All week long, Crystal Ball Run’s staff is handing out their postseason awards, in the aptly titled “Awards Week.”
Today, co-managing editor Aaron Torres is taking a look at his “Dud of the Year,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall.
If you want a peak into a UConn football fan’s view on former head coach, and current Maryland Dream Job contestant Randy Edsall, look no further than the opening two paragraphs from a recent column by the Hartford Courant’s Jeff Jacobs.
In it, Jacobs summed up the Randy Edsall Experience about as well as anyone in Connecticut ever could.
If Jeff Hathaway hadn't haggled over the money, he would have been named Maryland's athletic director in September 2010, and there's no way Hathaway would have hired Randy Edsall as his football coach.
If Edsall, a Pennsylvania guy with a wholesome reputation and no real Penn State connections, would have stayed at UConn another year, he would have been high on the list to replace Joe Paterno. Despite that nonsense about Maryland being Edsall's "dream job" when he bolted UConn last January, no one would more love to go to Unhappy Valley to begin the job of rebuilding Penn State morally, spiritually with one scoop of vanilla offense and two self-serving scoops of self-righteousness.
In a nutshell, that’s all you need to know about Randy Edsall right there. Up until 12 months ago, he was the great paradox of a football coach: A man who took a program from the FCS level to big-time BCS ball and beyond, coached them to multiple conference championships and a BCS bowl berth, and did it without a hint of NCAA scandal. He was revered nationally as a visionary, a program-builder and one of the best coaches in the game.
There was just one program. Locally, everyone hated his guts.
I’ve said many times, but it is worth repeating here. When you follow a major college football team, the relationship between fans and the coach becomes a like dating. After a year or two everything is fresh and new. After four or five, the two of you become “comfortable” with each other. And after 10 years, well, chances are pretty good you can’t walk into the room without getting a vase thrown at you. Getting to know a coach is like getting to know a life partner. You learn their strengths and weakness, how they handle adversity and crisis, and who they really are as people.
And by about this time this year, UConn’s fans and Edsall knew each other about as well as they needed to. Someone needed to call a divorce lawyer.
They got one in the form of Maryland Athletics Director Kevin Anderson last January, and in the blink of an eye, Edsall was gone to College Park for his “dream job.” UConn fans were hurt and disappointed in how he left (for a guy who constantly preached “character,” he showed little on the way out), but in a lot of ways were relieved that the Randy Edsall era was finally over. Forget "in sickness and in health," because for both parties, the healthiest thing was just for everyone to move on and start fresh.
But upon Edsall’s departure from the school, a surprising thing happened: Universally, the college football world defended Edsall, and came at UConn fans (for the sake of transparency, the latter group includes myself). They told us we knew nothing about college football. That coaches like Edsall don’t come around very often. That we’re UConn, and this ain’t basketball. That we need to know our place in the sport’s pecking order. That Edsall was just about as good as it gets for any college football program, and that if we thought somebody better was walking through that door, we were sadly mistaken.
Well, as that crazy old, foul-mouthed man Lee Corso would say, “No so fast my friend.”
Over the last year, the college football world got a peak into what those of us in Connecticut saw for a decade. Most importantly, the nation learned that Randy Edsall is a good coach but not a great one; is a man who preaches morality but rarely practices it; and someone who has plenty of excuses but little self-accountability when his team’s lose.
It ended in a disastrous year one for Randy Edsall at Maryland, with one notable exception. On Tuesday, Edsall was officially named the winner of Crystal Ball Run’s 2011 “Dud of the Year,” Award.
Looking back on Edsall’s first year in College Park, is like opening discussing the Kardashian-Humphries marriage: Words almost can’t describe what a train-wreck it was.
As you all know by now, Edsall finished 2-10 in 2011 at Maryland, a record which incredibly, was actually worse in reality than it looks on paper. Why? Well, let's start with the fact that the team’s two “victories,” were much moral victories, than practical ones. They included a narrow win over a suspension-depleted Miami team (that was basically stuck playing their second team defense against the Terps) and FCS school Towson. That’s it. Two wins. For a program which returned plenty of talent off a nine-win team in 2010.
