Wednesday, July 14, 2010

3 coins in a fountain, and 2 cents on the coaching hot seat

There's been plenty of talk about Brewster being on the hot seat...

The Daily Gopher here.
Fringe Bowl Team here.

And both of those blogs point to national publications that have placed Coach Brewster in the Top 10 of coaches in college football whose derrière might be feeling the flames heading into the 2010 season.

We've even mentioned it a few times around these parts, but I'd like to mention it again.  Oh goody!  Goody for you!  Right?

(For the record, I do not plan to give my opinion on whether or not Coach Brewster should/should not be on the hot seat, because I think there are arguments to both sides and I'm on the fence about which is more valid... at least for now... that might change by the time I finish writing this.)

Let's look at 2 questions, and a speculation:
Why does Coach Brewster NOT deserve to be on the hot seat?
Why DOES Coach Brewster deserve to be on the hot seat?
And, despite what the national media and bloggers have to say, does Joel Maturi have Brewster on a hot seat?

Why does Coach Brewster NOT deserve to be on the hot seat?

FBT says:
"If you go back 42 years, every Gopher head coach has gottenthe benefit of the doubt for at least 5 seasons, including Salem and Wacker."

Certainly true.  The history of Gopher coaches would suggest that Coach Brewster be given through the 2011 season to prove himself, get all of his players on the field, and solidify his coaching staff.

Another reason people believe Brewster should be given 2 more seasons is that he has done a good job of increasing the talent of recruits that are coming through the doors of the practice facility.  I don't think anyone would argue with this.  In his 3 full years of recruiting classes, Brewster has ranked 3rd, 6th, and 6th in the Big Ten, while the previous regime was consistently 9th or 10th.

Additionally, Coach Brewster has worked hard to instill an expectation of winning at the U of M.  This actually could end up being his own undoing if he ends up not being able to live up to the expectations of Rose Bowls and Big Ten Championships that he is aspiring to, but at least he's talking about those things.

Tim Brewster really believes that Minnesota can have a competitive program.  He really believe that Minnesota is historically a good program that can get back to that point.  He really believes he can win here.  That's a lot more than we can say for the previous regime.

Why DOES Coach Brewster deserve to be on the hot seat?

Gopher Nation, over at The Daily Gopher says this:
"In just three seasons Brewster has not beat one rival.  In three seasons Brewster has not beat one team that he wasn't supposed to beat.  In three seasons Brewster's teams have not improved as the season went along."
The only argument that he might get, and it wouldn't be coming from me, is that the 2008 win at Illinois was a game that one might say the Gophers weren't supposed to win, but that argument loses all water when you consider that Illinois pretty much fell off the face of the football earth after that game.

Another argument that I've heard is that Brewster's seat should get hotter sooner because he inherited a better team than did his predecessors.  Let's look only at records.

Here are the past 6 Gopher coaches, and the combined 3-previous-years record of the teams they inherited:

Cal Stoll : 11-18-2
Joe Salem:  18-16
John Gutekunst, including the Holtz years:  12-22
Jim Wacker: 14-19
Glen Mason: 10-21
Tim Brewster: 20-17

Now, I realize that 3 years is an arbitrary number, but we have to start somewhere.  With these numbers in mind, Tim Brewster is the only Gopher coach to inherit a team with a winning record since Joe Salem came on board in 1979.

If the success of the new coach in a program is measured by his ability to take the team from its current level to a higher level, then it seems clear to me that Brewster started with the bar set at a higher level, albeit still a mediocre level in the grand scheme of things, than his 5 predecessors.

Despite what the national media and bloggers have to say, does Joel Maturi have Brewster on a hot seat?

Considering that Maturi gave Brewster a contract extension, many would say that he doesn't have Brew on the hot seat.  But I don't think that move necessarily communicates confidence in his coach as much as it communicates a desire to show recruits some stability in the program.

My fear with Maturi isn't really whether or not he has Coach Brewster on the hot seat, but what criteria he is going to use to make that decision.  And even more concerning than that, is if he even has an idea of what that criteria should be.

The reason I have this fear is because of how Maturi fired Mason.  Now look, I'm not saying Mason shouldn't have been fired, because I was leading the parade, the bandwagon and the charge when it came to that move.  But what I think is concerning about how Maturi fired Mason is that I have my doubts that Joel had any idea what would or would not constitute firing his coach until he was suddenly faced with an embarrassing collapse of a loss in a mediocre-at-best bowl game.  I don't have any insight into this, it's just how I feel in hindsight considering some of the other moves Maturi has made and things he has said.

When he was suddenly faced with that situation, he was up against the clock of the coaching staff's contracts being automatically renewed.  That bowl game collapse was the only thing that really separated that year's Gopher squad from Mason's previous 7.  They finished right around the .500 mark, they made a bowl game, they ran the ball well, and they were defensively susceptible to teams who threw the ball more than 50% of the time... all the hallmarks of Glen Mason football.

So do I think that Coach Brewster is on Joel Maturi's hot seat?  I don't.  And the reason that I don't is because I have my doubts that Joel Maturi has a standard in mind for what SHOULD put a coach on the hot seat at all.  I don't think that he's comparing Brewster to other coaches from the U or outside of the program. Again, I have no direct knowledge of this, just a feeling.

While Brewster has done several very good things at the University of Minnesota, he has been given the keys to the castle to do so (upgraded facilities, increased resources in recruiting), and the good things he has done have not translated into wins on the field.  Any measure of a coach HAS to put wins/losses at the top of the criteria, and by that criteria, Coach Brewster has maintained the status quo at best.

So the question for Joel Maturi actually goes back to the firing of Glen Mason.  Maintaining the status quo wasn't good enough to keep Glen Mason around, so why is maintaining the status quo good enough to keep Tim Brewster around?  And furthermore, why is maintaining the status quo good enough for Brewster when he's been given better facilities and tools with which to recruit and run his team?  The answer from Joel Maturi, I would hope, would be, it isn't good enough.

So if it isn't good enough, how long does Brewster get to outperform the status quo?


Anonymous said...

i think this is a make or break year for brewster. he needs to show something that we haven't seen since he's been here. and thats CONTEND with the elite big 10 schools and who knows, maybe even defeat a Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, or Wisconsin. anything that qualifies as underachieving and i think hes out

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Anonymous said...

I think it's fair to point out the level of non-conference competition has picked-up the last few years. We're not getting four creme-puff wins every year to boost Brew's stats. By all accounts it was Brewster who wanted the tougher schedule but it does make a difference. With the effort we put forth against a top-25 Cal team last year we easily would have beaten any non-con opponent from the Mason years. That makes a difference.