ASK COACH BAIRD

Well, after an absolute cluster-(deleted) in Arizona, Washington has its work cut out for them. Going into the den of an angry Bear who just lost to the Oregon Ducks in the final five minutes of the game. Cal ended a long streak in Seattle last year and they'll hope to end another one this year in Berkeley. Will the Dawgs be ready? It's anybody's guess right now. And now onto the letters . . .

From Matt Malone
Coach,
: Now I know you'll stick up for Gilby no matter what, so I don't expect you to agree with me, but Gilbertson is a terrible head coach. Losing to Nevada and Arizona are totally uncalled for, and we'll probably break our streak of winning seasons. With the talent we have, a good head coach would have us as a solid top 15 team. How are we going to get any good recruits with the coach we have and the season we're having. It's time for Hedges to see the light and hire a good young coach, like Mike Stoops or Chris Tormey, to totally revamp this program. Gilby's a great offensive coordinator, but he is not head coach material. He came into his job knowing the team as well as anyone, and he still can't produce. The play calling is bad, and so are some of the defensive schemes. Fire Gilby immediately after the season and hire a big name coach.

A: Whoa, relax and take a breath Matt. Of course I disagree, but it's not just that Gilbs is my friend. It's because the kids in this program need stability, consistency, and discipline. They also need to beat teams that they should. Unfortunately, they are still a middle of the road team who reacts terribly to momentum swings. To fire the coach now would not solve any of this, and would ruin recruiting for the year. These kids have already gone through so much while they were at Washington. They lost Curtis Williams, they lost their coach, and they've lost a lot of games for a Husky team. Since the Rose Bowl they have been 8-4, 7-6, and are now 5-5. There are some good young kids being redshirted right now and this staff has not even had a chance to be together for a whole season. Let's see what they can do with that talent. Gilbs understands the big picture, and I believe that it's way too premature to even think about replacing him.
From John Jones
: You bring a special refreshing wisdom to the site that is really appreciated. Thanks for your efforts. In light of your friendship with Gilby, perhaps this is an unfair question, but how would you compare his style of coaching with that of our Dawgfather? Does he have the organizational skills that James had and the most important question is has he accumulated the staff to recruit in the top echelon of the country? I was very impressed with the second half of the Ducks game and the changes that must have been made, but do you expect that to continue?

A: It's not really fair to compare the two men as coaches, because Don was at Washington for 18 years, and is a legend. This is Gilbs' first season. But, from first hand experience, I can tell you that the very structure and makeup of the program is now patterned directly from the organizational system of Don's. Don is his mentor and still is his friend and confidant.
From Garrett Lorton
Dear Coach Baird,
: Hey coach, first of all I've got to give you two thumbs for sticking up for the Dawgs and Gilby, If I wanted to hear negative crap about the huskies I'd subscribe to ESPN! I love this team they can really turn up the heat when they choose to and I hope they can learn to do it on a weekly basis. I can't but help think about next year, as this team seems to be eternally young. There are like 32 juniors on the roster. My question is how many do you think are coming back next year. I know outside a miracle Reggie is gone. Do you think ET will be back next year? I really think with his leadership we could have a very talented young core of receivers next year. I've also heard the If Tank stays on pace to graduate this year he could gain a year of eligibility back. With a few key vets next year and the break out of our young stars we would be reloaded and ready to rumble next year Id love to have your thoughts. GO DAWGS

A: I think both Reggie and Terry will come out and be drafted, along with Cody. ET should, and will, stay and will be healthy. He will be a star and drafted next year. I don't know if any other seniors will get picked but some will get to play as free agents for sure.
From Renato Carbonnel
Dear Coach,
: Great comments on the Honks show. My question is recruiting. Since it's obvious that the dawgs will usually get the so called "leftovers" that USC and UCLA doesn't want, what does the coaching staff look for in a prospect? When you were the recruiting coordinator what were the things you looked for in high school kid besides the obvious football stats? Also, what are the chances that UW will get the top in-state prospect this recruiting season? And, besides California, are the Huskies garnering any interest from kids east of the Rockies?

