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Vanderbilt Football Mail Bag #6

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You ask, we answer.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Question from Barndore 1950:

Okay, so we know this past week was the best the team has looked all year. I realize this is primarily a rhetorical question that none of us really have an answer to, but why the heck did it take 7 weeks to get to this point? What are the chances it can be sustained and we can grab at least two or three more victories?

...and...

Question from VUfan43:

Does anyone really know what is going on with this football team? We lose to Ole Miss and…..unlv. Then we beat #22 Missouri on homecoming looking like a really good and fun to watch team. Why do we go from one extreme to the other? Can we stay good and entertaining for the rest of the year? It’s these sharp shifts in WHY I am drinking during a game that has me confused.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I think that the easy answer is that the team we saw against Missouri was more or less what we thought we would see this season. After all, back in August, I predicted a win over Missouri. Where that team was for the first six games, I have no idea.

Shawn: I want to say that we are cheering for 18-22 year olds in the conference with the smallest margin for error. But the play on the field didn’t show small mistakes, it should a systemic failure. I think Mo brought a spark, but it will be easy for defenses to adjust as he puts out more tape. The defense should sustain its play, however. So good, hopefully on one side of the ball. Entertaining? Probably not.

Andrew VU ‘04: I have no idea, but it does not reflect well on the coaching staff. I’ll leave it at that.

Doreontheplains: The cheap answer is energy and belief. I think a lot of the team was so frustrated with Gdowski and the QB situation they were not at their best. Mo lit a fire. I hope it keeps burning.


Question from ghostofzeppos:

Was Mason’s post-Mizzou interview a jubilant outburst demonstrating passion for his players and the game? Or an inappropriately dismissive dig at people who criticized him and an overreaction to getting his 2nd win in 7 games?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I don’t have an issue with people calling for Mason’s job, and I also don’t have an issue with Mason clapping back at them. Frankly, given that fans calling for the head coach’s job happens so often in college football, I’m surprised that this doesn’t happen more often.

In general, though, I am a proponent of looking at the entire body of work when evaluating a coach. Mason shouldn’t lose his job solely because of the UNLV game and he shouldn’t keep his job solely because of the Missouri game. Of course, the overall body of work currently says that he should not keep his job. Does that change if the team goes 4-1 down the stretch and makes it to a bowl game? Well, talk to me if that actually happens.

Shawn: I like emotional coaches, as long as those emotions are used to fuel the players and not extremes. I don’t think Mason was extreme. I do think it revealed his frustration with criticism, but also his blind spot that those criticisms of his process are fair. To me the emotion is a good thing, but what it revealed is worrisome- and consistent with the “body of work,” as Tom says.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’m always down with emotion, especially from a team and coach that looked like they had given up against UNLV and Ole Miss. I tend to think those who had a problem with his emotional yelling are more projecting their opinion of him as a coach overall. In other words, if you already want someone gone, anything they do annoys you. Of course, I am in favor of moving on and finding another coach, but am always in favor of passionate responses.

Doreontheplains: The players love it (or at least a bunch have said they do on social media), so I love it. The media loves it, too, which can only be a positive, not that their opinion carries much weight with me. Andrew is right about the projection, also.


Question from RocketCityVandy:

Recommendations for DIY projects for pitchfork racks? That way we can keep them close to hand in the house without having to actually be wielding them for the time being.

Answers from AoG:

Shawn: I don’t know about racks, but I’d like to see a Mad Max Fury Road caravan of pitchfork wielding vehicles.

Andrew VU ‘04: I’ll defer to my good friend, Wayne Campbell:

A gun rack? I don’t even own a gun. Let alone many guns that could necessitate an entire rack.

*Little known fact: The “gun rack” scene was autobiographical for Myers, as he once had a girlfriend who broke up with him because he was too focused on his comedy. Days later, she changed her mind and gave him a gun rack to try to save their relationship. I imagine that moment went a little like this:

Of course, I do own a pitchfork, but have no need for more than one, you psycho hose-beast.

Doreontheplains: Build a Gatling gun-style pitch fork firing machine.


