Owing to an occasional aversion to showing my ass in print, I’ll leave the Xs and Os to Nobis and Scipio. Nevertheless, I do have an observation or two about the Crabcake Clusterfuck for your reading displeasure before we put this behind us and hopefully go on to work up a Number Six on San Jose State.
We must remember this: Herman inherited some really good athletes ... who haven’t ever won a goddamn thing in college. In practice, you learn what to do in order to position yourself to win. But doing it when the balloon goes up is a different matter altogether.
I did a rewatch with Nobis last night whilst in podcast prep, and what we saw was a bunch of guys playing awfully tentatively. I think it’s akin to the kind of halting fear we all felt before trying to sneak a hand up your date’s shirt for the first time in your life, romantically ensconced in the back seat of your dad’s Crown Vic with a 4-pack of rodeo cool Bartles & Jaymes and Duran Duran. You knew what you wanted to do; you understood the anatomical logistics; but you’re still as nervous as a furtive televangelist who thinks he’s been followed to the Bunny Ranch.
In a change of pace from his usual interludes that annihilate our faith in humanity, Tom Rinaldi interviewed
Torquemada Nick Saban for Gameday. Tearjerking Tom pointed out that Saban’s record at Alabama was eleventy thousand and 19, and then asked him which number he focused on the most. Ever the embodiment of Prussian general staff efficiency and comportment, Saban quickly said it was the 19 losses, not because of the sting of losing, but “because you never want to waste a failure.”
That’s the big ticket challenge for Herman, his staff, and the players this week.
Based on what he said today at his presser, Herman gets this, as any coach worth his salt should. The money shot of his diagnosis: “The fastest way to failure is to play in fear of failure — if you’re going to lose, you’d better learn from it.” While it sounds like something that ought to go on one of those abysmal motivational posters beneath a soaring eagle on the walls of cubicle farms, it also happens to be right.
Given the circumstances, Herman and staff must bear the weight of the blame anvil for this. All $5MM bucks stop with him. It was rather disconcerting that they seemed surprised at what they saw (watch the postgame presser). A mere two weeks after telling the media that he had a two-deep that could compete with anybody in the country, we were treated to over three hours of a pack of poodles trying to gang bang a football.
Herman today: “We saw things Saturday that we haven’t seen since spring ball.” That evidences a lack of appreciation for what these players have been through for the last three years.
“There was too much thinking,” Herman said. “By the time you figure it out, you’re a step too late. They have to trust how they’ve been coached, cut loose and know that you can play without hesitation.”
Yeah, there’s the whole “trust how they’ve been coached” part. This was cringe worthy, since the game plan on both sides of the ball was nothing if not arrogant. To be sure, the players are most assuredly not blame free here (it’s their job to execute), but further discussion about that fucks up the theme of this column. Can’t have that.
Apparently, the staff thought they could shove an overripe banana into a straw without making a mess. The insistence on the preferred 11 personnel was derived from Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Therein, the king decided he was sick of rain, sun and snow, and commanded his wizards to cancel weather in favor of something more unique and appealing . This resulted in torrents of adhesive green slime known as oobleck that paralyzed his kingdom and royally fucked up his castle. Unfortunately, no heed was paid to the depth chart at TE, which is packed with enough oobleck to hermetically seal North America.
But I digress.
So the entire program has things to learn this week. The staff’s necessary work on both strategy and tactics should begin by getting hammered on the elixir of self-awareness. They also must foster improvement of what is still a collective bruised psyche. Herman said that the players responded well mentally and emotionally to adversity during the game, but it was a matter of “translating that to physical action.” We’ll see.
I constantly preach against knee-jerking and snap judgments, and I’m disgusted by the cliff jumpers on the Texas interweb boards. But Saturday’s disaster can’t be swept under the rug -- lessons must be learned. It’s tough to think this in the wake of a big letdown to start the Herman era, but I believe there can be substantial benefit drawn from getting kicked in the teeth by the likes of Maryland right off the bat — if the aftermath is handled correctly. Adjusted expectations are probably warranted, but I choose to take this week-by-week. I still think we’ve got the right guy, and it will be fascinating to see how the program responds over the course of the season. We all hope that this team looks a lot different a month or so from now, which is right about the time it goes to Dallas.