the pistol offense. The play-calling wasn't any more imaginative than it was with Ault. It wasn't a disaster. The offense was still good. But it wasn't great. And when the Pack offense goes from great to good, well, you get 4-8.
The Auburn Tigers have no claim right now to a spot in the BCS title game. They won their last two games over Georgia and Alabama on blind luck and a fluke play. There might not be a team in college football history that has stolen two big games in a row on such ridiculous plays. But it doesn't mean they should play Florida State for the title. Ohio State, as we stand right now, deserves to play the Seminoles. The Buckeyes are in a BCS conference and are undefeated. Yes, the Big Ten was down this year but so was practically every FBS conference, including the SEC. And, yes, Ohio State has gotten lucky in a lot of games. But it wasn't Auburn lucky.
Bobby Hauck should be the national coach of the year for going 7-5 at UNLV. The Rebels won three games on the road, including at Nevada. They whipped San Diego State to secure their first winning season since 2000. Hauck won more games this year than he did his first three seasons combined (six). Nobody would have blamed the Rebels for firing him after last year. Don't look now but UNLV is becoming a football school. The men's basketball team is just 3-3 with unimpressive wins over Tennessee-Martin, Nebraska-Omaha and Portland State. And they lost to UC Santa Barbara. See what happens when Ault retires? Both ends of the state are in chaos.
Although it is now safe to give your vote to Jameis Winston for the Heisman, you still might want to consider Jordan Lynch of the Northern Illinois Huskies. The Mid-American Conference quarterback plays on guts and grit and has rushed for 1,755 yards and 20 touchdowns this year and has thrown for 2,457 yards and 22 touchdowns. His team is 24-2 in two years (12-0 this year) with him as the starter. Last year Lynch became the first player in FBS history to run for at least 1,500 yards and pass for at least 3,000. He's not going to be the best NFL player to come out of this college football season. But he is what college football is supposed to be about.
Once again, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has overreacted. Goodell fined Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin $100,000 for getting too close to the field against the Baltimore Ravens a couple weeks ago. Goodell is also thinking about taking draft picks away from the Steelers. Tomlin deserved a fine. But taking away draft picks is silly. Tomlin didn't collide with any players. He got out of the way. It didn't affect the outcome of the game. It was a careless and dumb move by Tomlin but it wasn't intentional. Goodell has a league filled with players who take performance enhancing drugs to help them on the field and who knows what off the field. The league is ruining itself with an overabundance of nitpicking penalties. Goodell has more important things to worry about than a coach who wanders too close to the field.
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