Question from WestEndMayhem:

Where were you when you learned that the Vanderbilt Football Preseason QB Selection Committee consisted of a sack of potatoes, a preppy soccer-mom who does not know the rules of football, the nerd who thinks Vandy should drop all sports, and one very incompetent OC?

Also, who should the QB be going forward?

...and...

Question from tiniorII:

Why wasn’t Mo Hasan already the starter? And how bad/unready is Allan Walters if he still hasn’t seen the field this season?

Answers from AoG:

Shawn: I tend to side with coaches. You spend a lifetime learning ball, developing a process, and hopefully adapting to changing trends. It’s easy to become myopic to your process and blind to mistakes. They assess the conference, what does and does not work, the type of ball needed to be played and personnel available. Makes sense why you’d want your QB1 to have arm talent and experience.

But man, it’s a bad sign that the program was unwilling to, as my girl Kelly Clarkson says, “take a chance, make a change, and breakaway,” when it was clear Neal and Wallace couldn’t move the offense.

Andrew VU ‘04: The answer is the Hassan Chop. I can see how they might evaluate him as a less than perfect option, as he is much more of a running QB than a guy filled with an excess of arm talent. Still, Riley Neal and Deuce “In the Urinal” Wallace are not exactly demonstrably better than Big Mo in the arm department—and certainly not better in the ability to read defenses department. I think they had nothing but poor options, honestly, and that speaks more to their inability to recruit/evaluate/develop more than it speaks to their inability to see The Hassan Chop as a diamond in the rough. I mean, he had one kind of okay game in which he ran well, threw slightly less than cromulently, and had a hit put out on him by Mizzourah. I don’t think defenses are going to have an impossible time making things difficult for Big Mo once they take a look at the game tape. Hate to be the “glass is half empty, and also that is urine” guy, but that’s what I see.

I’m with tiniorII w/r/t The Allan Walters Project. He has to be the undead corpse of Stephen Rivers level chest-passes bad to have not seen the field this year, right?

Doreontheplains: This team has weapons on the outside. I am not sure how well Hasan can use them. It took too long to realize Neal cannot do that, and/or Gdowski could not figure out how Neal was suited to use them. I still think Deuce was not given enough of a long chance, but you damn sure stick with Mo now. I would rather Wallace be the backup since he is more like Hasan.

As for Walters, I am not ready to give up on a RS FR yet. Mason has said he really stepped up recently and figured some things out. What those were, I have no idea.


Question(s) from RancorIsGold:

1. Is the coaching staff’s apparent inability to evaluate talent limited to the quarterback position or are there other less obvious examples we should be aware of?

2. How do you explain the defense’s sudden ability to tackle against Misery after such poor performances earlier this season?

3.Despite the high degree of frustration during the Mason years culminating in the UNLV debacle, CDM currently has the 5th best winning percentage of the last 15 VU coaches (dating back to the Korean War). Will any of us teenage girls see a consistently cromulent football program in our lifetime?

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: 1. See the previous question for my answer to your first question w/r/t QBs. More concerning for me is that we haven’t been able to get any true defensive stars like we have had in the past (Heyward, Cunningham, Butler, etc). I mean, that was supposed to be Mason’s secret sauce, right?

2. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

3. Don’t act like the Brigadoon era didn’t exist. We had three years of consistent cromulence.

Doreontheplains: 1. No idea. Even re-watching games, I don't notice guys who are being underplayed, but I am not a real coach either.

2. I think it was more about more guys getting to the ball than better individual tackling, which I also think has been overstated as a problem.

3. This goes back to defining cromulence. Two proximate 3-year stretches with multiple bowls is a high-water mark for Vanderbilt since at least 1960.


Question from Mathlete:

Watching Mo on Saturday, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Patton Robinette. From what I remember, it was his injury in the Temple #Wethet game that started the QB carousel. He was also the only running threat QB on the roster, and dealt with injuries all year. So, if you’re Derek Mason, the only two times he’s had running QBs he hasn’t been able to rely on them actually being on the field. Do you think this changes how he handles the QB run/pass distribution for the rest of the year, especially since we don’t exactly have any running threats as backups?

