Ask Coach Baird

OK, Dawg fans. It's the Apple Cup, which should be a big deal. It is a big deal for our seniors, who will be playing their final game as Huskies. Let's thank them appropriately, no matter how badly this season unraveled for their team. They endured a lot this year, and hopefully Husky fans will cheer them loudly on Saturday.

From Steve P
: This question concerns Cody Pickett. Cody showed a lot of talent as a soph and junior. He obviously was athletic, with a strong arm and seemed to have huge potential. What is most striking is that there has been no noticeable improvement during this time, and some of his bad habits have only increased. These are: locking on to a receiver, inability to carry out effective fakes, not seeing opportunities as a play unfolds (instead trying to force the ball into tight coverage). Marques' greatest strength was his creative response to the defensive pressure. Some of these problems seem like they should have been corrected through coaching. Since Axman left, is there a specific quarterback coach? Why wouldn't some of these tendencies be corrected or improved. Looking at the mental improvement of quarterbacks like Eli Manning from one year to the next is phenomenal. Why hasn't this happened here?

A: The mystery of Cody Pickett is perplexing to everyone. He is very hard on himself and that probably has a lot to do with it, as much as anything. Certainly the coaching change over has been difficult for him to adjust to. His current coach is also the coordinator and spends time with all the QB's. His old coach only worked with him. I just think he has had difficulty with the transition. Let's face it though, last year in spite of all the great statistics, the team was still average. This year it has been tough to have a lot of confidence with all the drops he has had and the constant pressure he has been under.
From Greg Taylor
: you're a great addition to the Dawgman editorial staff... thanks for your candid observations. My question... do you think the number of coaching changes on our staff this past year has contributed to our problems? We have a new Head Coach, and Pettas, Cozzetto, Pelleur, Snow are all new to the staff... that's about a 50% turnover. That seems really high to me, and makes me wonder how much time it takes for a coaching staff to get comfortable and efficient working together. As I recall, back in the James era, there were years with no staff turnover. Your thoughts?

A: After watching the team this past weekend I am convinced that Gilbs will be making some tough decisions this off season. Certainly, we witnessed the worst performance by a Husky defense we have ever seen. I think there is always staff movement but you are right, that 50%is way over the norm. But not near as bad as having 3 different head coaches in 5 years. There is a need for infusion of something new but for right now everyone has to concentrate on beating the Cougars.
From Drew Dawg
Dear Coach Baird,
: The thing I have been amazed by this year (and there have been a lot of amazing things good and bad) is the lack of imagination the coaches have had with Mr. Stanback. Here you have a big and fast athlete who can catch, run and oh by the way is a Pac 10 quarterback who is on the field for most offensive snaps, and we have done nothing with him to exploit this. I know that we want to physically dominate people and not resort to trickery but can you imagine all the ways he could be used. He could even motion and run the option by taking a hand off from Cody like he did against Indiana or Idaho. At least it would give defensive coaches more wrinkles to plan against. By the way I totally support Gilby and he must be given at least 4 years to bring his players and staff together. I wish everyone would think back to when Coach James was brought into the program and all the turmoil that surrounded him including playing a young Warren Moon when everyone in Husky Stadium wanted him benched!

A: I'm not sure we will see any of Stanback until next spring. He is still a free spirit as a football player and does not always do what is designed. He freelanced so much in high school that he simply improvised and therefore would be what we called undisciplined. Surely he has great ability and is exciting but I'm not sure that he is ready to play quarterback this year. In fact, I'm not convinced he will even be the guy come fall.
From Doug in Belfair
Dear Coach,
: I have been a Husky fanatic since the Jim Owens days and am sorry to say I haven't been as disappointed in the heart of a team as I am now. They don't seem to have the toughness of past teams. I hope Gilby can recruit some players with the old Husky nasty streak. I frequently review the recruiting section of and I notice the players that have committed to the Huskies don't seem to be real blue chip according to the star system. Most only have two or three stars after their name. What are your thoughts on the early signees?

