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This isn’t what a rebuild looks like

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On Derek Mason’s postgame comments following last night’s loss.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

But I just think collectively there’s a lot of talent here. And Vanderbilt’s always going to go in waves. It just is. There’s going to be cycles of bowl teams and opportunities. It’s not going to be an every-year opportunity, unless, unless these guys get it young and we hit it hot.

I mean, there’s going to be waves and cycles in this deal, and I’m just in a wave right now. I’m just in a wave and cycle where we’re not where we want to be, but we just got to continue to keep pushing.

No Statistical today, not because of any time constraints, but because I don’t think there’s really anything of interest in the box score. Vanderbilt got badly outplayed in every phase of the game by a Kentucky team that had a wide receiver at quarterback, and I don’t think we’re really going to learn anything new from looking at just how bad things were. At this point, it’s just going to be publishing the box score and then posting the “This is fine” dog.

Instead, Derek Mason’s postgame comments to the media. Wow. Here’s the full press conference, which Vanderbilt’s athletic department has actually posted to the internet:

The money quote is the one at the top of this post. I actually sort of get what he’s trying to say here. Unless you’re Alabama, things aren’t going to click every year. You have seasons that you build to where you hit your ceiling, and in between you have seasons where you try to figure out how the pieces fit together. This, in and of itself, isn’t controversial, though it’s not something coaches often say out loud, because the response is usually... well, something like Mason has gotten from the Vanderbilt fan base since it came out of his mouth.

The problem isn’t inherently that you go through a “cycle,” it’s that when the crest of the wave is 6-6 with a loss to NC State in the Weedwacker Bowl, or Baylor in the Texas Bowl — well, you don’t get to go 3-9 while you’re rebuilding for the next Weedwacker Bowl appearance.

The other problem is that a “rebuild” does not look anything like the 2019 season.

What’s the difference between a rebuilding team and a garden-variety bad team? In a rebuild, the pieces may not all be in place, or guys may not be fully developed, and the team isn’t very good as a result — but at least you can start to see where things are going. A rebuild, frankly, looks like the team in Knoxville this season. That team had a dud of a performance in its season opener, but things have kind of come together for them since then. They seem to have found their quarterback going forward, and at the very least they appear to know where they’re going from here.

Vanderbilt, on the other hand, is just a garden-variety bad team. Vanderbilt still has no idea who its quarterback is going to be in 2020, because the best of the three healthy options this season isn’t very good, and anyway he’s out of eligibility after this year. The offensive line and the defense are young, to be sure, but neither appeared to be any better against Kentucky yesterday than it did against Purdue in Week 2. If anything, they actually appear to be getting worse as the season goes on.

What we’re seeing right now isn’t anything that can be built on. This is a team that needs wholesale changes to be competitive next season, not one that is very close to being competitive. And to be blunt, it’s pretty insulting to be told by the head man what fans of the other thirteen SEC schools tell us every day: that we should be fine with the occasional Independence Bowl appearance and accept the 2-10 and 3-9 seasons that come in between. Deep down, we know this is probably what it’s going to be like (because really, it’s been like this for a long time), but nobody wants to hear that said out loud by the people who are supposed to be taking us beyond that.

Why even bother with a team like that?