Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Washington State pwns everybody

It seems extremely weird and a little disconcerting that the best non-Urban Meyer hire of the offseason (no matter what else happens) belongs to Washington State. Washington State!

I intended to write a "coachpocalypse" post about Paul Wulff's firing after a slight-but-insufficient turnaround this year but didn't get to it before his exit became waaay less interesting than his replacement. Yaarr:

It's been a long time since Wazzu won anything of note; they won at hiring Mike Leach. Bill Moos saw an elite, inexplicably available candidate who was literally begging for a decent job (any decent job) and gave him a big chunk of money before anybody else could do the same after coming to the logical conclusion that Mike Leach >>> every other available option.

This is the part where I go over the resume and explain why the guy is so good. To the numbers!

2000: 7-6
2001: 7-5
2002: 9-5
2003: 8-5
2004: 8-4
2005: 9-3
2006: 8-5
2007: 9-4
2008: 11-2
2009: 8-4

That's a record of 84-43 (!!!). At Texas Tech. In Lubbock. At the fourth-best program in (what used to be) the Big 12 South.

Just to clarify, Texas Tech was not awful when Leach got there: Spike Dykes got things headed toward respectability and finished with seven straight non-losing season (basically all 6-5-ish) before Leach took over in 2000 following a year as O-coordinator at Oklahoma. So there was a base for some level of success. Still, look at the numbers: He didn't win fewer than eight games after his second year and finished with a winning percentage of .661 at Texas freakin' Tech! That's basically the same career winning percentage as Mack Brown and Frank Beamer. At Texas Tech.

If Texas Tech were a Pac-12 school, it'd be ... ummm ... Washington State? It's a second-tier program in its own state that was doomed to be located in an undesirable outpost with no real draw other than whatever the on-field product provides. The recruiting undoubtedly and inevitably sucks; any success is achieved by coaching.

Paul Wulff took over a mediocre program at Wazzu and made it awful, then slightly better to the point of being occasionally competitive. His best record (4-7 this year) was the same as Bill Doba's worst record before Doba got fired with a 30-29 overall record in five years. What's crazy is that Washington State won 10 games in '97, 10 games in 2001, 10 games in 2002 and 10 games in 2003, which was the first year after Mike Price bailed for Alabama disgrace and an eventual job at UTEP (derp). There were two Rose Bowl appearances in that six-year stretch; there have been zero bowl appearances since. The Paul Wulff era basically highlighted a lot of the difficulties of winning at Wazzu but shouldn't be taken as proof that nothing good can possibly happen there because it's a total abyss. It's just mostly an abyss.

The way you win at Washington State/Texas Tech/insert undesirable program here is by doing something (anything, really) better than everybody else. Leach can design a passing game like a mofo. The guy is to the Air Raid what Rich Rodriguez is to the spread option: He didn't exactly invent it but coaches it better than (almost) anybody.

Here's where Leach's teams finished nationally in passing offense (starting in 2009 and going backwards): second, first, first, third, first, first, first, first, fifth. The total offense rankings during that time were fourth, fourth, second, sixth, sixth, sixth, first, fourth and 33rd (UNACCEPTABLE). There's a reason Jake Heaps put Washington State at/near the top of his list immediately upon leaving BYU this week. I don't think it requires much explanation. Quarterbacks will go to play for Mike Leach if he's coaching Ethiopia State.

There's a reason he was available, obviously: the Texas Tech thing. I call it a "thing" because I don't know what else to call it since the specifics of what actually happened vary depending on who's talking/writing/opining about it.

Here's what's actually known about the Adam James stuff from the depositions: (a) Leach claimed Adam James was taken into the equipment room and specifically told not to go into the electrical closet (why that would be specified isn't clear) and (b) Adam James agreed with that assessment, couldn't exactly remember how or why he went in there and then claimed he was "locked in" but also said he let himself out a couple times and there was no lock on the door. Seriously, Adam James makes no sense for a large majority of his testimony. It's kind of amusing.

Regardless, that probably wasn't why Leach was fired. This email was uncovered from Texas Tech regent Windy Sitton to Board of Regents chairman Jerry Turner:
"Jerry, I know his firing has been in the works since the Chancellor and the AD were outmaneuvered by Leach. That is our problem."
Derp. The "outmaneuvered" thing goes back to the contract extension Leach had agreed to the previous year only to have AD Gerald Myers allegedly demand a bunch of small-print stuff Leach didn't agree with. Leach then went over Myers' head to school chancellor Kent Hance and got the terms he wanted. Long story short, some people weren't really happy about that.

So ... Texas Tech just finished its first losing season since 1992 (!) and Leach is at Washington State now. He will have some success, probably quickly since he's got some pretty good passing-game talent in place (Connor Halliday could end up being awesome) from an offense that just finished ninth in the country in passing yardage under someone who definitely wasn't Mike Leach. He will win and a bunch of programs will look back in three years and wonder why they didn't hire the guy with an 84-43 career record who just turned 50 and has no history of NCAA violations or anything else other than some weirdness.

Gratuitous video:

The guy's weird and doesn't come across as super smart (seriously, listen to one of his CBS Sports games). He's also a former lawyer who does everything differently because he's convinced that his differently is better; Chip Kelly does the same thing. Hard to argue with results.


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