Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
Any coach will tell you that the key to having a good team is having good players.
There are bad teams with good players, but there are no good teams that lack good players.
That is why coaches, in all sports and in all leagues, put up with the bad behaviors that we all read about regularly…a bunch of good guys does not mean you have a good team unless those good guys are also talented athletes. But, it is guaranteed that if you have no good players and a lot of bad players, you will have a bad team.
Consider the University of Colorado football team. Last year, playing a very tough schedule, the team went 1-11 and were only within three touchdowns in two of their twelve games, an overtime win and an eight point loss to a bad Arizona State team. The rest of the time, the Buffs were getting thumped:
49-7 against MInnesota;
54-7 against Washington;
63-21 against Utah;
55-17 against USC;
A combined 91-19 against Oregon and Oregon State.
Not surprisingly, the head coach, Karl Dorrell, and the defensive coordinator, Chris Wilson, only lasted five games before being fired. The offensive (appropriate, in this case) coordinator, Mike Sanford, Jr. was “promoted” to head coach, but those changes had little to no effect on what was happening on the field. The problem, according to the man hired to be the next Colorado head football coach, was that their roster was, “…horrible.” It’s hard to argue that.
So, on Dec. 3, the university hired Deion Sanders as their new head football coach, and Sanders wasted no time in rectifying what he saw as the big problem – lack of talent. During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders told his players that they should not hesitate to, “…jump into that (transfer) portal…”. By the time the season started, only 10 scholarship players remained on the team and an astonishing 68 new players were on the Buffaloes’ roster. Sanders used a combination of a new NCAA rule allowing new coaches to cut players from a team as long as they kept their scholarships and, allegedly, pressuring players to quit to get the roster overhaul he believed necessary to win.
After one game, an exciting and wild win against last year’s second best team, it seems that “Coach Prime” was right. There are several really good players on the Colorado football team that weren’t there last year, including Sanders’ son, Shedeur. It remains to be seen if the Colorado win was a result of how good the Buffs are, or how far TCU has sunk, but for sure Colorado is a much better football team than they were last year. And, for the time being at least, many “fans” see coach Deion as a savior.
The traditional way for a new coach to build his program has been to take his lumps for the first couple of years while recruiting better players and eventually turning things around. Cutting players because of a lack of production was, until recently, illegal. It was also seen as…well, low. New coaches accepted, at least publicly, that they had to live with the mistakes of their predecessors. If the job of coaches is to develop the characters of young men, how are they doing that by quitting on them?
If I were you, about this time I would be thinking, “yeah, right”. College football is a big time sport, and big time means winning is money. Losing coaches get fired, winning coaches get canonized. When losing coaches speak, they are making excuses, when winning coaches speak, people listen. People can talk all they want about “developing character” or “building men”, but if you don’t win, you’d better be developing an alternative career.
Coaches traditionally are hesitant to criticize each other. In this case, Urban Meyer has said that if what Sanders did with his roster works, (and by “works”, he means wins) then it will change how all new coaches approach their inherited rosters. Lee Corso was terse when he answered that, “Coach Sanders can do whatever he wants with his roster”. Pittsburgh’s head football coach Pat Narduzzi told 247 Sports what I think most coaches think about the new rule and Deion Sanders, “That’s not the way it’s meant to be. That’s not what the rule intended to be. It was not to overhaul your roster. We’ll see how it works out but, that, to me, looks bad on college football coaches across the country. The reflection is on one guy right now but when you look at it overall-those kids that have moms and dads and brothers and sisters and goals in life-I don’t know how many of those 70 that left really wanted to leave or if they were kicked in the butt to get out.”
Is college football different from what it was originally intended to be? Is there a standard more important than winning? “Coach Prime” has made it clear he thinks winning is everything.
I have always been a day late and a dollar short when it comes to jumping on bandwagons…ahhh, I mean sensing social change. I wore straight pants while everyone else had bell bottoms, short shorts when hipsters wore baggies, and had short hair when everyone else had long. But by the time I grew my hair, everyone else had cut theirs. I believed Nixon and did not like Eugene McCarthy. I joined the Air Force when my friends were moving to Canada. I cost my “wingman” friend and I dearly when I spoke out against abortion in a pickup bar.
So, it looks like a new movement is forming, and I’m not going to miss out on this one. I have to change how I view big time sports or risk becoming a “FINO” – Fan In Name Only. Don’t tell me about a player’s personal life or goals, I’m concerned with wins and losses only. Like the Romans, I now watch gladiators club the heck out of each other with life shortening consequences, and complain that the new players are “soft” because of tougher rules or “SOBs” if they have different political views than I. I expect to see coffee mugs and t-shirts with “Coach Prime’s” image on them, maybe he’ll even get his own TV show.
One bandwagon I won’t jump on, although I wish I could, is the Lions. I’ve seen them disappoint too often for that, but I do hope the bandwagon drives slowly so I, in my advanced years, can catch up to it and hop on later. GO LIONS, but be careful with your money.
