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.