Monday, November 30, 2009

Gophers Clinch Insight Bowl Bid...By Doing Absolutely Nothing

While it won't become official until Sunday night, the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team secured their third trip in four years to Tempe, Arizona for the Bowl. How did they do it, you ask? Why by doing exactly what you and I did all weekend- sit on the couch, eat way too much food, and watch every team outside of the top six who had any chance of going to a BCS bowl knock themselves out of the race.

There's a reason the old and tired cliche that you should "throw the records out" in a rivalry game is still around: it's because it's true. Six ranked teams lost to unranked rivals last week (and two of the top three teams in the country, Alabama and Texas, got major scares in theirs) as Georiga beat #7 Georgia Tech, West Virginia knocked off #8 Pittsburgh (see? This is why I was skeptical of Dave Wannsted. Because Dave Wannsted will always be Dave Wannsted. He will never win at Pittsburgh- or anywhere else), South Carolina beat #15 Clemson (and killed any Heisman hopes Tigers tailback CJ Spiller had left), Mississippi State took the Egg Bowl from once-again overrated #20 Ole Miss, NC State shocked #23 North Carolina, and in the game that clinched the Insight Bowl for the Gophers, Oklahoma shut out #11 Oklahoma State.

The Okies embarrassing defeat knocked them out of the top 14 in the BCS standings, meaning the Big Ten is now guaranteed (I believe they were already guaranteed a second team regardless of what happened with Oklahoma State, but this cements it) a second BCS bowl team- Iowa or Penn State- which will play in either the Orange or Fiesta Bowl. Rumors persist that if the Fiesta has a choice they would take Iowa, and if the Orange has a choice, they'll take Penn State. Either way, one of those two being assured of going to a BCS game bumps everybody else behind them in the Big Ten up a bowl spot, which means the Gophers will avoid going where they deserve to go, to the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit. Of course, the matchup in Tempe with another Big 12 team should also assure the Gophs of a third straight a**-whooping in that game, and possibly the second time in three trips there that it would cost Minnesota's head coach his job.

Honestly, I hated the idea of going to Detroit for a bowl game, and I assume Brewster did too, but now you have to wonder if Detwah wouldn't have been a better place for this team. No really. Not that the Gophers should expect to beat anybody with the way they've played this month, but would you rather face a MAC team (BamaHawkeye makes a good point in his weekly bowl projections that I linked to earlier that the Little Caesar's bowl actually doesn't get first choice of MAC teams this year), or a Big 12 squad (Texas A&M? Missouri? Iowa State?) with a high-scoring offense that is likely to light up our squad like Texas Tech and Kansas have done before? If Brew's Crew gets blown out and embarrassed for the fourth straight game (personally, I count the SDSU "win" as embarrassing as any loss we had this season. Seriously) by Texas A&M or whomever from the Big 12, it very well could mean the end for him, whereas it's much more plausible the Gophs could have beaten, or at least looked respectible against a MAC team.

I have maintained all season that Brewster deserved a fourth season here regardless of what happened in November, but seeing how this month played out, if/when the Gophers get thrashed down in Tempe, I would not oppose, and would in fact support, AD Joel Maturi if he decides to make a coaching change. Brewster has done little this year to make me believe things are going to get any better next season, especially when you consider the schedule will be just as tough (including a home game against USC) AND the team loses nine starters on defense and three more on offense, including by far his best player in Eric Decker. Short of winning their bowl game and/or landing Seantrel Henderson, I'm finding less and less reason to bring Brewster back for 2010.


Anonymous said...

I understand how you feel as I've gone through some of the same feelings myself. But firing Brew after the bowl game is about the worst thing that could happen. If you're going to fire him the time to do it is now. Doing it now gives you the time to run a proper coaching search without the pressure of signing day approaching. Basically, it gives the U the chance to avoid the scenario they put themselves after firing Mason.

Also, how stupid will Maturi (and by extension, the U) look if they fire a coach based on a bowl game outcome again? If Brew is doing a bad enough job to be fired then it shouldn't take a bowl game loss to push us over the edge. I'm willing to excuse what has always seemed like a rash decision on Mason because lets face it, the loss to Texas Tech was the icing on the cake for all the ridiculous Mason choke job losses we suffered.

