19 Point Plan – #2: Zook As A Figurehead December 9, 2009
Playing the role of Mack Brown in tonight’s performance will be Ron Zook.
No, we’re not ever going to be Texas. But we can be like Texas. At Texas, Greg Davis runs the offense (much to the chagrin of some over-the-top Longhorn fans who want him fired after the National Championship Game). Mack Brown gives his input here or there, but it’s Greg Davis’ offense. He calls the plays, he runs the practices – the O is his.
After a poor showing on defense a few years ago, Texas went out and hired Will Muschamp to revamp their defense. Mack Brown gives his input here or there, but it’s Will Muschamp’s defense. Scheme, play calls, depth chart – all Muschamp.
What does Mack Brown do? Recruit, speak at banquets, glad-hand alumni, talk to the press, and recruit. And maybe make the call to go for it on 4th and 1. The Texas fans I know say that Mack Brown does very, very little football coaching. He set up a team of assistants, helps them load the roster with talent, oversees the gameplanning meetings, puts on his headset, and watches the show.
That’s what I want from Ron Zook next year.
The first question is this: can he do it? Can a football coach who apparently loves to scheme both sides of the ball really step back and trust it to someone else? Even if it means giving up his beloved defensive scheme? Can he go from 6:00 am meetings with Mike Schultz where he describes what he wants to do with the 2009 offensive scheme to 6:00 meetings with the new offensive coordinator where the seats are reversed? Can he? Will he? Don’t know. But he absolutely has to if he ever wants to be viewed as a viable BCS-conference coach again.
Let’s face it – he’s extremely lucky he’s not getting fired. His “I need it to help recruit” extension last summer + a poor economy making a Booster Buyout less likely = one more year. And he should thank his lucky stars for that. He should also get feverishly introspective, look himself right in the eye in the mirrored walls of his basement workout room, and realize that if he wants to continue in this business, he has to give up the things he’s bad (absolutely sucks?) at and focus on his strengths. Recruit. Glad-hand. And leave the football to the new guys.
Recruiting for this year is mostly shot. CJ Fiedorowicz is gone. Daniel Easterly is hanging by a thread. Corey Cooper might be a Domer 15 seconds after the new Notre Dame coach is named. Of the blue-chip recruits, only Chandler Whitmer remains squarely in our corner (and his early signing and early enrollment in early January can’t come soon enough). The results on the field this fall have destroyed the vision Zook laid out in living rooms across the Midwest for the last 5 years. So he will have to adapt as a recruiter as well. Sell the program. Sell the facilities. Sell the Big 10. And find some sleepers.
If anyone can sell anything, it’s Ron Zook. Hell, we all bought in. And sitting in Pasadena, we thought we had it made. Turns out there’s a reason he was hyping the extended warranty.
So that’s it, mostly. Ron Zook needs to give up control, hire the two best coordinators he can find, let them choose their assistants, let them practice they way they want to practice, let them set the depth chart, and let them run the gameplanning. No more of this joint CEO/CFO/COO crap. He can be Chairman of the Board, and he can speak at all the shareholder meetings, but no more running the product line. He can hire people to do that.
And you know what? A high energy guy like Zook? I think he’s built for a role like that. Play to his strengths: sell the program, cast vision, speak to the press, recruit – he’s made for that. And heck, he can even still play good cop with the players. They can still love him and come to him with their concerns. He just needs to hire two bad cops as his coordinators.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Good cop/bad cop is point #3. For this point, just know this: Giving up the reins is Ron Zook’s only hope. Status quo will likely lead to 4-8/3-9 next year, and he’s gone. If he wants to ever work at this level again, he has to entrust the football to someone else.