Commitment Issues: The New Norm

 

A very familiar headline appeared in the papers the other day.

“Matt Rhule Turns Down Colts to Remain at Baylor.”

Familiar, because I’ve seen that headline somewhere before:

“Matt Rhule Turns Down Missouri to Remain at Temple.”

Now, the chances are that Matt Rhule was offered either job are about as good as I being offered the job of replacing Mike Francesa on his highly successful radio show.

None.

yeahright

Yeah, right after I turned down WFAN’s offer to replace Mike Francesa.

It was just floated out there, maybe not by Rhule, but by his agent to make him look better returning to his other positions.

dyingbreed

These two unfortunately are a dying breed

This is the new norm in college football these days and that’s one of the two reasons that college football is harder to get into for me with each passing year.

Commitment Issues.

Gone are the days when a great coach like Wayne Hardin can stay at Temple for 13 years or the days when Joe Paterno plants his flag down in State College and turns down being a millionaire as head coach of the New England Patriots for lesser pay and a chance to build something at Penn State.

Money talks and bullbleep walks, as the late-night TV commercial used to say.

hardo

Wayne Hardin, talking about Temple in 1976

The other reason—lack of a true all-inclusive national championship—has been covered in this space in the past and I don’t see that as changing any time soon, either.

Today, though, is about Rhule.

My issue with him was these proclamations of lifelong fidelity to Temple and then to turn around and leave the team that made him millions for Baylor and not even coach the bowl game. That was his decision and, while I didn’t agree with it, I have to respect it.

The bottom line for Rhule is that he gave Temple a great 10 years and if he felt that he had to leave before the bowl game, that should be his decision. God bless him and I hope he has a great career, but the latest dalliance with the NFL makes me think he’s got second thoughts about the mess he’s gotten into at Baylor. It’s a similar situation to Al Golden at Miami, who gave Temple a great five years.

Hopefully, both will straighten things out and have solid careers. Funny thing is they could have had good-paying jobs at Temple for life with a fraction of the headaches.

Maybe it’s something for Geoff Collins to think about.

Friday: Five Unanswered Questions

Monday: The Coaching Shuffle

 

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Back to the Bad Old Days

Anyone who has followed this space for the last dozen years of its existence knows where it started and where we left off last December.

From chronicling the depths of a 20-game losing streak to the glorious championship in a great league in December, the Temple program reached the lowest of the lows and pretty darn near the highest of the highs.


This team doesn’t
have a plan on offense,
other than throwing
the ball 54 times
a game. That’s not
the Temple football
we’ve all come to
know and love.
The Temple football
we love is running
Ryquell Armstead and
David Hood behind the
lead blocks of Nick
Sharga, and letting
that set up explosive
results downfield in
the play-action
passing game

Less than a year ago, many of these same Owls were holding and kissing a championship trophy in Annapolis.

Now, after a 28-24 loss to a UConn team that gave up 70 points a week ago, we can officially say we’re back to the bad old days.

Arguably, this is worse than the 20-game losing streak because those teams had no talent. This team has three of five starters returning on the offensive line,  a 900-yard running back, the best fullback in the country, the entire wide receiver corps, pretty much the entire defensive secondary and outstanding defensive linemen like Michael Dogbe, Sharrif Finch, Karamo Dioubate and Greg Webb. Al Golden had a plan and he stuck to it and saw it through to the school’s first appearance in a bowl game in 30 years. This team doesn’t have a plan on offense, other than throwing the ball 54 times a game. That’s not the Temple football we’ve all come to know and love. The Temple football we love is running Ryquell Armstead and David Hood behind the lead blocks of Nick Sharga, and letting that set up explosive results downfield in the play-action passing game.

assistant

Our hiring advice to Dr. Kraft the day Rhule quit.

There is plenty of championship level talent here and it is being squandered.

Whatever Golden lacked in game day acumen, he more than made up in being a brilliant CEO and terrific recruiter and Matt Rhule pretty much took the baton from Golden without fumbling it.

This team has plenty of talent, but has no plan and poor leadership at the top.


