A few quick football thoughts.
The Sisyphean rite that is the changing of football coaches at the University of Kansas continues. David Beaty, a truly decent but woefully under qualified man, got the ax a week ago. The timing seemed a little strange given KU had just knocked off TCU two weeks earlier. But things never really make much sense around KU football.
If there were any doubts about Beaty’s ability to handle the job, those were removed last Saturday as the Jayhawks lost a thoroughly winnable game against Kansas State. Once again KU was plagued by seemingly basic mistakes that consistently cost them points. It was the same shit that’s been going on for years: terrible game management, penalties at the worst possible moments, the inability to make one play to win a game. The talent level is up. The numbers are up. But, week after week, it is the little things that teams should master in August that kill KU’s chances.
As I wrote earlier this year, Beaty no doubt has made the program better. It was a nearly impossible task to dig out from the hole Charlie Weis put the program in. Beaty at least got things stabilized. But he simply isn’t a good enough coach to get the program to the next step, where winning even 4–5 games each year is a possibility.
Now for the new coach speculation. Les Miles’ name has been out there since before his buddy Jeff Long became the new KU athletic director last spring. I believe as soon as Long got fired at Arkansas, people around KU were clamoring for Sheahon Zenger to get the ax so they could hire Long and, hopefully, bring his pal Miles along. Last week at the Champions Classic, when I got to sneak into a conversation of people who know people, Miles was the only name that anyone was talking about.
I honestly don’t know why Miles would take the KU job. If he wants to coach again and make a lot of money, there will be better offers whenever he is ready. I know he and Long are legitimately close. But I doubt they are close enough to come to the worst Power 5 program in the country for the last gig of your career.
Some KU fans worry that Miles would be Charlie Weis version 2.0. I don’t buy that. Charlie was never invested and refused to do any of the hard work that came with coaching a lower-tier program. I don’t know that Miles is prepared to do all that work, either, but I have a feeling if he took the job he’d actually recruit the best schools in Kansas City instead of only going to New Jersey and Hawaii to “create pipelines” to those states like Charlie did. And Miles had plenty of on-the-field failures, but he’s still a much better coach than Charlie.
Some folks worry that Miles would be a short-term choice, arguing he’s likely to not coach more than five years. As always, I say this is the dumbest reason not to hire someone in the world. We’re already firing a coach every 3–4 years. We should be thrilled if we can finally get someone who can stabilize and improve the program and then wants to leave in five years, either for another, better job or because they’re ready to retire. In fact, I think KU should be in the business of hiring a new coach every five years because the last one went to the SEC or Big 10. Iowa State has kind of gone through that cycle. They’ve had their share of down years along the way. But the program is also miles ahead of KU’s.
The biggest problem with Miles, to me, is that if he doesn’t come to KU, whoever they do hire is going to be a huge letdown. With the notable exception of Dave Doeren, who I think is highly unlikely to leave NC State, there isn’t another name on the list that moves the needle with fans. So just as people who were excited about Jim Harbaugh were disappointed with Turner Gill, or who wanted Mike Leach and were instead given Charlie Weis, there will be an enthusiasm gap from day one if it is anyone but Miles.
I also wonder if Miles is as big of a deal to kids these days as he is to adults. Let’s say he takes the job, dives in 100%, and gets a good staff around him. Will kids give a damn about what he did at LSU and Oklahoma State now that he’s at Kansas?
My basic philosophy for KU football these days is that it can’t get any worse. So I’m hopeful whoever is next can build on what David Beaty started, keep improving the talent level, understand how to manage a game, and get the momentum behind the program up from 25 MPH to maybe 40–45 MPH. Nothing too crazy.
My personal KU coach wish list is:
1) Dave Doeren
2) Les Miles
3) Anyone else with D1 head coaching experience who is competent
I’m resigned to being disappointed and writing another version of this three or four Novembers down the road.
Hey, the Colts aren’t terrible! In fact, they actually have a path to the playoffs.
Let’s not get carried away now…
The Colts defense has been a revelation so far this year. But it also tends to break down way too often in the second half. The offensive line has been, gasp, solid. Andrew Luck, after a rough week one, rebounded nicely and is playing really well. If he had more than one NFL-caliber receiver, his stats would be even better. I’ve only watched parts of Colts games here and there, but three different times I’ve seen passes that were comfortably in the hands of Colts receivers somehow slip through, ricochet off of pads, helmets, or chests into the hands of defenders for interceptions.
Rebuilds in any pro sport are tricky things. You’re always balancing who you have with what you need and how those various pieces fit together within a budget. I think it’s safe to say the Colts are ahead of schedule in getting back to prominence. But the bigger concern for me is how they handle the up-coming offseason rather than what they do for the last half of this season. Do well in the next draft and round of free agency and the back third of Luck’s career suddenly has the promise the first third had.
As a long-time Chiefs hater, it pains me to admit that the Chiefs are freaking awesome. So I am hoping at some point their traditional luck comes through and torpedoes this season.
I will say, though, that after the Royals winning the World Series, and seeing how the city reacted, there is a part of me that admits it would be cool if the Chiefs somehow defied nearly 50 years of bad luck and made it to the Super Bowl. Not that I’d be pulling for them. But I am finally comfortable saying that would be a nice thing to happen to my hometown.