Not to mention the problems it will likely cause us when hiring a new coach. A school that has gone without true FB success since the 60's can't get away with firing a coach after 3 seasons when he's made a bowl game (albiet the same extremely mediocre bowl) in the last 2 seasons. Even Notre Dame and Florida got ridiculed for giving Willingham and Zooker the hooks that fast.

None of this changes the fact that we're a team floating inbetween crapiness and decent play (seriously, the last 3 games defined mediocre). But for better or worse, Brew will (and IMO should) get one more year. I'm not super enthused about it. But I am more sure that keeping him around is the right decision as I see better outcomes from firing him next season (should it come to that) than doing so after a bowl game this year.

Jeff said...

I'm not saying you're wrong, and I'm not saying I'm 100% in favor of giving Brewster the boot if/when we get blown out again in the Insight Bowl...I'm just saying I would not disagree with Maturi if he did can him. And yes, I just went all double-negative on the bit.

Jeff said...

I also have a question for you about your last sentence:

But I am more sure that keeping him around is the right decision as I see better outcomes from firing him next season (should it come to that) than doing so after a bowl game this year.

What are the better outcomes of waiting for another six or seven win season (have you seen the schedule?) or worse than firing him now? I'm not being trying to pick a fight, I'm just asking- why wait a year? What hope have you seen from this year that one more season for Brew is going to be much better?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure its something that I can muster a ton of evidence for (thus my overall state of ambivalence towards the decision). But here is my best attempt at it.

1) My gut feeling is that canning Brew right now won't help us hire the best coach available to us. Especially since its 100% clear that a firing wouldn't happen until post bowl game (if Maturi was doing it earlier he would and should have done it by now). Its entirely opinion since I have no way to prove/disprove the scenario. But I don't see how we attract a top candidate if we show so little patience with our current coach. Either than or the terms of the contract end up less favorable to the U. There is a reason Stuart Mandel threatened to change it to Ole Miss/Minnesota syndrome when he was asked whether the U should fire Brew. Programs with our history do not get away with firing their coaches 3 years in when that coach is going to back to back bowls. Could we? Sure! I just don't have a good feeling about that path though.
2) There is still part of me that can see the upside/possibilities of this team. The offense IS capable of playing well (see MSU). But to do that we need consistent line and QB play as well as a gameplan/playcalling that doesn't suck. I'm not sure we'll get over the hurdles we face with Brew as a coach. But I know we are capable of doing it under Brew and his staff. And given my feelings about #1 I have a hard time supporting the move to fire Brew given the fact that I think we are capable of being much better.

I mean, lets face it...we play just a little better in both the Illinois/Wisky games and we're 8-4 (5-3) and people are calling the year a success. I know for me, part of the reason I'm so down about our chances is that November sucked so bad. And I don't think we should let a poor finish drive us to another poorly timed firing.

In the end, its a gut feeling. I won't be pissed if Maturi cans Brew (so long as the new hire seems worth the effort). If we stick with Brew and he only gets us to 6 or 7 wins then yes, he's got to go. But my gut also says that unless this season's recruiting class goes Kip Smith on us that any new coach (assuming he's a good one) who comes in following Brew will find the cupboard pretty well stocked. I'd hate to sit through another mediocre year. But I'll survive it if I think it will allow the U to make a better hire next season than this season.

I'm pretty sure that this was a long rambling response that clearly shows my ambivalence. So yea, its all a gut feeling. And lord knows my BA in psychology means we should all grant my gut feelings a high level of respect in matters of football. =)

Jeff said...

Anonymous, as someone who also has a useless BA in Psychology (well mine is useless. Hopefully you've gotten more out of yours than I have out of mine), I would never judge your qualifications to talk football, as my credentials are pretty lacking.

I've also heard the points you raised from Jer and another buddy who's a passionate Gopher football fan, and I do see your point. I am not calling for Brewster to be fired, and I do think he'll use the logic you and others have brought up to bring him back for one more year and hope things get better. If Brewster is back, he's back and I sure hope he and Fisch and Tim Davis get the offense figured out. But if Maturi pulls the plug after another awful bowl showing, rash or not, I won't be complaining about it.

Anonymous said...

I work in Healthcare IT as an analyst/project manager. So yea, my background in research methods is collecting a little dust right now. =)

I'm with you in the end. Don't want him fired yet. Won't cry if he is (even if I think its not a good idea). Hooray for ambivalence!

Jeremy said...

Would you two just get a room already?!?!?!