Would it absolutely kill
the Owls to start Anthony
Russo for a series or
two or even the first quarter
at Army? Certainly
not as much as the poor
quarterback play is
killing this
team now

Quarterback turnovers are killing this team and the CEO in charge doesn’t have the requisite gonads to make the change that is needed now. Would it absolutely kill the Owls to start Anthony Russo for a series or two or even the first quarter at Army? Certainly not as much as the poor quarterback play is killing this team now.  This offense needs a spark and a quarterback change is the best way to ignite that spark.

Logan Marchi isn’t as much the problem–the kid is trying hard but probably cannot see the field as well as a taller quarterback might–as the stubbornness from head coach Geoff Collins and  offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude of sticking with him when Collins said unequivocally that anyone who turns the ball over would sit.

That rule only applies to non-quarterbacks, evidently.

You have to wonder what Marchi has to do to earn a spot on the bench on this team. On the Pick 6, the ball was tipped ever so slightly and, had the Temple quarterback been 6-4 instead of 6-0, the pick 6 would not have happened.

After the Pick 6, what, exactly, does Collins say to the kid?

“That’s your ninth interception in league play,” Collins might say. “You can have 10, 11 and 12 but I’m drawing the line at 13.”

Ugh.

He probably does not say anything and that’s the even worse.

Collins has one of the best kickers in the country and, instead of using him with five minutes left to kick a field goal and cut it to one, he got greedy. Had Boomer kicked a field goal with five minutes left, it’s 28-27 and all the Owls would have had to do is get into field goal range again for the win. Instead, they put their hopes on the back of an erratic quarterback and asked him to throw the impossible Hail Mary pass.

After Rhule left, we wrote that it was time for Temple to hire a head coach, not an assistant. Temple had too much talent to have another head coach learn in the job and squander this much talent.

Golden was available, and that back to the future path probably should have been the road Dr. Pat Kraft had taken. UConn made the smart hire in Randy Edsall, a guy who knows how to win there.

Golden knows how to win here.

Instead, Kraft rolled the dice with Collins and, in a matter of months, Temple went from the Penthouse to the Outhouse.

Welcome back to the bad old days. We thought they ended roughly a dozen years ago but unless key personnel, philosophical and coaching changes are made on the offensive side of the ball, they are here to stay for a long time.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Thursday: Thowback Day

Saturday: Stacking The Box

Never Forget

endlosing

This is what ending a 20-game losing streak looks like.

The phrase “Bowling Green Massacre” jolted me out of my seat a couple of weeks ago, probably not for the same reason it jolted the nation.

How could Kellyanne Conway, the President’s Media Director, know about a football massacre involving Bowling Green and Temple in the mid-2000s?

That’s the only Bowling Green massacre I knew about but it turned out that she was talking about something entirely different.

In a little over a decade, though, that’s how far Temple football has come. From not just one, but two, Bowling Green Massacres (70-7 and 70-16) in consecutive seasons to flirting with the Top 25 in the last two seasons.

For those of us who were there then and are here now, it would be wise to Never Forget.

patience

I  thought about that when I heard that Geoff Collins was heavy on the Daz-like slogans while giving a halftime pep talk to the assembled—it would be a stretch to call them a crowd—group at the UCF vs. Temple basketball game on Wednesday night.

So far, Collins has been light on the recruiting and heavy on the slogans in his two months on the job.

We won’t really know about him until after the first two games, but so far he comes up a little short in comparing him to the guy who avenged the Bowling Green Massacres.

Al Golden in a little over a month to work in his first year (December, 2005 was his hiring date), Golden signed 29 players including future NFL players like Junior Galette, Andre Neblett, Alex Joseph and Steve Manieri.  That was without the benefit of signing a single target of the former coach, Bobby Wallace, WHILE hiring a staff. There was a method to Golden’s madness, too, as he said it was his intent to recruit captains of winning high school teams so they could bring that same mindset to a poisoned well at 10th and Diamond. In that first class of 29, he signed 18 team captains and all had winning seasons in their final years. Ten of the captains won league championships.

Collins has catching up to do to get to that standard, but Golden did all this on the tail end of a 20-game losing streak and helped turn this thing around.