Answers from AoG:

Shawn: Yes, I think this is a very real reason why coaches make decisions. It’s not, “Don’t put the best guy out there because he might get hurt.” It’s “this offense is totally different because of skill set, and if he goes down, we are screwed since the plays we have installed are so different than the ones our backups can execute.”

Andrew VU ‘04: I think the Hassan Chop will start (depending on the concussion protocol, of course), but I also think defenses will be able to adjust to what he brings to the table pretty easily. I don’t think the QB Carousel is done revolving.

Doreontheplains: Shawn and Andrew nailed it. Although I would add that I think Wallace and Neal can run a similar offense to what we saw against Missouri. Both are pretty mobile. Neal seems tentative about it though, and Deuce, well, I've said it enough about his chances.


*And now... two bonus questions sent to us last week after I finalized questions for Mail Bag #5...

Question from Cooper O.:

If it’s not too late, I have a question for the football mailbag:

Why doesn’t Vanderbilt use a similar approach to find a new football coach as they did to find Tim Corbin? Corbs has to work with the same conference and same rules, but he’s turned Vanderbilt into a perennial national title contender.

Corbin is everything that Mason is as a person (hard-working, values-focused, etc.), but also far better at his job.

Also, one more (if it isn’t too late): what about hiring Clark Lea as Derek Mason’s successor? He is a young and successful Vanderbilt alum running the defense of a blue-chip program.

Answers from AoG:

Shawn: There is a reason that elite coaches are few and far between. They are hard to find, and even harder to place in a position of success. I do think baseball lends itself to embracing newer strategies that are independently data driven (ironically because baseball is a game that is stodgy in its unwillingness to change). Whereas football has more moving parts dependent on every coach and player to be in lockstep. FWIW, I think Mason is a very good coach. I’m not sure he is good at running a program, and those two things are different animals.

Andrew VU ‘04: I think the Goldfather very much did try to find another Corbs when he hired Mason—for the exact reasons you pointed out. However, we reaaaaaaaaly got lucky in our Corbs hire, and even more lucky that he didn’t take that LSU job a little over a decade ago. Corbs has all those leadership qualities, plus he’s a smart baseball man. Mason has those qualities, but... well... let’s just say his aptitude for feetball strategic thinking is a few standard deviations below Corbs’ baseball IQ. There aren’t too many Corbins out there. The key is, like Wichita State Basketball did with that bespectacled goober Gregg Marshall, once you’ve got one, as Buster Bluth once said:

You just grab that brownish area by its points, and you don’t let go no matter what your mom says.

Doreontheplains: Mason's biggest issue, in my estimation, is his decision making when it comes to hiring staff, especially coordinators. That's not a skill you can evaluate unless hiring a current or former head coach. We often cannot do that. In baseball, you have a head coach and still only 2 paid assistants. It is, to Shawn's point, easier to control the entire program from a coaching aspect that way.

As for Lea, his resume is essentially the same as Mason's was but with a little more P5 flair on the assistant coaching history.


Question from Andrew S.:

Sometimes I think the only way Vandy can ever compete is to be even dirtier than other programs. I’m not advocating hiring a coach with dubious morals, of course, but if VU was going to bring in an available scumbag, who would be your #1 choice?

Answers from AoG:

Doreontheplains: I agree completely with Shawn.

Shawn: Please read Andrew’s answer for mine. It. Is. Perfect.

Andrew VU ‘04: Obviously I want no part of a scumbag feetball hire for Vanderbilt (and neither do you, as was obvious in the way you worded the question), but gun to my head, it’s got to be Urban Meyer. You know the Jorts team that had Aaron Hernandez on it? HE WAS NOT THE ONLY CONVICTED MURDERER ON THE TEAM THAT YEAR. Look it up. Beyond that, there is the saga of the wife-beating coach, and the list of scummy stuff goes on and on and on with the Urbane Hot Dog Mobile.

...and yet... An Ohio State University let that scumbag TEACH A CLASS ON LEADERSHIP?!?!?!

...and yet... ESPN GIVES HIM ALL A CUSHY TV JERB?!?!?!

Clearly this scumbag has figured out how to be an unrepentant scumbag and completely get away with it time and again. He’s my choice, as I despise him.