There are times when judging the quality of a football season that it’s perfectly fine to say what’s on your mind.
Then there are times where it’s best to sit back, watch, and see if what you think you are seeing is a trend or a mirage.
I’ve kind of reached that second stage after yesterday’s loss by Virginia Tech to North Carolina.
Doesn’t mean I don’t love Brent Pry, doesn’t mean I’ve given up on what I still believe is going to be a turnaround in the program, doesn’t mean anything other then there’s a time to speak and a time to be quiet.
Now’s the time to be quiet.
If you’ve read my ramblings over time, you know I equate coaching with sales. In both professions you need to keep people fired up, have to make tough decisions on who you keep and who gets let go, and despite everything you do, you know it’s a produce or perish situation. You’ll be given years to turn around bad situations, but you consistently need to show signs that there are new ideas that can produce a turnaround, or you won’t get those years.
That’s where I’m at with Virginia Tech football on this rainy Sunday morning. The initial months of a new coach’s regime have been filled with all the right moves off the field and all the right words behind the podium. Hope has sprung eternal to the point “it’s going to take 4 or 5 years to get this turned around” has become a mantra for most fans.
That’s huge if you’re the new guy because managing expectations is a crucial task in the first year.
But using the business analogy, I can tell you from experience that you have to keep that hope going with something different. You need to add a new product you weren’t offering before. Make a change in the organization that customers think “I like that.” Show that while big customers who weren’t buying your product previously may not be buying it now, they are at least coming to your showroom and taking a closer look.
Show them progress.
That’s why I think yesterday's loss is unsettling to a few Hokie fans this morning. The offense has appeared to look the same as the last week, as there didn't seem to be any new formations, use of players, anything that showed imagination. At one point the offense ran a jet sweep, followed by a quarterback keeper, followed by a short pass (that was dropped) that wasn’t going to get a first down.
Seems like we saw that a lot…last year.
On a key third and long play, they even ran a running play right up the middle that didn’t have a chance of succeeding. Old Hokie fans couldn’t help but think of Bill Dooley and “hey diddle diddle, let’s run up the middle.”
It’s like the DeLorean had gone back to the future and returned not with a sports almanac, but a copy of Dooley’s conservative run-first playbook.
Then there’s the defense. I certainly understand the lack of talent affecting the result, but I’ve watched football all my life, and have seen where 0-11 teams play state champions, and they still figure out a way to come up with schemes to make it uncomfortable for the state champion to do what they want to. They still lose 59-0, but receivers end up double-covered and winning the battle by a step instead of 2 or 3 yards.
Yesterday there were times UNC receivers were as alone as I was walking the aisles of the grocery store at 7 AM on a rainy Sunday morning.
None of this affects my commitment to the Hokies. I’m old, I’ve got far too many maroon and orange sweatshirts, jackets and hats to ever think for a second of not pulling for Pry and his team, and next Saturday I’ll do what old guys like me do every day: I’ll grumble about the past, put on a Hokie sweatshirt, tell my wife next year I’m not going to be as emotionally involved with this team, then either go to Lane Stadium or turn on the game and scream and yell for them like nothing ever happened.
But it’s not me the Hokies ever have to worry about. It’s the young kids who the team is recruiting so they can be part of the 4 or 5 year plan to get Virginia Tech back to college football relevance.
They too, need to see some sign of change.
I believe it’s coming. But for now, I’m just going to sit back and keep my thoughts to myself.
You know, that’s about 15 paragraphs, more or less, of being quiet.
But, as usual, you’re on point.
...for a guy advocating being quiet, you sure managed to spit out 784 words. Would hate to see how many words that would be if NOT being quiet
So they are learning to work with each other and learn his scheme. He is also dealing with the recruits that Fuente left him, not much to be said there! As you stated, we as a fan base, have to have patience!
Good article. There is much to like about Pry and what he brings to our culture. The head scratcher for me from the start was the O Coordinator pick. I expressed my fear from the minute I saw his pick. Bowen came to us 5 years out of school with 2 years as a TE coach at Penn State & 2 years as a TE coach at Jacksonville. For Pry as a defensive coach this seemed an odd pick. I was cautiously optimistic as the season approached but no matter how much you like Pry this is looking like a mistake. Regardless of who is playing or talent the play calling has just been bad. 95% of our runs have been the delay hand off up the middle. 4% have been QB Run. Last game there were numerous, had to be half dozen or more, 3rd downs where we ran a play that ended up 2 yards short. High school football coaches know on 3rd and 6 or 8 to run routes that if the receiver catches the ball it’s a first down. I understand having a check down but we had designed routes that consistently put us 2 yards short on 3rd downs. I hope that in a few years I am looking back and saying “that Pry was a genius and I was wrong” for hiring an unproven O Coordinator that turned out to be a great one. But early indication is that Bowen is in over his head.