A: I never pay any attention to Stars. You only see what you see on tape and in person. I really think the recruiting scene is overrun with "experts." Some even sit at home, smoke, espouse themselves as gurus on the internet, yet never even make it to any high school games or watch any film. It's hilarious. I also think that over the past five years that the Huskies did care about how many stars a kid had by his name, and I'm not sure they saw what was in the PSA's heart and soul. That will change.
From Shane Keith
Dear Coach,
: First of all, I've enjoyed your opinions this year concerning the team and your insider look into recruiting. I'm getting a little tired of all these whiney Husky fans this year that can't accept the fact that we are having a bad year, and instead of concentrating on the good, snivel about every little thing wrong with our team. Sure it has been hard, but this is the hand we've got, lets make the best of it. I'm still confident that Gilby will turn things around, but I know it won't happen tomorrow. But, Do you see any instate or out of state prospects that might be able to come in and possibly play their freshman year? A lot of people seem to think the Klovis kid is a monster, but OL/DL seem to be tough positions to really dominate at early. On a side note, What does the team do with old footballs? I would love to get an official NCAA football with the Washington W on it. I think my younger brother would go crazy Christmas morning if he opened that for his present. If you could direct me in the right direction on how I might be able to get one of these, I would appreciate it. Thanks coach and Go Dawgs.

A: Contact Tony Piro and tell him I sent you and it's for an auction. He may be able to help. After watching the game against Cal, I'm not sure that the bottom has not now fallen out entirely, and at least we know everything must go up from here. The guy the Huskies have to get is Bankhead.
From Drew
Dear Coach,
: I was just wondering if you think we will ever see the bare front defense that Washington employed in the nineties, or are offenses just that much more complex today? It seems to me that if you could find some capable corners, (big if), that you could make more teams one-dimensional and force them to pass under pressure. Heck, it earned them a national title. Thanks for your thoughts.

A:. After watching the Cal game, it is obvious that there needs to be some changes in the defensive approach to Husky football. Just exactly what, I'm not sure but I am positive there will be changes in the off season. The biggest change will be finding players that can play some bad-ass safety.
From A Hurley
Dear Coach,
: Could the NCAA and the PAC Ten be purposefully slowing down the investigating process knowing full well it will affect recruiting? The NCAA has been investigating the UW previous to the season and still have not come up with any findings. Could this be a way of passively penalizing the UW if they have determined that there is no real proof to sanction the school? Now the PAC Ten is investigating and we know how much they love the UW. Certainly, they would enjoy regaling us with their astute sense of fair and balanced investigation. I will admit I know nothing about the NCAA process but it took federal prosecutors less time to investigate Enron then it is taking to investigate the gambling faux pas of a millionaire coach. That is unless they have added to the investigation a lack of institutional control. If the allegations are true then let the NCAA complete the process sooner then later. It certainly gives other schools an unfair advantage. I am sure the other coaches are using this to influence the young men that are waiting to see the outcome. Judging by your experience when do you think this will end?

A: I do not trust the NCAA and hope that Rick Neuheisel busts their balls. The Pac-10 has been dismantling Husky football ever since Barbara Hedges took over. They are allowed too much access and there is no way that basketball pools didn't exist in at least 50 other universities. Is there lack of institutional control? I don't know about that, but I do know that there is "management by crisis" going on. That is, when the crisis comes up, ignore it at first, then deal with it by deflecting it, and buckle under to the NCAA and Pac-10. It's bullshit.
From Marty
Dear Coach,
: Good responses. Your steady, supportive answers promoting patience are perfect. A deep breath, a little reflection, and a lot of hard work are what this program needs. Panic never works. Coach Gilbertson needs our support as do the kids who have endured a lot. We will get there.

A: I really agree that patience is a virtue with regard to watching this team. It is easy to see they are easily rattled and lacking confidence. Personally I can't wait to see the changes take place, and next spring will be fun to watch. Gilbs will figure this out but I hope he does so before it kills him.
From Jake Eggimann
Dear Coach,
: Well.... the words utterly disgusting come to mind in the performance on Saturday. Coach, I read your posting and have been persuaded by you to keep faith in Gilby, giving the program stability and Gilby time to implement a system that will lead to long term success. But these last two loses make that a very difficult eventuality. Even you couldn't defend Gilby on this one, he has lost control of an average football team and they are mailing it in for the remainder of the season. The worst repercussion of this whole thing is bowl game practices. It looks as though there is no hope for a bowl game, and with that goes the critical practice time that is needed for the younger players in the program. I don't think it is too late for the President of Washington to let both Barbara and Gilby go at the end of the season and begin a new era in Husky football. Whoops... I forgot, I don't think we even have a president yet.

A: Can't say I am not just as worried as you and also think that the changes should start at the top. Gilbs has not had a fair chance to try and put the pieces together yet. He definitely needs help and support which he can't get from this administration. Changes will take place after the season but with no UW President, there won't be any changes at the administrative level. But to discard Gilbs right now would only destroy the program further. These kids need some stability and some good recruiting right now!
From Jack Sonnichsen
Dear Coach,
: After reading the comments by Coach Gilbertson, I'm afraid we have a real crisis. The situation reminds me to much of what Arizona just went through. My plead to you, is if you have a chance, please talk to Hugh or some of your football buddies that might have some influence on the Coach. For all those who love husky football and have power to make a difference please, please point out to the coach that he can't point the finger at the players. That's not the answer. If he continues down this path, I'm afraid it's going to be a short trip. Forget what I wrote earlier, I think Keith may already be gone.

