Is Greg Robinson the Right Man?

There is almost no chance Greg Robinson will lose his job as Syracuse University head coach this season, but that doesn't change the fact many Syracuse fans are calling for his head already. You have to love the patience of Central New Yorkers. Anyway, there's an old saying that players win, and coaches lose. That's just the way it is. The coach is always going to be the fall guy.

But, was this year really Robinson's fault?

 

I don't think it was. For one, the part of the team he controlled improved a lot. It went from simply impossible to watch, to not really all that bad in less than a year. That's a hell of an improvement over one season.

 

Robinson's aggressive NFL style defense was a welcome change here in drop back zone land. The Orange couldn't stop anything short of 3rd and time zone last season. This year there were signs of life. Syracuse became a ‘blitzing every time the offense is on its heels' defense.

 

And while their stats did improve this season over last, the defense was much better than even their stats told this season -- I don't care if you are the 2000 Ravens, the 1986 Bears, or the Little Giants, there is no way you can be successful as a defense if your offense does nothing.

 

In many cases, Syracuse's offense did even worse than nothing by turning the ball over. It's like being in a boxing match and only being able to defend yourself and not able to hit back. You just sit there and take the other guy's best shots for 12 rounds and you're still expected to win? It's just not possible.

 

So that brings us to the real question – is Greg Robinson and his staff responsible for the precipitous decline of the offense?

 

To some extent, they have to be. Part of being a coach is adjusting to the talent you have on your team, and I think Greg Robinson would admit that he has made some mistakes in that area. However, the real problem here is that Syracuse didn't have sufficient talent on offense – and what talent they had was young and inexperienced.

 

My father said it best, "I've always been able to point to one area (on offense) that was going well before. But I just cannot find it on this team – they're just plain bad."

 

He's right.

 

Neither quarterback has proven he can win a game and the receivers are very young. The best tight end on the team keeps getting hurt, and I can't think up a word to describe how bad the offensive line has been this year. With a bad offensive line, a pretty good/decent running back like Damien Rhodes can't be successful.

 

That's what people may fail to realize around here. Greg Robinson didn't walk into Ohio State, he walked into Syracuse. This team has been a sinking ship for the last three years. If you discard Dwight Freeney single-handedly carrying the 2001 team to a 10 and 3 record, the Orange hasn't had a good team since Donovan McNabb graduated in 1998.

 

That's why I shudder when people compare Charlie Weis' rookie season to Greg Robinson's. Other than both of them being in their first year, the two have nothing in common. .

 

Weis walked into a pretty good situation at Notre Dame – he had a top quarterback and plenty of offensive talent at his disposal. They weren't bad – Notre Dame started out 5-2 in 2004 and had a win over top-ten Michigan State. Although they did make it to a bowl, they faltered late in the season and their 6-6 finish cost Ty Willingham his job. Notre

 

If Syracuse and Notre Dame's programs were houses, Weis walked into a place that needed a little fixing up. You know, replace a door, slap on a coat of paint – at most, maybe remodel a kitchen.  

 

Robinson, on the other hand, walked into house that had no roof, no indoor plumbing and a crumbling foundation.

 

The only option when your house is in the condition that Robinson found Syracuse is to call in a dozer and rebuild from scratch. That's what Robinson is doing with this Syracuse program. The result was a 1-10 season; I'm over it. I hope you are.

 

This explains the "they weren't this bad last year" arguments being made at Thanksgiving dinners all across Central New York this week. The response is "yeah, well, thing are gonna get worse before they get better".

 

Syracuse's recruiting for almost forever has been suited to Coach P's option-style offense with a run-first mentality. Obviously, that offense was flawed and had to be changed -- Robinson changed it. He brought in a variant of the west coast offense.

 

When you put athletes who are suited for an option attack (and not great athletes for that offense either), and you put them into a pass-first precision offense like the west coast, what do you think is going to happen?

 

Well, I'll give you a clue. It starts with a one and ends with a 10. You guessed it -- it's Syracuse's record for the 2005 season.

 

And as often as it is said that players win and coaches lose, you cannot pin this one on GRob.


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