Ask Coach Baird

Two games to go. A two game season. And what a brutal season it's been. Especially for the eternal optimist like myself, it's been an extremely trying season to try and find the positives in anything. It's a lot easier to find negativity, but that's not me. Never will be. Well, on to the letters, and thanks for keeping the faith Husky fans. . . .

From Jackson Gillett
: I'm not sure of how to say this without throwing out unfounded conspiracy theories because of the professionalism of our current coaching staff, but here goes… I do not believe our coaches are looking past this season, and I absolutely believe that they are doing everything in their power to prepare the team, and win ballgames. And from what I'm hearing it is an entire shift in attitude all around the campus, which is something we were in desperate need of. But with the inevitable Red-Shirting of Savannah and Hasty, and the holding back of some of the other young talented linebackers, it seems like the staff is looking to next year to be the breakout year. Maybe they're doing more evaluation of their own players this season, before playing the younger players and recruits they can ‘mold' in their own images? I didn't expect much from the Dawgs this year, and I love the job Coach Willingham has done in ‘cleaning up' the off-field messes, while still fielding a competitive team. However, when next year comes, is it reasonable to EXPECT us to return to a Bowl Game?

A: First of all I am a big proponent of red-shirting as many freshmen as possible. That is not an indication of giving up on this year or building for the next five. It is just sound thinking to give kids a chance to develop in the weight room and in the classroom. You win with 22 year olds in college football. Oh sure, there are always a few that are ready as true freshmen but even then you risk injury because they are usually underdeveloped at 18. This is not going to be an easy turnaround simply because of tremendous recruiting mistakes and misjudgments in character. We should be patient and realize that the man has a system and has the will power to get it done. Suggestions that we need to change coaches should be met with a campaign to restore the stability of the program through continuity of staff. This is the mess it is because of someone who knew nothing about the sport of football decided to make changes, thus 4 different coaches in 6 years.
From Matthew Dorsch in Kenmore
Dear Coach Baird,
: Maybe I'm being too sensitive, but it seemed to me that Coach Carroll had plenty of opportunities to kick a field goals on fourth down but chose to go for it anyway. No confidence in his kicker? What happens when they need a 48 yarder against Texas? I'd sure like to know if my kicker can hit that in a game situation. I felt like he was pulling a Spurrier and trying to run up the score. I guess we got a little karmic retribution when Booty threw the pick-six to Goldson on fourth down. But why was Booty even throwing? The class move would be a simple dive play. If they fail to convert, the ball is deep in our territory. If they get the first, then that's our fault. What are your thoughts on this? I'm sure Coach James would have had the second string in way earlier and there would have been a steady diet of running plays.

A: There is no question Coach James would never have allowed us to run it up on anyone. He never score over 55 points in his whole career. I can distinctly remember him chewing out Gary Pinkel whenever we got ahead by insisting on running the ball once the game was under control. I'm certainly not in a position to pass judgment on Coach Carroll and what he decides to do but going for it 6 times on fourth down sure indicates he was motivated to score as many points as he could. I don't think it is a reflection of class but rather a reflection of sportsmanship. I think he exudes a lot of class. He is surely a fine coach and a classy individual and probably just figured the Huskies couldn't stop them anyway. He was right in that they converted 4 of the 6 attempts. Remember, every Dawg has his day and one day the Dawgs may take him to task. Coaches have memories for these sorts of things. But the bottom line is, they won because they were a lot better than we were. Going for it doesn't change that at all. Hopefully, our day will come again soon.
From Scott Searing
Coach Baird,
: Improved? Here's Some Proof: While the Huskies record (1-8) is the same as it was last season, it's worth noting that the UW has shown marked improvement in a number of key statistics. The Huskies are doing demonstrably better in both the passing and rushing games, they're scoring more and they've cut down significantly on turnovers. What's more is that the Huskies played only one ranked opponent in their first seven games last year (No. 1 USC in the seventh game) while the Dawgs have faced five ranked opponents through seven games in 2005.

A: I know they are better than they were but that could also mean we were really REALLY bad last year. I think that this whole thing will turn next year with some significant wins. Right now I'm still hoping the change takes place this year. We need a win desperately just to give them the taste. The system is being put in place that will bring the Huskies back. It is so tough for the players and coaches that I can't even imagine having to go thru it. I'm sick each Sunday, just imagining how awful it would be to go into the office. I really appreciate your trying to find some light. It's refreshing to hear from someone who looks at the bright side of another dismal year. That's not easy.
From Raymond in Vacaville, CA
Coach Baird,
: Does the waffling of James Montgomery concern you at all?

A: I've heard some rumors and there is no doubt others will make a run at all of the Husky commitments given our horrible record. If you lose kids, you probably never really had them in the first place. Never forget that. Coach Willingham still has not been in the kid's home, either, so don't sweat yet. Still, this is not going to be an easy turnaround.
From Matt Dorsch
Coach Baird,
: I bet if you rounded up the media guide for every other Pac-10 team and looked at their single game records, many would have been set against the Huskies since you and Coach Lambright were fired. Whether it be passing, rushing, scoring etc, it seems that every year a few opponents set some sort of school record or at least a personal best against the Huskies. This is killing me. I know I shouldn't let a game get the better of my emotions but I'm bleed purple and unfortunately our opponents have been bleeding us for quite some time. I guess my question is, if it's no too much trouble to research, how many school or individual records have been set against UW since Rick Neuheisel was hired?

A: Like you I am disturbed with the lack of defense being played in this conference now. It's not just at Washington either. I'm afraid the Hedges/Neuheisel legacy will plague us for still a few more years. I have no idea how many players and teams have set records against the DUB but I know we tend to make a lot of guys a lot better than they ever were. Jim Daves, the UW SID, could probably get you some of these stats, but they are so negative I'll bet he wouldn't want to do it. Two years from now we will finally wash away the stink. Hang tough, Matt, better days are on the way. We are all suffering through this period but nobody more so than the players and coaches. USC accomplished exactly what they wanted to do when they sent her to us years ago. It took her 12 years and 4 coaches to dismantle Husky Football. I do think we have the right guy to build it back. Husky football will return to the Roses before 2010, mark my words. 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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