After the loss to USC that was more disappointing than most wanted, even though a close loss would have still been a loss, the popular topics of should Coach Riley be replaced and can Oregon St. recruit to Corvallis made their way to the surface of discussion boards and the local sports talk Joe radio show once again.
While it was as frustrating as ever that there were coaching and administrative shortcomings that put unnecessary distance between the Beavers and their best effort, regardless of whether that best effort would have got an win or not, its worth backing away from the cliff a bit; its 1 game that was generally predicted to be a loss anyway, thanks largely to a half dozen inexperienced starters on offense.
Wins over Colorado and Utah will have Mike Parker predicting wins over Stanford and Oregon as quickly as Coach Riley's clock mis-management and getting passing trigger happy prompted the prognosis of a 3-0 start turning into a 3-9 season.
But its college football in 2014, and over-reaction is what fans do, now more than ever.
Above the noise, the premises of the overreactions are as invalid as are the over-reactions. Lets look at some of them.
Premise 1 - Coach Riley is a great coach (Parker's personal favorite). Reality is while he is the winningest football coach in Oregon St. history, a group not exactly crowded with greats, especially ones who didn't bail out when the circumstances allowed (Prothro, Erickson), Riley is not a career winning coach in conference contests.
Premise 2 - Nothing ever changes; its the same old story. Reality is the defense, with the help of a couple of new assistants, and probably also partly because there are 8 seniors starting, has been making some adjustments, even with the same old defensive coordinator. Reality is there is a new offensive coordinator in town too. Reality was there was no howling when the adjustments made against San Diego St. worked.
Unfortunately, reality also is some mistakes are lingering and being repeated, and reality is also that there's been an almost religious resistance to adopt a change in strategy that's based on prevailing circumstances, rather than making endless efforts to adjust a scheme that's still fighting an uphill battle when at its best (upright zone blocking in an era of speed and mobility). These realities are the ones most likely to cause a "Robinson moment", when investors finally say "fix this or we won't invest any more more money."
Premise 3 - Calling for a change because Washington St. made one means you want Mike Leach in Corvallis. Reality is learning from what has worked right in Pullman doesn't mean taking on everything that has happened there. Reality is also that even if Riley is retained to the end of his contract, which currently extends well into the 2020s, it doesn't mean pre-planning a game plan, and putting it in the hands of someone whose' marching order is to stick to it, can't be accomplished. Or that scenario-based game planning, even unwanted scenarios, can't be accomplished. It's common sense, and its what people are paying big bucks to have done.
Premise 4 - Oregon St. can't recruit 4 & 5 star prospects to Corvallis. Reality is it is possible to recruit to Stillwater, Iowa City, Tucson, Morgantown, and Blacksburg, and so to it can happen in Corvallis.
Its a matter of defining a strategy and implementing tactics to accomplish the strategy. Reality is many 4 & 5 star athletes aren't interested in Corvallis, but not all aren't, or wouldn't be, if the right package is presented. That reality means abandoning pre-conceived notions of exclusiveness and changing to a results based focus instead of an ideal-based focus. Not that that wouldn't be a good idea on the Corvallis campus anyway.
Reality check already in place is that this isn't an issue for Pat Casey, who has proven that a program that can win games and put players into the pros will prove attractive to prospects, who, not surprisingly, want to win games and go on to the pros. (There's that results based focus thing in play!)
Premise 4a - Oregon St. can't compete with their sister institution to the south. Reality is Eugene was comparable or at times even more challenged, until they decided to do something about it. Reality is Oregon St. won't compete until more people (quite a few more, in fact) decide to do something about it, but that doesn't mean it can't be done (reference Eugene, Stillwater, etc. again).
Reality is also that lots of people, investors, prospects, and others, are waiting to see evidence that their deciding to do something about it won't be derailed by others' errors. Cleaning up the small-timer mistakes would be a good way to start. (Paging Bob DeCarolis!)
Perhaps we can get beyond zealous extremism in either direction and recognize that Oregon St. does indeed have a good program, but also one that can be a better one if orange colored blinders are removed.