Jerry Brewer explains the thinking behind his columns and invites readers to express their views on the sports world.
August 26, 2008 10:00 PM
Posted by Jerry Brewer
I've abandoned trying to dissect Tyrone Willingham. I don't think there are any secret meanings behind his words and don't believe he's a very complicated football coach. It's much easier to accept him for who he is -- a rigid coach who never deviates from his beliefs and values -- and leave it at that.
If he finds a way to win at Washington, his characteristics will grow on us. If he doesn't, well, he won't be around much longer. Obviously, if you've read my columns over the past year, I believe he can win here, but I'm not arrogant enough to reject any opinions to the contrary. The truth is, we still have much to learn about Willingham as a coach, and we'd better learn quickly, or else we'll be studying up on another guy.
I say all this to reflect on the very well-written (and well-read) column in today's paper by my colleague, Times college sports reporter Bud Withers. In it, Bud broke down how he feels Willingham is showing signs of wilting under the must-win pressure so far this season. It was a fascinating observation -- and not just because it detailed how the coach is punishing our beat writer, Bob Condotta.
Ultimately, all of this stuff doesn't matter if you win. But by doing things so defiantly his way, Willingham continues to alienate people that he needs on his side. I'm wondering if he'd have more of a margin for error if he'd handled some of the public aspects of his job better. To name a few: better treatment of boosters, better media policies so that the fans get a clearer sense of what's happening within the program and a more revealing personality.
Those are all just trimmings, yes, and have little to do with W's and L's. But sports are not played within a bubble. It's important to remember the community's influence on your job security.
Now, I'm not suggesting that a friendlier Willingham would keep him off the hot seat. Winning is the bottom line. But he could get the benefit of the doubt more often if he were more personable.
That said, there are plenty of coaches who are much worse. In my dealings with Willingham, he's always been very polite and accommodating. Even when he is not revealing, he is usually well-mannered. There are some coaches, especially in college football, who are just plain jerks. Willingham is not one of those. He's just very protective of his control. He's perhaps the most distrustful public figure I've met. I'd be fascinated to learn what made him grow so skeptical.
I thought Bud wrote a very tough column about Willingham in a balanced manner. More than anything, it showed how much of a microscope the coach is under this season and hinted at whether he could handle it. In this case, Bud's conclusion was no. We'll let the season determine if this smoke turns into a fire.
Personally, I'm feeling sapped of the will to write about Willingham and his job security right now. As every athlete says these days, it is what it is. It won't be going anywhere. So I'm ready to move onto the season and see what happens.
A few hours ago, I filed a column for Wednesday's paper about Juan Garcia's amazing comeback and how he makes the offensive line whole. The O-line is the Huskies' most reliable unit, and if Garcia stays healthy, it could become the dominant strength of this team. With the young running backs and receivers on this roster, quarterback Jake Locker will need all the help he can get, and good blocking will spur the development of this offense. A little extra time for receivers to get open would be nice. A few gaping holes for those young running backs each game would aid an offense that might have to rely on the big play over steady, every-down production, especially early in the season.
As the week progresses, I'm thinking about delving into this idea of whether the Huskies are catching Oregon at the right time in this season opener. Even without quarterback Nate Costa, even with additional issues on offense, the Ducks still look better than the Huskies on paper.
But without question, the opportunity is there for an upset. As I've said all preseason, we have no idea of who the Huskies are just yet. And that can be a good thing for this team.
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