The End of the Beginning

Yesterday brought an end to the Jeff Jagodzinski era. Boston College formalized what had been the worst kept secret in Boston over the last few days. Gene DeFilippo's emotional press conference closed this chapter in the school's, history and started the process of moving the football program forward.

Yesterday we saw the end of a sad chapter in the history of Boston College. Head football coach Jeff Jagodzinski was relieved of his duties. We saw an emotional Gene DeFilippo attempt to explain why this had come to pass. The media tried hard to find out the why and the what, but what came through was the man at the table did not know the why and was determined to avoid saying the what.

Roughly two years ago, "Coach Jags" blew into town promising to be everything everyone thought BC needed in a head football coach. He was young and energetic. He was confident, even cocky. More important, he was proud to return to what he said was his home, the place he belonged. He was a BC Guy and he was going to make BC football everything every BC guy thought it could be.

Cynics thought it was just the bravado of a young man with his first shot at the head job. But, his performance as head coach quickly swayed even the most hardened realist. His heart on the sleeve attitude and success on the field had everyone thinking he was in fact the man who sat in front of the world and coined the term "BC Guy."

Now, here we are. The quintessential BC Guy is now a bum, a man without a job. He is without a job because he was everything he said a BC Guy was not. He was dishonest, selfish, self-absorbed and reckless. He put himself above all others and at the expense of all others.

Like every conman, Jagodzinski has his defenders, even amongst those he has harmed. That's the great skill of the grifter. The good ones leave the mark asking for more even when they have nothing more to give. A little charm can take a duplicitous crap-weasel a long way. In this case, it took Jagodzinski from anonymous NFL assistant to the central player in a media drama.

Inevitably, he will resurface somewhere and convince a new batch of suckers he is the answer to their prayers. It will end as it ended here. That's the life of a grifter. Like Sisyphus, they spend their life rolling the boulder of their reputation up the hill of public respect, only to see it roll back down, over the flaws of their character.

You Can't Cheat An Honest Man

Jagodzinski deserves plenty of blame. He is the guy who set this all in motion. But, as the great comic noted, there are two parts to the con, the conman and the sucker. In this case, the sucker was the athletic director. After ten years of the most boring man on earth leading the football program, he longed for an energetic and charismatic guy to represent the program.

That desire is what opened the door for Jagodzinski. There were plenty of good candidates for the job when O'Brien left for NC State. Most were plenty qualified to lead the program. Yet, it was the desire to get a dynamic personality that led the athletic director to reach for a guy who was on no one's short list. In other words, filling the perceived hole in the prior coach's personality trumped all other considerations.

The athletic director may feel betrayed, that's certainly reasonable, but he has to accept he had a hand it this. He went about hiring a buddy, a pal, a guy who would be like he would be, except he would coach the football team. In the end, he hired the wrong guy.

Where To Go From Here

While it is important to have a pleasant and charming guy as the highest profile coach in the school, it is secondary to having a competent and capable leader. A good coach is a good coach, regardless of his public relations skills. Tom Coughlin was about as far from charming as you can get. Yet he did more for the program in three years than the last two did in over a decade.

The lesson here is to avoid making the same mistake that got them into this mess. The overwhelming desire to get the opposite of Tom O'Brien got them the opposite of Tom O'Brien, good and bad. Going for the opposite of Jagodzinski, in terms of character, will net a good man, but maybe not the right coach. Searching for a BC lifer may get a loyal guy, but not necessarily the right guy.

This time, the past cannot cast a shadow over the hiring process. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of the past two coaches, those cannot be a consideration when hiring the next coach. The goal has to be getting a good coach who has a plausible chance to succeed at BC. If he sticks around a long time, that will be great. If he is an electric personality, that will be good too. Neither of which, however, should be high on the list of requirements.

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