But really, it wasn’t just that Edsall lost, but how he did it.
If you’ll allow me to pour salt in an open wound, consider this: Of Edsall’s 10 losses, eight came by double-digits, and by an average of over 17 points per game…meaning not only did Edsall’s team get beat, they got beat down. There was a 31-point evisceration by Temple and their coaching “genius” Steve Addazio. There was a 24-point loss to Notre Dame, which wouldn’t be that bad…except that the Irish led 38-7 after three quarters and called off the dogs from there. And of course a loss to Boston College, a team which put up their highest point total (against FBS teams) of a 4-8 season against the Terps. That point total was 28, for an Eagles club that was so anemic on offense that it ranked 112th in scoring this year.
Sadly for Maryland fans, that was hardly the worst part. Nope, we haven’t even mentioned an 18-point blown lead against Clemson on Homecoming, which incredibly, wasn’t even the biggest lead the Terps gave up all season. Nope, that distinction goes to NC State game, when the Wolfpack overcame a 27-point second half deficit, which just so happens to be the largest in ACC football history. And oh by the way, last time I checked, Tom O’Brien wasn’t exactly an offensive savant. The 35 points the Wolfpack scored in the fourth quarter alone was a touchdown more than they averaged per game on the season.
Of course none of it was Saint Randy Edsall’s fault. It never is. It certainly wasn’t at UConn, where he used every excuse in the book after losses. There were the micro complaints like his players not "executing,” and the macro ones about a lack of facilities (which were eventually built), the poor pay of his staff (which regardless of pay, remained largely intact through his time there) and the lack of support from the the fan base (which put an average of over 38,000 fans in a 40,000 seat stadium in Edsall’s last year in Storrs.).
Well, at Maryland, it was much the same.
Here are some of Edsall’s postgame quotes following losses:
After the Temple loss:
“When you come in with the type of program you are going to run, it takes time,” Edsall said. “Most especially if young people aren’t used to being held accountable or they are not used to doing things correctly all the time.”
That quote of course is a bit ironic, since Temple was coached by Addazio, a man who was also in his first year at a new job. In Edsall's defense though, maybe Addazio is just better at holding people accountable than he is.
Here's Edsall's take on a loss to Virginia:
“There were things that we did out there, but there were things we didn’t do,” Edsall said. “That’s kind of been the story of the season. Big plays against us on defense have hurt us all year long, and not being able to make some plays offensively is what has hurt us.”
And finally, similar sentiments after the Notre Dame game. Notice the lack of accountability to himself or anyone on the coaching staff:
"A couple too many opportunities on defense on third down, you know, we couldn't get off, we didn't tackle that well on defense. Notre Dame is an outstanding football team, they had something to do with those missed tackles, and offensively we couldn't get a whole lot going and, same thing, dropped passes; that didn't help with the continuity of what we needed to get done."
Welcome to the Randy Edsall era ladies and gentlemen!
(And by the way, losses would be one thing, if Edsall had support of the players or fans…which he doesn’t. John Feinstein has basically already said that Edsall needs to be fired to save the program, and a mass exodus of players continued Monday, with the announcement that starting left tackle R.J. Dill was leaving the program.)
Anyway, I will wrap up by saying the following: Unlike what Feinstein and others have said, I do not think Randy Edsall should be fired in College Park. Not right now anyway. As a general rule, I think college football coaches should be afforded at least three years (if not four), to get in, get things set up their way, and bring in some of their own guys. In most cases, two years is not enough, and in general I find it impossible to gauge anything after one. Then again, most new coaches don’t win seven less games than their predecessor did in their first year either. So maybe general coaching statutes don’t apply here.
However, there is a silver lining for Edsall. Despite his comically bad failures in year one, despite the fans turning on him and players abandoning him, he did get one distinct honor. Randy Edsall was named Crystal Ball Run’s “Dud of the Year.”
For all his opinions, insights and analysis on college football, be sure to follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.
Follow Crystal Ball Run @CrystalBallRun.
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