After two months, we really don’t know if Collins will be as good as Golden, Matt Rhule, Steve Addazio or better than all three or somewhere in between.

Right now, the start is not as good as the Golden one but maybe because the culture is in place  it does not need to be. All that matters is the finish.

We should know a lot more after the Notre Dame and Villanova games.

Sunday: Fake News

Mulligans and Aliens

americansked

Temple should have capitalized on having this to recruit a decent class this season.

A friend who is an amateur astronomer posted a photo of some far-off galaxy on Facebook and apologized for the quality of the photo due to atmospheric conditions.


A Virginia Tech model,
where you make a bowl
every year and reach
up and win a title
here and there, should
be a realistic
expectation for Temple
at the G5 level

My response was that someone from that galaxy probably posted a photo of the Milky Way with the same apology on, say, Cleon Facebook.

In other words, we’re not alone.

It’s a lesson Temple football fans would be wise to understand today, a couple of weeks after Signing Day. The prevalent feeling on the major Owl message board (Shawn Pastor’s OwlsDaily) is that we’re giving new head coach Geoff Collins a Mulligan on this class, but the next class better be good.

The lesson should have been don’t look back because the other beings in this football universe might be gaining on you.

That’s where the other guy comes in because new coach Charlie Strong did not need a Mulligan to haul in a significantly better class for USF and former Temple head coaches Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule did not need a Mulligan in their first transition classes. Despite working about a month, the classes that Golden, Addazio and Rhule brought in their first time were ranked significantly higher than Collins’ first class.

In between preparing for a medical procedure I should have done 10 years ago but had been putting off, I found a little bit of time to look at those classes.

The Charlie Strong class was easy to find. The other classes were much harder to quantify against this one. (You really only know four years from now but you can compare them against how they were ranked at the time.)  According to Scout.com, Strong’s USF transition class this season was ranked No. 95th with seven three stars. In roughly the same time frame to recruit, Collins had Temple was 127th with only three three-stars. In the same conference, both teams with a new head coach, a significant gap in results.

Strong did not have a championship trophy to carry around on a helicopter, either. It’s fair to compare the two classes. Because we have evidence to work with given roughly the same circumstances, Collins should have done better. You can talk all you want about how it is the “Temple Way” to recruit two stars and coach them up to four stars but if you get three stars, your mathematical chances of coaching them up to four- and five-stars improve. Temple should be OK next year, but the impact of this class won’t be felt until three or four years down the road and that is how a foundation is laid for sustainable success, not just one “up” season followed by a “down” season. At Temple, the goal should not be “up and down” seasons like so many other schools seem to have. A Virginia Tech model, where you make a bowl every year and reach up and win a title here and there, should be a realistic expectation for Temple at the G5 level.

An AAC trophy should have meant a better haul than the 2017 class Collins was able to bring to 10th and Diamond and long-term is where the impact will be felt. Without helicopters or AAC trophies, Temple coaches have done better with roughly a month to recruit.

transition

 

While it might have been tough to expect Collins to do a whole lot with this class, the evidence is there in black and white that he should have done better. In college football, getting to the top is tough but staying there is tougher so capitalizing on a championship season when you can with recruiting should have been prioritized.

There are a lot of football teams in this universe and, if you slip up one year, they could be passing you in two or three. There are no Mulligans when you are not alone.

Saturday: Fun With Graphics

The Curse of Russell Conwell

curse

Forget about the famous baseball curses cast on the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, which were only recently overcome.

There is one curse that is still alive in sports and that is the Curse of Russell Conwell.

Somewhere up there, Conwell has cast a curse on the last three coaches to leave his beloved Temple University and its football program.

russell

Al Golden left for Miami and was greeted with sanctions that made it impossible to win there. Steve Addazio has taken his three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust offense to Boston College and went winless in the ACC two years ago. The jury is still out on Addazio, but it is leaning toward a unanimous conviction. Matt Rhule left Temple no more than two months ago and could hit with sanctions that would make the ones Golden received looked like a slap on the wrist.

