Chiccoa: Case Closed?

BRO's football columnist, Charles Chiccoa, just can't see how Rick Neuheisel coudl return as UCLA's head coach next season...

Oh me, oh my!!!
So long baby bye-bye
Pour [us] one for the road
It's a long journey, baby
And where it's gonna take [us]
Depends on the weight of [our] load…
Oh no!!!
Depends on the weight of [our] load.

Dry land, sinking in the quick sand
Stranded on the wrong beach
Come and rescue me.

-- Noel Gallagher… "(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach"

Anyone who doesn't know the deal by now is either drowning in sentimentality and/or completely blind to the zeitgeist. Even "old media" has wised up. The depressing numbers don't need repeating here. We all know them by heart. Once you come to that astonishing figure of conference road wins, 3 (and those vs. Oregon State, Washington State and one of UDub's very worst teams), that's all you need to know. Critical mass has been achieved. Dan Guerrero needs only to do his job. Of course with this eccentric administration, you can't be entirely sure of anything.

If you by just about any criteria, Rick Neuheisel is UCLA's worst football coach since the relatively prehistoric days of "Bunker Bill Spaulding," which dates back 86 years and predates the Bruins entry into the Pacific Coast Conference. Doubters might want to chew on these numbers:

While at UCLA, Spaulding won at a 57% clip, Edwin Horrell, 44%, Bert LaBrucherie, 59%, Henry (Red) Sanders, 77%, Bill Barnes 46%, Tommy Prothro, 69%, Pepper Rodgers, 61%, Dick Vermeil, 71%, Terry Donahue, 67%, Bob Toledo, 60%, Karl Dorrell, 57%. And Neuheisel, bottom of the class, at 43%. Please note how the winning percentages nicely coincide with the relative quality of the coaches: thus, in descending order, Sanders, Vermeil, Prothro, Donahue, Rodgers, Toledo, KD, LaBrucherie, Spaulding, Barnes, Horrell and finally Neuheisel. Only Spaulding, because he was building a program from infancy, seems undervalued.

With the exception of Rodgers, each of these coaches had at least four years to prove himself. (Pepper resigned after an embarrassing 23-13 season ending loss vs. SC, despite posting a 9-2 record. How's that for a proper sense of shame?) When your coach consistently fails to beat good teams, when he rarely beats anyone at all on the road, when his only two signature wins are over uncharacteristically poor Texas and Tennessee teams, when he's presided over so many debacles in such a short period of time, when he's never recruited or developed even an adequate quarterback, when he's failed to create even one competent offense, when he's struck out on three defensive coordinators in four years (and, yes, that includes Dewayne Walker), when he's failed to properly use and develop what talent he's been fortunate enough to sweet-talk into signing onto this leaky ship, and when he's failed to inspire or build genuine pride and confidence in anyone but himself and his staff, it's past time to resign or get the boot. Let's be clear… Neuheisel is a grown man who still believes in fairy tales and childish things or why else would he keep repeating such fluff as "relentless optimism," or "my passion bucket is full," or, silliest of all, "I'm building what I think is something special here." Our wives should've warned us about this.

From Tennessee in '08 until Utah last Saturday it's been the same carnival of errors, predictable game plans and "lack of execution": huge lanes for opposing tailbacks to run through untouched; no effective pass rush, whether facing an Andrew Luck or a generic Jon Hays; shoddy tackling; endless motion penalties; getting ruthlessly exploited, strategically, week after week, offensively and defensively, in the air and on the ground. All of which has left four classes of players confused, embarrassed and, no doubt, frustrated. In other words, business as usual for this football program, especially away from home. A more resolute, steelier Athletic Director, in a less in-grown and self-satisfied athletic department, would've fired Neuheisel the Monday following last season's SC game. Thus Bruins fans, this season, were left with nothing more than hope, and we know how much hope is worth on a football field.

*****

It was only a matter of time before another defensive game plan exposed Kevin Prince's fundamental lack of quarterbacking skills, particularly poor pocket presence, lack of accuracy and inability to find receivers downfield, or after the pocket breaks down. Utah simply did the obvious, something ASU and Cal shockingly failed to do, which was to stack the box and shut down the read option… force Prince to beat them through the air. The backbreaking "pick six" by the Utes' Conroy Black was nothing if not a panic throw. (Once again: the QB must look a couple of steps in front of his receiver. He cannot blindly throw it to a spot, especially while under pressure, with no thought of a defender… then blame the receiver for not being on the same page, something the quarterback-defending media is often guilty of.)

*****

That was some Pity Party we had going on the BRO Premium Board during, and immediately after, the Utah collapse. I found it a little amazing how many of BROs believed this Neuheisel-induced pain and suffering would continue into the near future and beyond. I thought we'd long ago identified "Abused Bruin Fan Syndrome." Come on, man up! After all we've been through! This sort of carrying on does sound a lot like whining, like "woe is me." Anyway, this increasingly absurd drama is not about you and me, it's about them, and doing the right thing. "Don't Believe in Things That Don't Believe in You."

We all know anything can happen on any given… etc., etc., but short of Matt Barkley breaking his right arm or otherwise coming to a similar misfortune, I can't see the Bruins staying within three scores of SC, let alone beating them. Even this Saturday's date with Colorado in the Rose Bowl is suddenly in doubt. Who can seriously believe Neuheisel could survive 6-6, especially considering the ugliness of the losses? It's doubtful he can survive 7-5, even with a softie like Dan Guerrero handing out such an unearned goodie. Can you imagine going into spring with the experienced, fifth-year, senior incumbent as the Bruins starting quarterback in Neuheisel's pistol? You okay with that, Dan?


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