December 15, 2012

Candor (a coaching change post)


The quality of being open and honest in expression; frankness.
candour - frankness - sincerity - candidness - openness

This is mostly a coaching change post.  But only mostly.  Okay, here we go...

Upon further and deeper reflection, I think Mike London really screwed the pooch in the Virginia Tech game.  He's screwed the pooch in a lot of his decisions as our head coach, actually.  The never-ending QB carousel.  Going for it on 4th down when he should be kicking/punting.  Icing the kicker.  Et cetera.  The fact that he blew the Tech game this season has given me a level of irritation that I have yet to recover from.  He hasn't shown us much - at all - in the way of coaching chops when it comes to gameday.  That's a concern.

We're also confused, coach.

Another concern is the fact that we waited a week after the season before firing two coaches (Jim Reid and Jeff Hanson) whose units WERE NOT the reason for the 4-8 record.

That said, I'm okay with the dismissals.  Here's why:  Reid had two total seasons of coaching experience at the D-1A / FBS level prior to his stint as Virginia's DC -- he was the defensive coordinator at Boston College in 1994 and was the defensive line coach at Syracuse in 2004.  Hanson spent two seasons in some sort of undefined role at Marshall in 1980 and 1981.  And that's it.  These guys are older, but they were still just cutting their teeth at this level.

An experienced newbie.

Here's another reason I'm okay with the dismissals, as illustrated by some national rankings...
  • 98th (out of 124) in sacks with 17.
  • 117th in INTs with just 4. 
  • 69th in points allowed with 29.8 ppg. 
  • 76th in opponent red zone scoring % with 83.33%. 
  • 112th in takeaways per game with just 1.1.
The opponent yards per game (32nd, 361.3 ypg) and 3rd down % (13th, 31.71%) were very good, but this defense only ever did enough to maybe keep us in games. It didn't help out the struggling offense with game-changing plays.  I want more blitzing, more takeaways, more game-changing plays.  Reid ran a solid system, but it was very vanilla.  I want some spice!


The UVA fans who are all boo-hooey about these dismissals don't know what's good for the program moving forward.  Mike London is facing a do-or-die 2013 season, and it would have taken too long to install a new offense under a new offensive coordinator.  The status quo delivered an abysmal 4-8 season, so something had to change.  Goodbye Jim Reid.  You're a great dude, but something had to change.


Jon Tenuta seems to be the current leader in the clubhouse for the DC hire.  Some UVA fans are not enthused about that, but I am.  Tenuta is a UVA guy who runs a hyper-aggressive, blitz heavy 4-3 defense.  Pressure is a philosophy when it comes to Tenuta, and he will build a defense that features the blitz.  I like that for a few reasons:

1) It's more fun to watch.  Period.  Point blank.  It's just a more entertaining brand of football, and that has to count for something... especially for a program that just saw a 3% drop in attendance and is suffering through all-time lows in fan interest.  We need some excitement on the field.

2) Attacking defenses can be better with less talent.  Playing it close to the vest only works when you can seriously out-talent the opponent.  We cannot, nor will we likely ever be able to.  So with a blitz-heavy D, we can sort of "hide" some talent deficiencies in certain places.  As long as we have guys who can generate pressure, we'll be okay.

3) Al Groh's and Jim Reid's bend-don't-break schemes were good enough to hold us in games, but never won games on their own.  With a pressure system, we'll have the roof blown off our D more often, but we'll also generate more turnovers and set up the offense with better field position.  An effective attacking defense can raise the level of the entire team.  (See also: the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.)

I want an attacking defense.  Jon Tenuta would deliver that.


If Tenuta's the pick, what in the hell is the hold up?  I know he's trying to be helpful by sticking around at NC State to coach them through the bowl game... but I don't give a shit about NC State or their bowl game.  Honestly, that's an annoying, flimsy reason not to get him in here and coaching this team.  We need him out on the recruiting trail, mending the relationships damaged by Reid's dismissal.  The fact that Tenuta is not already here leads me to believe that his name might be a mere smokescreen, kinda like Tubby Smith's name was when we hired Tony Bennett.


So if Tenuta is a smoke screen, who are the real candidates?  I have zero insider knowledge, but these are my guesses:
-- Frank Spaziani, just fired as Boston College's head coach
-- Tyrone Nix, Middle Tennessee
-- Dave Aranda, Utah State
-- Chuck Heater, Temple

But as Mike mentioned in his Murderball post, the big fish is Randy Shannon.  Great DC (defenses ranked 6th, 7th, 2nd, 28th, 4th, and 7th nationally while at the U), good relationship with London, failed as Miami's head coach, but would open major doors for Virginia to recruit Florida... and is sitting there as TCU's linebackers coach, ready to be whisked away to a better position.  I have a hunch he's the guy we're busy pursuing right now.

So maybe Tenuta isn't a smokescreen as much as he's a safety net.  I guess time will tell...


Meanwhile, news broke last night that we hired a new special teams coordinator, UTEP's Jeff Banks.  By all accounts, he was London and the administration's top choice for the post.  So I'm happy.  Mostly, I'm happy that we're bringing in a specialist, not just tacking the ST duties onto an existing position coach's duties.  For the first time I can remember, UVA has specifically brought in a guy to run the special teams unit.  This alone should turn our biggest weakness into a strength, and in short order.


One last thing, and I'm switching gears to REALIGNMAGEDDON.  If you know me at all or have read this blog for any amount of time, you know I'm a huge conference realignment geek.  Well, about a week ago I stumbled upon an article that I found to be a major game-changer in terms of the way I think about realignment.  Please read this excellent piece:

If you buy that (and I definitely do), then you can look at the ACC as it stands now and see that weathering the current storm and remaining intact is the way to go.

At the end of the day, the quality of a product is the only characteristic that will lead to consistent and stable sales.

The ACC has a quality product, especially when you factor in basketball, baseball, and the Olympic sports.  We made a great addition in Louisville.  Let's hang tough, see our football powerhouse programs get back to being powerhouses, watch the TV bubble burst, and then usher in another 60+ years of ACC stability.  This is where UVA belongs, and the ACC will survive.


  1. I read that article and it was very telling. Everyone is freaking about TV money. But TV is already dying. Really interesting stuff.

  2. This has been one of my favorite pieces this year. Thanks for sharing Kendall. I'm really interested to see where this thing goes, and I hope it starts with several high profile university presidents either getting publicly blamed for making inappropriate decisions or having their decisions backfire. More than anything, I always want my degree from UVA to mean what it always has - a high quality education.