Whatever happens going forward, you could win a lot of money in Vegas betting against any of the three having a long winning career as a college football head coach.

These are the facts that we know to this date and it is not a pretty picture. New Temple head coach Geoff Collins would be wise to stare at this portrait and get some deep meaning out of it.

All three of those coaches could have had a job at Temple for life—or at least a very long rope with to work with—but all three thought the grass was greener on the other side of the Chodoff Field fence.  In fact, there has been no grass on the other side of that fence, only dust. The only value in the move was monetary and money will not last forever.

Conwell, in some type of afterlife, must be working some serious Voodoo pins with Golden, Daz and Rhule bobble heads.

About the time Conwell founded Temple University, he was the best-known lecturer in the United States, playing to sellout crowds who wanted to hear his story of the man who traveled the world in search of riches only to find “Acres of Diamonds” in his own backyard.

Most of the Temple coaches who found substance in Conwell’s story went on to finish with better careers at Temple than they would have leaving on their own for far-off places. Harry Litwack went to a pair of Final Fours. Skip Wilson won over 1,000 baseball games without the benefit of warm-weather recruits. Under Wilson, the Owls went to a pair of College World Series. John Chaney made five Elite Eights. Wayne Hardin went 80-52-2 and made the College Football Hall of Fame. All made Temple their final stop on the coaching highway.

Those, by any standards, are success stories. Leave Temple or attempt to use this great institution as a stepping stone and the story will not have a happy ending. Compare and contrast those success stories to the ones facing the last three Temple football coaches who left on their own.

Maybe when Collins comes to that inevitable fork in the road, he will take a good look at the map and head down the road less (recently) traveled.  Russell Conwell may be watching from above.

Monday: Looking Ahead to Spring Ball

Wednesday: Press Conference Translations

Quintessential Acres of Diamonds’ Story

russell

When Dr. Pat Kraft approaches the podium to introduce the next Temple University football coach in a week or two, he could have a terrific Russell Conwell-type story to tell.

Conwell, the founder of Temple University, wrote the book “Acres of Diamonds” about a man who searched the world for riches only to find them in his own backyard. It has become the backbone of the Temple mission with the moral of the story being that education is the key to finding your own personal wealth.

Kraft already has a list and he is checking it twice and only one man checks all the boxes and his return to Temple would be the quintessential Acres of Diamonds story. Like any good shopping list, it is always helpful to know what you are looking for and not wander around the store aimlessly and, to that end, Kraft has already noted some boxes he wants to check off. In that presser, Kraft said the next Temple coach will have to in no particular order, understand Temple’s mission; value academics; be the right fit, be a great person and be able to win here.

Some candidates have emerged in the media, while others have been mentioned to have sent out feelers behind the scenes. Of those two groups, only one—former Temple head coach Al Golden—checks off all of those boxes. Golden searched the world for riches after Temple, and just might find his Acres of Diamonds were in his old backyard all along.

Unless God called Nick Saban and told him to take a $5 million pay cut to take the Temple challenge, these are the top candidates:


When it comes to the most important
criteria “being able to win at
Temple” every other coach is a
crapshoot. Golden has proven
he can win at Temple

AL GOLDEN (A+, exemplarily)–Golden is really the only guy who fits all of Kraft’s stated criteria. He took Temple out of NCAA academic sanctions caused by Bobby Wallace and had the football team among the nation’s leaders in APR. He also checks off some important boxes Kraft did not mention, like keeping the continuity of the program. Temple plays with a certain Temple TUFFness and that was a style Golden, not Matt Rhule, implemented. The Temple team fans see under Golden will be much like the one they see now, with a heavy emphasis on defense, running the football, and play-action passing. Plus, he knows the landscape and will be able to keep coaches he brought here, like George DeLeone, Adam DiMichele and Ed Foley, among others. When it comes to the most important criteria “being able to win at Temple” every other coach is a crapshoot. Golden has proven he can win at Temple. He also went 32-25 under brutal sanctions at Miami, sanctions that do not exist at Temple. We hear he is interested and could get out of his contract as TE coach with the Detroit Lions to take the job right away. He is an extremely competitive guy, eager to prove that he can do better with Temple talent than Matt Rhule did. He, above all other candidates, realizes that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the 10th and Diamond fence. He would have to assure Temple fans on the day he is hired that he is here to stay this time. If he’s willing to make that commitment, hire him.