A: I think the Huskies are doing well in state. I would personally like to see them take 12-14 in-state kids and make a statement. They also need to get those kids into school and keep them there. That has been a problem for this program. Tougher questions need to be, and will be, asked. As far as national level interest, I know they have a number of kids east of the Rockies still on their radar screen. I think the Dawgs do well this year in recruiting because everyone will understand the sense of urgency, particularly the Husky players that will host these recruits. They will be critical. As long as we sign 9-11 linemen, I will be happy. We can win with the skill we have in the program right now, but need to add a couple of bad-ass safeties and defensive ends that can get the quarterback.. It will be fun to follow after the season.
From John Pearson "Dawgnet"
Dear Coach,
: Whenever there is a change in coaches, there is a change in personnel. How much change do you predict for assistant coaches and how many player transfers? Of course, Gilbs would want his own assistants on board and some players will not want to stay. What do you expect? I hate to say it, but I am beginning to like WSU. Hedges must go, but I guess that will not happen now. She investigates UW athletics to put us on probation, but she is the one who should be investigated.


A: I think that Keith has the right to make some coaching changes and there is always movement on the staff. However, he is really into loyalty and it goes both ways. Letting someone go is a really hard thing to do, but staff movement is a part of the profession and surely Gilbs needs to get his people with him. I get really excited about thinking about him and Lambo back together. They are working together some this year. It almost happened when we were fired, as I was part of those discussions, but that's the past now. I have no comment on Barbara Hedges.
From Chris Raymond
Dear Coach,
: As someone who bleeds purple but never played the game, I enjoy reading columns like yours to get more of an inside slant. I know you are friends with several people over at the program, including Coach Gilbertson, but I would like to answer this as objectively as you can. Given the condition the program was in when he took over, how long should we give the Coach? We have a senior quarterback who was highly touted and the best offensive player in school history. The cupboard was not bare. Nevada is barely 1-A, and Arizona is one of the worst Pac-10 teams in recent memory. If we lose both our remaining games, ending our streak of non-losing seasons, do we give the Coach one more year to have an off season of peace? Two more years? Three? I know we are not Florida State, but this is getting humiliating.

A:. It's only humiliating if you allow yourself to think so. Put it into perspective this team was 7-6 last season and is 5-5 this season. They are an average team. They will get better when the program is stabilized, and you don't stabilize it by always changing coaches. Therefore your question of how much time do we give Gilbs is tough to answer. Of course, I think you should give him his full four years on his contract before you begin to think about it, but fans today don't have that kind of patience. I encourage you to have patience, as this is his first year and he didn't even have his team for spring ball. Coach Doba at WSU had his kids for bowl game practices, spring practices, and he kept 90% of his team in Pullman all summer. Hopefully Gilby will be given the same chance. It will work.
From Ron Sudderth
Dear Coach,
: Quoting you in "Ask Coach Baird", posted November 7, 2003, last question, third sentence: "We won with the run (vs. Oregon) and that is how we will win games for the rest of this season." Step out of the box, please. You are an unabashed Gilby supporter for friendship reasons. So, why do we pass pass pass vs. Arizona? Why do we leave Pickett in games until a crisis is created, largely because he's overthrowing or fumbling, and then expect him to pull out a BIG WIN in the last few minutes, when it seems to be inept play calling and inept QB performances which are primarily responsible for us getting into crunch time in the first place? Thank you.

A: I stand by my belief that the thing to do is keep running the ball. That is my opinion. I know how difficult it is to be a Husky right now, but there are still two more games to play. Hopefully they can win one of them, for no other reason than they really need the bowl practices. Hang in there.
From Snowman Fam
Dear Coach,
: I'm just kinda curious what you think is the formula/action plan to get the current regime back to prominence? How long do you think? How long do you think Gilby will be given to turn it around? I also saw a story on Dawgman.com where some coach was referring to the need for speed on defense and talked about the 91 team as a point of reference. It seems like Don James learned these lessons that Gilby is going through and could be a huge mentoring kinda help to him in shortening up the learning curve for successful head coaching. Am I wrong?

A: Prominence is not the goal. Winning is the goal. We are what we are - a very average team. Of course, we all want the Huskies to be a championship type team every year but that doesn't happen anywhere all the time. They'll get it back, and Gilby is the right guy. Yes, speed is always a major emphasis in recruiting and that is at all positions. It will remain so under Gilbs. Let's worry about the next game and not get hung up on how long it will take to get dominant again. We're not in a position where we can do that yet, I mean, we just lost to Arizona.
From Dean Robertson
Dear Coach,
: Hi Dick - As Gilby is fond of saying, "football is a game invented by PE majors for PE majors", is it still your opinion (after the loss to the worst team in recent Pac -10 history) that we got the right PE major as Head Coach at the University of Washington? I recognize that you are friends with Gilby but you should recognize some journalistic responsibility if you elect to answer this question. Thanks Dick, and for the record I was at the game. The former Pac - 10 coach that I was sitting with opined that we were out coached (mostly offensively) by and lost to a vastly inferior team, at least from a talent perspective. therefore, I am most anxious to read your answers.

