November 28, 2007

Profiles in Optimism – Coming soon

As UCLA’s football season winds to a close, the question arises, as it has seemingly every year around this time – what to do about Karl Dorrell? Opinions vary wildly, from the open (bridling on unhealthy and obsessive) Karl Dorrell hatred by major UCLA blogging site Bruins Nation and its patron Nestor, to the defense of Karl Dorrell fostered by the Daily News’s Brian Dohn over at Inside UCLA. I fall somewhere in the middle of these two camps – I was displeased with the Dorrell hire, felt he should have gone after the first two seasons, then began to have some hope following his third year. Last season was disappointing at times, but there were signs that the improvement could be continuing. UCLA’s loss of Olson and Cowan’s early struggles might have explained some of the offensive issues, and the defense matured throughout the year into an excellent unit. I was willing to be patient, especially with the talent returning across the board this season.

The Bruins should not be fielding a six-win team at this point in the season. Losses to Notre Dame and an injury-ravaged Utah squad are inexcusable, and the fact that the Bruins still have a shot at the Rose Bowl simply highlights how painful the losses to bad Arizona and Washington State teams are – as well as the Arizona State game that could have easily been a 'W' as well. Depending on the breaks, the Bruins could end up in the Rose Bowl, true, but they could just as easily end up without any bowl invite whatsoever. And that suggests that Dorrell should go – his 5 years have provided some great moments, and I think he has the potential to grow into a serviceable head coach, but at the moment his only strength seems to be excellent special teams. That’s just not enough. Not for UCLA. Not really for anybody, except maybe Frank Beamer, who seems to have a hard-on for them.

So where does that leave us, if Dorrell is indeed gone? Well, aside from Yub Nub Celebrations over at Bruins Nation and Dump Dorrell among others, a new coach must be hired. So what I hope to do is follow in the footsteps of Brian Cook over at the canonical Michigan-centric MGoBlog. Cook, one of the best in the biz, is currently enduring his own team’s coaching search. Shortly following UM’s unbelievable upset at the hands of (now 2-loss) Appalachian State and the obliteration of the Wolverines by the Oregon Ducks (how far away those days must seem now to Ducks fans), it appeared certain that Michigan would have a new coach by 2008’s opening day. As such, Cook decided to begin a series he called Profiles in Heroism. He only got as far as, well… one (Profile in Hero?), giving a detailed breakdown of UC-Berkeley head coach Jeff Tedford. The profiles have been put on hiatus due to the heating up of the Les Miles rumor mill, followed by the recent reveal that Kirk Ferentz was the top candidate for the job.

My take on that (even if it now looks like Ferenntz won't leave Iowa):

Anyway, I thought the idea of examining coaching candidates had a lot of merit, so I figured I’d give it a shot. The design, categories of note, and execution will be similar. Though I’ll have fewer tables – Brian does love him some tables. As such, I’ll be trying to put out several of these over the next couple of weeks, until either a) I run out of candidates I personally believe to be considered as viable, b) KD is fired and a new coach is picked, or c) Dorrell is given another rollover extension and Nestor sets himself on fire in a paroxysm of rage.

Profiles in Heroism, though, seems to have the wrong sound for this search. Profiles in Heroism works as a title when you’re talking about saving a program with an unmatchable historical pedigree - cue The Victors. But when you’re looking at trying to find the right guy to take UCLA to the top of its potential, I’d go more for… (brief drumroll, prepare for anticlimactic title reveal as you’ve seen the name at the top of the post already and now I’m just trying to see how long I can make this parenthetical statement) Profiles in Optimism.

Booyah.<⁄Stu Scott>

Brief segue: yes, UCLA is around a top-25 college football program, historically. No, UCLA is not a top-10 college football program. It’s probably not even top-20 – 25ish seems about right. One split national championship a half-century ago, one VERY contentious Heisman (if you pretend otherwise you’re not just a homer, you’re ignorant of college football’s history). In an historical sense, the Bruins are probably the third most successful program just in the Pac-10, as UW has a similar level of success in-conference, and a better overall winning percentage. UCLA needs to find somebody like Sanders or Prothro, who can immediately give the program a jolt and get the Bruins back into the top 3 slots of the Pac-10 in a consistent fashion. This is something Dorrell has been unable to do. This is why Dorrell should be fired. Okay, segue over.

That actually about covers it. The plan is to go over various coaches and discuss their various pros and cons, hopefully generating a reasonably good understanding of who should be getting the most attention from the Morgan Center. First to bat will be Tricky Dicky, formerly known as ex-UCLA quarterback Rick Neuheisel. The man who threw Karl Dorrell passes, and gave him a coaching position as an assistant at Colorado and then Washington, has been oft-mentioned as a candidate, so we'll start with him.

Of course, if the miracle scenario unfolds, the Bruins end up in the Rose Bowl, and then somehow manage to WIN the thing, Dorrell’s obviously not going to go anywhere for a while, so this could all be moot.

But I wouldn’t bet on it.

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