Here are my Week #1 picks against the spread. (I’m glad they don’t have a “Week #0 in the NFL) Odds are from SportsLine.com on Monday, Sept. 4.
Cleveland Browns (+2 ½) vs. Cincinnati Bengals Home dog vs. a team with a QB coming off an injury.
Washington Commanders (-7) vs. Arizona Cardinals If you know James Connor, you know all the Arizona’s got
Pittsburgh Steelers (+2 ½) vs. SF 49ers This should be a good one, but I like a good home team getting points against a team that has to travel 4 time zones east.
Seattle Seahawks (-5) vs. LA Rams Will Cooper Kupp play? I think a more important question is if the Rams can stop the Seahawks from scoring 100 points.
Las Vegas Raiders (+3 ½) at Denver Broncos. I thought I saw this one at 4 ½ William Hill, but I’ll still go with this one. Denver stunk last year, and what has changed? Sean Payton. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they still have Russell Wilson, and if I see him pump fake or start to throw and then stop one more time… The reason the spread is favorable is Denver has a good defense and the Raiders don’t. But the Raiders can score against anybody.
NY Jets (+2 ½) vs. Buffalo Bills For now, I am drinking green Kool-Aid. Last year, the Jets were loaded on both sides of the ball except at the most important position on the field. Although Aaron Rodgers last year did not look to me like the QB he was other years he is still MILES ahead of anybody who took snaps for Gang Green last year. The Bills are good, but without Von Miller and that did affect them last year. It’s like the old days, when the best game of the week was regularly on Monday night.
Notre Dame (-7 1/2) at North Carolina St.: Brennan Armstrong still looks like he did last season at Virginia, and not like he did the year before. Sam Hartman looks like a four-year starter, which he is, even though he’s in his first year at Notre Dame. Rule number one in sports betting is never take a team that can’t score against a team that can.
Virginia Tech (-2 1/2) over Purdue: One of my ideas coming into the season was that Virginia Tech was likely to be much improved this season and this was the spot where I was looking to test that theory. Then Purdue went and lost to Fresno St. last week, which turned this from a probable pick-em line to laying a short price. But Blacksburg, Va. is one of the toughest road venues in the country for visitors, and teams that are struggling defensively rarely find the answers on the road.
UNLV and Michigan over 57: Even though I only went 2-3 last week, I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a game that played closer to my expectations than Michigan and East Carolina did last week. I figured East Carolina was tough enough in the trenches that Michigan wouldn’t run wild and that while Michigan would win a pretty lopsided game, East Carolina’s toughness would keep the spread from getting up to 36. But now comes UNLV, which is nowhere near as good defensively as East Carolina, but which is more polished offensively. Michigan is going to score more than they 30 they got last week, and all I’m looking for out of UNLV is a couple of scores.
Oregon (-6) at Texas Tech: Another Week 2 line that I was looking ahead to that isn’t as good as I’d have gotten before Oregon put 81 points on Portland St. and Texas Tech somehow blew a 17-0 lead to a Wyoming team that struggles to score. But Oregon is a team that is going to contend for a playoff spot, and Texas Tech is a team that will be playing in some midlevel bowl named after a lawn mower or a jar of mayonnaise.
Houston and Rice over 52 1/2: Texas-San Antonio piled up 417 yards of offense and completely outplayed Houston on both sides of the ball last week and somehow lost my bet -2 because they turned the ball over three times and failed twice on 4th-and-short in the most unlikely 17-14 game I’ve ever seen. Rice was in shootout after shootout last season, and after getting stifled by Texas last week, they’ll find room to operate offensively here, but they aren’t built to stop anybody.
Ravens and Texans under 43 1/2: There isn’t a true blueprint for how to develop a rookie quarterback, but if i had to put together a list of things to do, it would not include starting that rookie on a terrible team with a first -time head coach and a first-time offensive coordinator. My biggest concern with this number is the terrible Texans defense giving up big plays and C.J. Stroud throwing interceptions that turn into touchdowns. But I can’t see the Texans putting up many points, and I’m hoping John Harbaugh can get the game under control and then watch the clock tick away.
Packers (+1) at Bears: Was it Aaron Rodgers who owned the Bears, or was it the Packers? Considering Rodgers was pretty ordinary for most of last season, I don’t believe Jordan Love is going to be the drop-off most people expect. Until proven otherwise, this is still the same Bears that earned the first pick in the draft.
Raiders (+3 1/2) at Broncos: I’ve read so many “Russell Wilson is done” and “Russ is going to bounce back under Sean Payton” takes that my head is spinning. I listened to a podcast where two guys were arguing about it during a drive to Yerington a couple weeks ago that reminded me that while I love sports, I hate the stupid things sports fans argue about. I don’t know what Russ is going to do, but I do know that all Jimmy Garoppolo does is win, until he gets hurt.