A: Anytime you lose, you have been out coached. It is a reality of the sport. It happens to everyone because if you are a coach you have to take it personal - that it was YOUR FAULT. It comes with the job. The fact is Gilbs is the coach, and I'm not sure you are evaluating him on the correct criteria. I'm not sure he would have the correct criteria to tell if you were doing a good job in your first year, either, but then, your job may not be fodder for discussion on the Internet. That is the life of a football coach, I guess, right or wrong. I do think Gilby is the right guy for the job. He is very qualified, and brings stability to the program, something these kids are sorely lacking after having the rug pulled out from underneath them.
From Darek the Desert Dawg
Dear Coach,
: I have loved reading your columns this year. What great insight you have given us serious dawg fans. I know you are not one to point fingers, but I have to vent a couple of issues. I took my son to the debacle in the desert. He is 7 and it was his first ever Husky game. It was awfully embarrassing to have Wildcat fans asking me why in the second half there were so many plays that we never even looked #1's way. Much of the second half Reggie was matched up in man coverage against Michael Jolivette. MJ is an excellent corner, but no match for Reggie. I don't understand calling plays where he is not even in the progression. Occasionally to keep the team honest is understandable, but should not be the M.O. My main problem was with the play calling overall. Why do we follow up a 240 or so yard running performance against Oregon with a passing game plan? I thought we were turning the corner towards traditional tough Husky football. We went to a passing strategy in the 2nd half. When we did run it was draw plays with either the Fullback or Tight end out of the game. We were getting 5 to 8 yards every time we ran with a Fullback and Tight end in the game. Please have someone explain to Pettas how tired he made the defense in the fourth quarter with this strategy. I feel very bad for the players. I was only a few rows behind the Husky bench and the players really seemed to be giving great effort. In a game with kids, I would never fault the players. Our coaches need to recognize what our strengths are and play to them. Didn't Don James used to have the philosophy that you don't let a team beat you by exploiting your obvious weaknesses. I felt, save a couple big plays, the defense played their hearts out and deserved much better. Sorry for the long email, just a frustrated dawg fan that had to explain to a teary eyed 7 year old at his first game that we have to give Gilby about 3 or 4 years to get this program back to a tough hard nosed football team.

A:
From Ivar Ozols
Dear Coach,
: Does Coach Gilbertson not believe in the run, or is that just Pettas? Do you think Gilby might make some changes to the staff in the off-season? I am afraid Gilby's loyalty to his assistants may cost him his job. We can't have a guy in Huskyville that doesn't believe in running the football. He's got to put the program first, and loyalty to assistants second. If Gilby doesn't come around, unfortunately, he will deserve what he gets. Keeping my fingers crossed for CAL.

A: I believe running the football really helps you become a consistent winning football team. That is my story and I'm sticking to it. They have improved over last year but I don't think that they run enough yet.
From Aloha Mike
Dear Coach,
: Since Saturday's I have read your column and all the remarks about " Fire Gilby", bench Cody, re-work the entire athletic dept, and etc......... The newspapers are having a field day at the Husky football team's expense. I am and have been a Husky fan for over forty-five years. There have been great teams and not so great teams. We are all guilty of impatience. The real picture is skewed. Last Dec. 14, my wife suffered what is called heart arrthymia. A woman basketball player suffered the same thing at about the same time my wife suffered hers. Doctors asked my son and I to consider having my wife un-plugged and let her slip away peacefully. Today she is working part-time and aside from some short term memory loss, she almost back to her old self. I NEVER GAVE UP ON MY WIFE EVEN THOUGH THE DOCTORS HAD. WHY HAVE SO MANY FANS GIVEN UP ON THE DAWGS??

A: God bless you, Mike. Thanks for sharing this, and all my best to your wife and family.


Dawgman.com columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the Dawgman.com staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.

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