boxes

The Rest, ranked A (excellent), B (good), C (average), D (unsatisfactory) and F (don’t even think about it):

JOE MOORHEAD, P.J. FLECK  and BOBBY WILDER (A, excellent).– If you ignore Kraft’s other criteria and cut to the chase on these three, they fit the mold of being proven winners. Kraft can sell Moorhead to Temple fans as someone who was able to beat Matt Rhule with FCS talent. Wilder is 66-30 as a head coach at Old Dominion, a truly remarkable record in that ODU is a start-up FBS program. ODU has also offered some of the Owls’ current recruits and Wilder has won several recruiting battles with Rhule already.  Fleck, the Western Michigan coach, is headed to bigger and better things, but P5 openings are running out and he could be attracted to Temple. If the Owls can grab him for a year or two, he will fit Kraft’s “best coach available” checkmark. Despite being in negotiations with WMU on an extension, he certainly deserves a phone call.

TODD BOWLES (B, good)—This only works if the New York Jets fire Bowles in the next week or so and that is doubtful. Bowles is really the only “Temple guy” with winning head coaching experience—he was 10-6 with the Jets last year with a journeyman quarterback–but will be able to pack his staff with extremely qualified Temple guys who understand the Owls’ mission, including Nick Rapone (defensive coordinator), Todd McNair (offensive coordinator), Keith Armstrong (special teams) and Kevin Ross (defensive backs). He would be a solid choice if things break right. McNair and Rapone are already proven recruiters. I understand Temple fans wanting Temple coaches like WMU assistant Kirk Ciarrocca to come to the Owls, but Temple should by now have reached a point where it does not have to hire a MAC assistant coach to be its head coach. If Temple is going to hire a MAC coach, it better be a MAC head coach. Really, of all the coaches with Temple connections, only Bowles has shown he is qualified to be a head coach. Aside to Temple fans thinking a “Temple guy” is more likely to stay. Willie Taggart is a Western Kentucky grad and he quit there to go to USF and now Oregon.

PHIL SNOW (C, satisfactory)—If Kraft has to listen to the players, he could do worse than Snow as a placeholder until the next proven head coaching winner comes along. Snow could stop the bleeding of staff members to Waco, Texas, a God-forsaken place we cannot imagine a whole lot of Temple coaches want to put down roots. He would at least keep the defense in good shape. He, for instance, will know Jacob Martin and Sharif Finch are next year’s starting DEs with Karamo Dioubate, Greg Webb and Freddy Booth-Lloyd holding down the middle. He might even make Nick Sharga’s next year’s Bednarik winner as college football’s next 60-minute man (starting fullback, starting linebacker). At first, I hated the idea. Now, if he keeps Foley from being the face of Temple football, that might not be a bad thing. Snow is great with the media, but I would only go with Snow if the A and B candidates fell through.

GREG SCHIANO AND CHARLIE STRONG (D, not passing the eye test)—Two guys who got it done elsewhere, but Strong has never recruited this area and Schiano strikes me as a snake oil salesman. Temple people can sniff out those types right away. Strong might be a good fit at Louisville, but it doesn’t mean he’s a good fit at Texas or Temple. Plus, he’s probably headed to USF anyway.

ED FOLEY , JOHN DONOVAN (F, no thanks)—Some guys have muckers and career assistants written on their foreheads and Foley is one of the best of them. He’s a good detail guy who is popular with the players. Can he be the face of the program? Err, no, but we hope he joins the staff of Al Golden, Joe Moorhead, Todd Bowles or Phil Snow to ease the transition and keep singing “High Hopes” after wins. Donovan is the “quality control” coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars. His major claim to fame is being the OC who fell victim to 10 Temple sacks on 9/5/15, a day that will live in Penn State infamy. You’ve got to be kidding me with that name.

Monday: Can Temple Screw This Up?