A: Gilbs is taking plenty of blame himself and I disagree, he is not gone. Those that say Gilby isn't taking blame are only reading partial sound-bytes in the paper, and have not talked to him or know him very well. You can't pull the plug on someone who is trying to save the program. There is no question that the team has hit bottom. A lot of crap has manifested itself in the last two games. We must admit we are poor team right now but a win over WSU would at least propel them into recruiting season. There will be some changes and hopefully the return to prominence isn't too far away.
From LoyBrd
Dear Coach,
: After the Cal game we can see just how far these Huskies have fallen, I didn't think it was possible for any thing like this to happen, I am not a big fan of coach Gilby but you really had to feel sorry for him when he had to face the media after the showing these so called Huskies just put on. Second Pickett has not been worth a damn all year and we should have been giving next years Q.B. some more playing time to get him ready. I think a good coach would have recognized this and made a change instead of penalizing the whole team. I think it is going to be very hard to get any top line recruits after what they have seen from this so called team. It's going to take 5-6 years to get back to recruiting some top notch players, but in the meantime I guess we will just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope we will snap out of this so called rut we are in. Thanks coach I enjoy your answers to some tough questions.

A: I think the next game is the most important thing to concentrate on. There is so much turmoil right now that the whole program is reeling. It is best to ride it out and then try like hell to bring in a good batch of local recruits. Then get this team ready for winter drills and spring football, where you get out the iron and start with the temperature on high. Things have reached an all time low for the last 20 years. Hang in there and realize that both USC and WSU were this bad just a few years ago.
From Aloha Mike
Dear Coach,
: Thanks for your thoughtful answer to my last question. I worked all day Sat. and didn't listen to the game. I saw the sun shine through at about 4:30pm and felt that the Dawgs had won. What surprise when I saw the score. The past comments of some of the players have been that some of the players have given up. Where is the senior leadership on this team? On other teams the seniors are the ones that seem to "kick ass" to get the other players to perform. Would the thought of your class being the class that had the first losing season in twenty-seven years be enough to inspire you to play your very best game ever? Coach I know what your answer is. Will these Husky players play up to their capability against their cross-state rivals this Sat.?

A: Obviously a win over WSU would make these kids season and give them some reason to feel good about themselves. Really tough to believe they can do it, however, after last weekend's fiasco. This has been a terrible past two weeks and their chances of doing so don't look very good. I guess stranger things have happened, though.
From Dana Stovin
Dear Coach,
: Boy, what a disaster. I don't recall the program being this low since the latter Owens years. It sure seems as though there is a character issue with this team. I don't know if Gilby is the long term answer or not but I place the majority of the blame on Neuheisel. He's the one who recruited the underachievers on this team. Getting up for Oregon and OSU and then going in the tank for Arizona and California doesn't exhibit any kind of pride. I'm sure there were some players who were willing to "charge hell with a squirt gun" for Gilby's return to Cal but there are others who need to renew their commitment or turn in their equipment. What's the policy with regard to revoking scholarships? Gilby sure as hell deserves better than this.

A: It's tough to be positive right now so I think its best that we chill and go with the team. It would be great for all to finish with a win.
From Dave "Irish Dawg"
Dear Coach,
: You continuously refer to the changes that will need to make in the UW football program. Be a good writer and develop your claims coach. What kind of changes are you referring too? Personnel (player) changes? Coaching changes? Philosophical changes? Attitudinal changes? Uniform changes? Give us specifics. Provide names and reasons for each of your claims. Please "Oh Great One, " we pay good money to read your column. Give us the inside juice. My wife, a UW grad, is a Prof at Notre Dame and we have witnessed some bad football this season, but the players DO NOT QUIT and neither do the fans. I will see you at ND next year. I will be on the sidelines with the guy who own "the dog." That's Junior. The real Husky. Cheers.

A: It is not my place to say what specific changes are needed, as I believe that belongs with Keith and his staff until they make them and announce them. I have to respect that. I will say that everything has gone to hell once we adopted the weasel as our new mascot and went to Nike's lavender instead of purple. Other than that I will reserve my comments until after the season is completed. There will be changes, though. Tackling better would be a nice start. 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 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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