Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cal Re-signs Football Coach Sonny Dykes--Dumb Move

Cal fans who were hoping the football team would be rid of a blight named Sonny Dykes are now submerged in gloom. The head coach didn't, as the haters hoped, sign with another school. Instead he did what the haters prayed he wouldn't do--sign a long contract extension with the Bears, through 2019, with a juicy raise, bumping his salary to an annual average of $2.85 million.

So, Dykes haters, shelve that bottle of celebratory champagne. Unfortunately it won't be needed. But do get yourself some hard liquor--whatever it takes to drown your sorrows, to ease the pain of the realization that you're stuck with this clown for many years.

The Dykes drama began not long after Cal came from behind on Nov. 28 in its final regular season game to beat Arizona State. 48-46, finishing 7-5 and getting a bid to play Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth on Dec 29, the Bears' first bowl bid since the glory days of the Jeff.Tedford era.

This was the best record in Dykes' three-year tenure, which began with a miserable one-win season. Following this season, though, something was gnawing at Sonny.  He wanted more money--a contract extension and a raise. Insiders say he had been moping all season, feeling underpaid at just under $2 million annually, the lowest salary of any PAC 12 head coach.

When this season ended, Sonny's bosses didn't leap to give Sonny what he wanted. Feeling under appreciated, Dykes was pissed off. So he went job-hunting, first interviewing at Missouri. Also there were rumors he was in the running for openings at South Carolina and Virginia.  But Sonny didn't get any of those plum jobs. The athletic directors at those schools aren't dummies. They know a stiff when they see one. Sonny simply isn't good enough.

For that reason, Cal was slow to re-sign him. Many fans and boosters didn't want him back. Cal, they argued, could do much better. According to sources in the athletic department, the Sonny haters clashed with the Sonny supporters. The battle was apparently ugly. Arguing that Sonny's Cal teams improved each year, the supporters triumphed.

Here's why the haters are hating. Sonny is a one trick pony--an offensive wizard but a lousy head coach. His teams are record-breaking, offensive juggernauts because he smartly recruits and develops offensive players. His work with QB Jared Goff is a prime example. But defensively, the Bears are dreadful. The defenses in his first two years were a mess, the worst in Cal history.

This season the defense was improved but still awful, particularly that klutzy secondary. The Bears win by outscoring other teams in shootouts or preying on other horrible defenses. Cal's defensive players are poor tacklers, often out of position, easy to outwit and.unsure of their roles, They only won the Arizona State game because, in the second half, the ASU defense was, if  you can believe it, worse than Cal's.

To build a good defense you need quality players. That's where Dykes is a liability. When trying to sign defensive players Cal gets killed on the recruiting trail because the word is out that Sonny is soft on defense. If you're a hot-shot defensive prospect looking to maximize your potential, you steer clear of Cal, where you won't get the best coaching or be part of a Grade A unit. So Cal, due to Dykes' rep, is always stuck with average defensive players. Without first-rate coaching, those players never develop into anything special.

Lacking a top-level defense, the Bears will never crack the PAC 12 elite. Teams like Stanford, USC, UCLA and Oregon, which usually have strong defenses, will always be better. During Sonny's reign Cal will, at best, win seven, maybe eight games and go to some minor bowl,.

That's not good enough, insist the detractors. That's aiming low.

How about Cal going to the Rose Bowl or occasionally cracking the national Top 10? With Dismal Dykes and his dreadful defenses?

No Way

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

USC Hires Clay Helton--Another Blunder

This is USC's record for hiring head football coaches in recent years:
Lane Kiffin--blunder.
Steve Sarkisian--blunder
Clay Helton--blunder

Yes, the SC powers did it again, naming interim coach Helton, promoted in October from offensive coordinator, as permanent head coach, awarding him a five-year contract..

Many Trojan fans and boosters, rightfully, are not happy with this choice. They had visions of  blue-chip prospects dancing in their heads. That's because the SC head coaching position is one of the Top 10 in college football. So does the school hire someone in a league with Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, Nick Saban and Chip Kelly? No, they get Helton, a lifetime assistant with no significant head coaching experience. Simply not good enough.

A little over a week ago Helton seemed out of the running for the job. SC was crushed by Oregon, looking unprepared, unmotivated, demoralized and disorganized. The tackling was pitiful and the blocking was pathetic and the line play, on both sides of the ball, abysmal. How could SC hire a guy responsible for that debacle?

But somehow Helton got the job. What the hell happened?

All that happened is that SC whipped UCLA, 40-21, last Saturday. Does one win, even if it's over your arch-rival,  make all that difference? Does that lone victory wipe out the stench of the Oregon loss? Aside from the UCLA win,  Helton has done nothing worth getting excited about. Sure, SC did beat Utah, when that team was in the Top Five, but in retrospect, the Utes were way overrated..

Since Helton, a six-year SC coach, took over from Steve Sarkisian, the team is 5-2, but hasn't been particularly impressive. Helton's most notable accomplishment is changing SC from an uptempo, pass-happy outfit to a slower paced running team. Other blemishes on his resume--the loss to hated rival Notre Dame and the struggles with teams, like Colorado, with inferior talent. Nothing he's done makes you think he's a superior coach or that he has the makings of one.

Is Helton the best coach available? Not by a long shot. There are many out there who are much more qualified and who could do a better job. At the moment though, the SC head coaching position doesn't have its usual luster. According to sources close to the SC powers, the school has put out plenty of feelers, only to find out that big-name coaches or budding stars weren't interested. The problem is AD Pat Haden, who has been on shaky ground since his prominent role in the Sarkisian mess. No heavyweight coach wants to be hired by an AD who seems to be on his way out--and Haden, who also has health issues, is definitely on his way out. Who wants to step into an uncertain situation like that?.

If SC was going to hire Helton, this was the optimal time, after the biggest victory of his career and SC's biggest of the season. That's why the SC bosses rushed to sign him now. What it does, though, is piles on the pressure.

On Saturday SC plays Stanford for the PAC 12 championship. Beating a highly motivated and talented Stanford team in Palo Alto won't be easy. This season SC, which has already lost to Stanford, hasn't played well outside the Coliseum. If the Trojans lose, the hire looks even more stupid.

Signing Helton looks like a big mistake. If he's going to prove skeptics wrong, winning Saturday is the place to start.