Lately, Anchor of Gold commenters (save DoreOnThePlains, who I really want to be my boss, as I would have unlimited job security always) have their pitchforks sharpened, have made up their minds that it’s time for a change, and, as has been the case every time the possibility of a coaching change comes up in discussion for nigh on a decade now, their desires have manifested in the form of the Pullman Pirate himself—Mike Leach.
What then follows is the predictable discussion of “He Would Never Come to Vanderbilt” vs. “Vanderbilt Would Be A Better Situation For Him Than Lubbock/Pullman/Whatever Moon-Base Outpost He Lands at Next.”
This will not be that discussion.
No. It’s time to put us all on the couch and psychoanalyze the Mike Leach drive.
Time to do a deep dive into certain comments, add in unnecessarily long subheading titles, put on my tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, and take out the damned bubble pipe.
First: Why We Know Deep in our Souls that Mason and/or His Strategies and Coaching Philosophies Cannot Succeed Beyond What They Already Have Here
Funny how much that Temple game actually foretold. Mason found (and lost) his calling as a PAC 10 DC. I’ll remember him as a head coach faking it until he made it but never really making it (5 years on). As they say around these parts – this dog won’t hunt
It’s important to start at the beginning. Mason’s tenure began with The Hettening (tm), and one could argue that bludgeoning at home, in the rain, at the hands of the perpetual bottom-feeding Temple Owls, following the Brigadoon era of the most successful stretch of Vanderbilt football since Dan McGugin coached our great-grand-pappies, was a traumatic event none of us has fully recovered from.
Need I bring up the Het-O-Meter (tm), which is equally relevant in 2019 as it was in 2014?
Beyond that, it’s important to trust one’s first impressions. If Mason seemed completely bewildered in his first year on the job (a multimillion dollar job, by the way), why would anyone assume he could ever get to the point where he would be able to out-strategize other teams—especially teams filled with size/speed freaks paying their dues before moving onto the NFL? (*Note: We do all agree that the particulars attached to the Vanderbilt football job means we will have to out-think, out-wit, and out-strategize our opponents on a pretty regular basis to even be competitive, right?)
This isn’t LSU, where you can hire a semi-literate Bayou Cabbage Patch Voodoo Doll off the scrap heap of coaching irrelevancy (DACOACHO), surround him with top 5 recruiting classes (even if no one tries all that hard at ‘crootin, or even ventures beyond South Louisiana), spend the entire state’s budget on assistant coaches (which allow him to fully delegate all responsibilities and only focus on saying confusing things in a semi-scary tone for the sake of motivation), and spend literally every last penny the university has on frills like a bazillion dollar locker room remodel (when the locker room was already pretty much state of the art, serves no purpose other than to help in ‘crootin and turn their players into petulant assholes who complain about the visiting locker room facilities everywhere they go, all the while your library turns into a ghost town mold factory).
Long story short, as Dennis Green would have said, “Mason is what we thought he is.” A very nice man with a great work ethic and impeccable morals... who just isn’t up for the ridiculous challenge that is trying to outwit, out-strategize, and scheme away our size/speed disadvantages against the semi-pro teams of the SEC.
Is that fair to Mason? Probably not. Is it true, though? Yes.
Okay, But Why Mike Leach?
I say bring out the dump truck and go after Mike Leech.
Sure his teams have terrible defense. But honestly that wouldn’t be much of a difference compared to now. You are just about guaranteed he would field what could actually be called an offense though and develop QBs.
Scroll up a few lines and re-read the part about the ridiculous challenge that is putting a competitive product on the field in the SEC at the conference’s lone academic powerhouse. So few can do that. The modern list of Vanderbilt coaches able to do that is one name, and that Old Bald Poach done went to the State Penn.
That’s why people call for Mike Leach types... we know it will take a mad scientist who will zag when they zig whilst also anticipating to have to do that time and again once they get your zags on film.
That’s no easy job, mind you, but damn would it be fun for a person who only feels happy when he’s proven himself right against all odds.
There’s the rub: Mike Leach is a crazy person. Perhaps the good kind of crazy, but certainly the, “You say I can’t do it? I’ll show you” kind of crazy. And isn’t that precisely the kind of crazy necessary to charge headfirst into the wall of pain that would be trying to win in the SEC at a non-football factory?
Time to Culture Up This Garbage Rant For Reasons That Surely Will Become Self-Evident Soon Enough
In the seminal film Down Periscope, Admiral Winslow (played by the late great Rip Torn), has the following conversation about asymmetrical warfare strategies with Kelsey Grammar’s Tom Dodge:
LCDR Tom Dodge: With all due respect, sir, one American nuclear attack sub could defeat several diesels.
Winslow: In a conventional battle, certainly, that’s true. But one if you had one renegade diesel captain, decided to hit us- bam- suddenly, without cause or warning, like a terrorist intent on getting a nuclear warhead into one of our harbors. You think we could catch and kill a bogey like that in time?
Dodge: Absolutely, sir.
Winslow: Well, the Department of Defense and most of the Admiralty, they would agree with you. But me, personally? I’d like to know for sure. And that’s why you’re gonna clean the Stingray up and take her out, off the Atlantic coast, for a series of war games. One rebel diesel, against the U.S. nuclear Navy. Come on. [Shows Dodge a map] First, you’re going to attempt to invade Charleston harbor. And if you’re good enough to evade further pursuit, you’ll attempt to sink shipping right here at the naval base in Norfolk. Simulated, of course. What do you think, Mr. Dodge?
Dodge: I think I’m gonna get my ass kicked, sir.
Winslow: Aw, don’t gimme that! Damn it to hell, don’t go by the book! Think like a pirate! I want a man with a tattoo on his dick! Have I got the right man?
This despite the objections of more cautious, conventional types, like Rear Admiral Yancy Graham (played by Bruce Dern):
Graham: There is physical evidence that, as an ensign, he did become so physically intoxicated that he not only allowed himself to be tattooed, but tattooed on his genitalia. Now, call me a prude if you want, but I don’t think it’s good policy for the Navy to hand over a billion-dollar piece of equipment to a man who has “Welcome Aboard” tattooed on his penis!
As such, whether it is the actual Mike Leach, a sentient ball of energy like a pre-Penn State James Franklin, Lou Brown of the film Major League, or any other coach motivated purely by that perfect combination of spite and madness, I, for one, say: “Welcome Aboard.”