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Our Offense through the Lens of an Educator

In which, during my off period, I reflect on the sense of hopelessness I felt while watching our players attempt to execute Karl Dorrell's offense, and come to a conclusion (admittedly, a hasty generalization) none of you want to hear about our coaching staff. Avoid this article if doom and gloom are not your various breads and various butters.

In an interview with the late singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt, the eternally dour troubadour was asked why all of his songs were sad. In a moment of pure clarity, Van Zandt replied, "Well, many of my songs, they aren't sad. They're hopeless."

In the first quarter of our Sisyphean attempt to move the ball against Temple's vaunted defense, as The General took sack after sack, and when still upright, held the ball so long as to miss the quickly closing throwing windows, I was angry. I'm sure a lot of you were, too. Angry at The General's indecisiveness.  Angry at the offensive line's ineptitude. Angry that Ralph Webb, our lone bright spot on offense, wasn't getting more carries.

For those who read these articles, and especially for those who read my in-game comments, you know where I stood on all of this. I wanted McCrary. I wrote thousands of words explaining why I wanted McCrary, so I'll not repeat them here.

While watching Robinette and Rivers struggle to stay upright and execute the offense, there was at least a small part of me that felt vindicated. Not happy, mind you, but vindicated.

Then the giant vaudeville cane came for Rivers, and I pepped up. I was getting what I wanted. The future, it seemed, was now. On his first pass, McCrary was hit, and threw a pick. I'm not making excuses when I bring up the fact that he got hit. He looked bad. He looked lost. However, he did get hit, and I was determined to cling to that.

And then the other shoe dropped. Let me tell you a few things you need to know about me. I'm a high school English teacher who used to teach (mostly composition classes) at LSU. As such, I have a particular ethos for my students, in that when I tell them that the main thing that causes students to struggle in college is their inability to articulate their thoughts in a clear manner, they believe me. Having said that, I witness exponential growth from one year to the next so often, it's become the rule rather than the exception. When the sophomores listen to me (or the other fine teachers in my English department) they can write on a college level by their junior year. At 15-16, they're children. At 16-17, they're ready for the world. Well, the world that wants them to write papers.

On his 2nd pick, McCrary had the look of a freshman being handed his high school schedule in an auditorium filled with faces he didn't recognize. He had the look of a kid who transferred to the school I teach at (where, like Lake Wobegone before it, all the kids are above average) between his sophomore and junior years, and was never asked to articulate a thought deeper than surface level regurgitation. In short, he's got a lot to learn, and will have to play catch-up.

If any of that sounds like hope for the future, it is (though not for the immediate future). Here's where I'll remove that hope.

There are also teachers where it's common that their students exit the year with the same abilities with which they entered. Why does this happen? Is it because the teachers don't know their material? Often no.  Rather, it's because these oft ineffectual teachers are stolid in their approach, and unwilling to adapt to what's in front of them.  In short, there's no panacea for teaching. You have to be both willing and able to adapt your methods on both a macro and micro level with each class, and some times, with each student.

The pro-style, WCO is a fine offense, and it, or elements of it, have proven oft successful through three decades. However, it requires precision, and the type of quarterback who can make quick decisions perfectly, and throw a precisely accurate ball on quick drops through small windows. It needs a Joe Montana. A Tom Brady. An A.J. McCarron, even, would fit. It doesn't need the strongest arm in the world, but it needs precision.

Look at our quarterbacks, ye mighty, and despair.

Patton Robinette is a great leader, an impressive runner, and whip-smart. What he's not, and this really can't be debated, is precise in his throws. Square peg, meet round hole.

Johnny McCrary has a big arm, and can spread out a defense, as they have to honor the deep ball.  What he can't do is operate in the close confines of the WCO, which all but eliminates the deep ball schematically.  Different square peg, meet same round hole.

Stephen Rivers is tall.

There's a line from Anders Thomas Jensen's "Sweeney Todd-esque" film, The Green Butchers, in which a priest says, "You can't turn a tortoise into a race horse.  But you can make him a fast tortoise."  A good coach/teacher/strategic thinker looks at his students not as lumps of clay ready to be molded into one's perfect conception.  Rather, they look objectively at what they have in front of them and work to accentuate the innate positive attributes of their students' respective abilities, and correct the mistakes that keep them from being the fastest tortoise they can be.  Michelangelo claimed he studied each piece of marble, divining what's inside before making the first cut, and so must we.

Karl Dorrell, from what I've seen, insists on making what he wants to make, no matter what chunk of marble is placed in front of him.

And here's where the hopelessness resides.  If Dorrell stays past this year, I fear he'll carve a West Coast McCrary Pygmalion, and ruin him.

Here's where the hopelessness resides, as well: Coach Mason hired Karl Dorrell to have autonomy over the offense.  Good coaches recognize their weaknesses and delegate, but they've got to identify the right people upon which to cede power.  Do you have confidence in his ability to do this?  Admittedly, this was but one game.  It was a gut punch of a game, though.  The kind that killed Houdini.

I'll leave you with this: