Coach's Corner

The Washington Huskies just came off their first win of the season and regardless of who it was against, they deserved to finally feel good about themselves. They won a game. Not a big game, but a mark in the left hand column. After all, that's what sport is all about - how many marks can you get in the left hand column during a season. Conference games technically have more meaning, but in this case no game could be bigger to a group that hadn't won a game.

They did it the old fashion, the conservative way. They pounded their opponent with a rushing attack and just flat wore them out. It wasn't pretty but it was effective. Their defense limited San Jose State to 133 yards of total offense and no touchdowns. They had two goal line stands. They held a team that scored 70 points the week before to two field goals. By the end of the game they were clearly pushing the Spartans around and won by an unspectacular score of 21-6.

No more was the game over than the "Fire the Coach" banter began again in the media and in the parking lot. Every one who buys a ticket has an opinion and many exercise their right to vent their frustrations over the airwaves and cyberhighways. Anything less than winning is simply unacceptable to many in the Husky fan base. The internet sites are loaded with negative opinions about everything from Gilbertson's coaching ability to criticisms of his physical being. That is a really sad part of the game when people have to attack someone's body build. To demean Gilbertson because of his build is typical of the off-base criticism being thrown his way. He doesn't deserve that and besides, he knows more football than almost any of these ‘experts' of the game who are calling for his head.

Should you not win at the collegiate or professional level then the problem is always coaching and that gets you fired. It just comes with the territory. There are only two kinds of coaches; those who have been fired and those who are going to get fired. If you're lucky, then you have an administration or management that understands cycles and supports you until you can turn it back around. If you don't then you get fired. Not winning is unsatisfactory. The blame has to be fixed. It has to be somebody's fault. It can't be that you don't have enough experienced talent to win with. When you win, it's because the players are good and they even become stars because of it. When you lose, it's the coaching. Accept it or don't even apply.

In Keith Gilbertson's case, he never really did (apply for the job that is). It landed in his lap because the administration simply botched the whole Neuheisel firing. They asked Gilby to take it two weeks before the season. It was an emergency hiring and a lot like the hiring of Jim Lambright. Both men bailed out the Huskies at the lowest stages of the program. Lambright inherited a team already in training camp. He was successful at circling the wagons simply because a gag order had restricted media access to himself, his coaches, and his players.

Gilbertson has had no such protective shield. Because of the very delicate ego of his team, he was forced to play Neuheisel's hand whether he wanted to or not. He had little or no time to put together his own plans or organizational structure. He inherited all the people and all the problems of a program in total disarray. Although he had some input on personnel because he was the offensive coordinator, he immediately recognized deficiencies in personnel. There was an obvious hole in the number of recruited linemen. There were no young safeties. There was a great quarterback and wide receiver and that would promise a battery that could at least get some great statistics, but unfortunately not many wins.

He inherited a program that had lost close to 30 recruited athletes over 4 years who either quit the program or never showed up. That represented almost a one-third attrition rate. Consequently, Coach Gilbertson was to be plagued not necessarily by who was left but just as much by who never showed or who quit.

Now the staff and players are certainly the most important personnel decisions concerning a team, but Gilbertson had little or no input into who these people are. He could only try to win with what he had. He has never once publically even hinted as to the quality or level of talent in the program. He has maintained a public loyalty to his predessor. He has never pointed the finger or even mentioned anything negative about the system he was left with. He inherited a divided team that never really believed in itself. Had they not upset WSU, last year's team would have been even worse. It has definitely carried over into this year's team and their inability to handle both prosperity and adversity.

This is not to demean this year's team but they are clearly a year or two behind recovering totally from the talent level they are currently at. That is the reality. They are struggling because there are not enough quality players and play makers in the program.

That is the truth. How did it get there?

Most likely, the lack of proper evaluation and in-depth research resulted in the going-after and signing of prospects without regard to balance and character. You can't recruit quitters! You can't waste your time on hot dog national recruits you have no chance of getting to Seattle. You can't ignore the State of Washington. You can't undertake linemen. They are the most important building blocks. You need to recruit speed, speed and more speed.

Coach Gilbertson is doing these things. The first step to getting better? Get better kids. He's done that. His first recruiting class was the best ever in the last 25 years and I think I have the background to say that.

He deserves to coach them as seniors. Whether or not he will is not my decision or yours. If he gets fired, so be it, but, I see this team is getting better and learning to play at this level. They have a much better running game than they have had in years. The defense has flashes of greatness and offers everyone back next year. The offensive line is getting better each week. The overall linebacker play is the best it has been in 10 years. They finally have some real safeties again and they are real hitters. They are developing depth and experience in the defensive line and have found an edge pass rusher.

The throwers and catchers are certainly struggling. The passing game sucks because of it. The defense needs to get more turnovers and they need to make something happen in the kicking game. But, this team is getting better and has fought hard every game. They're just not a very good team yet and that is the truth. Why would all these disgruntled fans not want to remember that this team was picked to finish seventh? Keith Gilbertson deserves to be thanked for trying to make this ship float. There has been more off field distractions during the past two years resulting in a lot of firings already.

Firing Gilbertson only makes things worse. Top Stories