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Now Willingham has a real problem to Baer
Rick says "no" to Dawgs
Richard Linde, 4 January 2008

Those people who have gone one-on-one with Rick Neuheisel know how hard it is to say “no” to the man. Blame it on his persuasiveness, charm and enthusiasm.

It’s no wonder he was such a good recruiter at Washington. Losing one to Rick -- the battle for DeWayne Walker -- is no indictment against Tyrone Willingham.

In the long run, his real blunder could be in the firing of Kent Baer. Now Willingham has a real problem to deal with, not the virtual one the fans and the media thought he had.

Think about the defensive coordinator position at UW. Who in his right mind would want the thankless job? Willingham has just fired a defensive coordinator who was highly respected in his field of endeavor, perhaps using his old friend as a scapegoat to save his own job. Believe me Baer didn’t become incompetent overnight.

A not so naďve prospect might ask, “Geez, if I take the job at Washington will I be a fall guy if things don't pan out”? And what happens to me if Tyrone is fired after next season? If the Huskies should have another losing season, their fifth in a row, Willingham is likely to pay the price, as will his assistants.

Injuries, a lack of talent and an offense that posted too many three-and-outs – especially in the second half of games Washington lost last season -- all worked against Coach Baer. His defense was on the field far too long in many of the games, with too little talent and a paucity of depth. Did he ever have a front four? Think USC here. Well, we Husky fans can only imagine what that would be like.

We knew his secondary was suspect going into the season. How do you repair a leaky faucet without a pipe wrench and washer?

Sure Baer’s defense gave up way too many yards, but that’s not all on Baer. Give offensive coordinator Tim Lappano some credit for his lack of offense and unwanted turnovers at critical times. Also, what about some of Baer’s assistants? Should they all go blameless for that defensive malaise and those defensive lapses that occurred in certain games?

And remember Illinois gave up a record-setting 633 yards to USC in the Rose Bowl. Should Ron Zook fire his defensive coordinator, Vince Okruch? How about Juice Williams’ performance in the debacle at the Rose Bowl? It was bland at best, a screwdriver without the orange juice. Hey, media, if Juice ever plays in the granddaddy of them all again, please call him by his given name, John, for he’s just a commonplace quarterback. Both its offense and defense should be faulted for Illinois’ embarrassing performance.

Historically, during the last 40 years at least, the Pac-10 has always been a conference of quarterbacks and potent offenses, and there were some outstanding quarterbacks and offenses in the conference last season, USC’s being just one of them. Before last season began, the conference's elite were all set to pile up lots of yards on the league's rummies.

With its round-robin scheduling, coaching in the Pac-10 is the worst league in college football to be looking for a coaching opportunity in a BCS bowl. Also, the eastern mafia controls most of the BCS voters. The formula is a joke, two thirds of it being made up of biased people. That’s why Ohio state and LSU are in the championship game. Drum beat: the SEC is the strongest conference in college football, so says the eastern mafia. Ohio State was rewarded by the mafia for playing a weak schedule. What in the hell is this love affair with the Buckeyes and the SEC all about?

With all this perspective in place who in his right mind would want the DC job at UW, we continue to ask?

Probably some manic whippersnapper will want the job, looking to turn his career into a Horatio Alger story. Or maybe some guy over the hill looking to retire at UW after a couple of years. Or, worse yet, a total incompetent, who is on the chopping block -- an Inspector Clouseau. 

Or the Huskies could promote one of their current defensive assistants a notch up in rank.

Leftovers from the defensive family include Randy Hart (line), Chris Tormey (linebackers), and J. D. Williams (secondary). Choosing one of them would be as exciting as watching another rerun of “I love Lucy,” not to say that any of them is a wonky as Lucille Ball. They all lack pizzazz, as did Baer, and carried Baer’s baggage last season.

Definitely, we know, the new coordinator will likely bear little resemblance to the likes of either Ron English or DeWayne Walker, both of whom have said no to Willingham.

The Huskies should never have said no to Rick, and now he has said no to them.  

Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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