Actually, pissed is the word that works better, but I didn't want to put that in the headline. I just read the coordinators interviews over at GBI (they're good guys over there, by the way)...and I heard it again. The dreaded, "I'd do it again" sentiment from Nord. So now, we've heard this ad nauseum from Coach Hope...and it's trickled down to Nord and Landholm and even Elliott this season. I'm pretty sick of it.
Here's my honest assessment of this staff, at this point- They're learning on the job. I know some of them are long in the tooth, but most haven't been in the situation they're in currently. Coordinating, Head Coaching, positional coaching at this level. Even if they have, I think it's the right thing to do, from time-to-time- to admit your mistakes...and they simply don't want to do it.
Confidence is good, but hubris helps no one...and right now, it doesn't look like anyone's being helped. If this coaching staff's system had been in place for a long time, and they, as a group, had had a ton of success with it in the past (a la Rich Rodriguez @ UM or Urban Meyer @ UF) and things just weren't clicking- I'd agree with them. But, I think they're generally discombobulated, as a staff.
Part of that comes with the wrong guys being in the wrong positions...and I think there will, or at least should, be some changes at the end of the season. But, the other part of the poor fundamentals and recurring issues comes from a staff that's kind of feeling its way through a season. I think it makes no sense to perpetually blame players like Jim Colletto did during his time at Purdue ("the guys aren't lining up correctly"). But, when something's wrong, admit it. And let's be honest, gentlemen- something's wrong. You can't improve when you don't see anything that needs to be improved...and the record tells me there's plenty of room for improvement.
Keep in mind, I'm not saying all is lost. I'm just saying there's a lot that's been done incorrectly and a ton of room for growth. Perpetually telling the media all is well, is going to frustrate the fan base...and it's beginning to do so. So hopefully, while the outward face is all smiles and lollipops for this staff, I hope they're wrestling behind closed doors with these issues and trying to find solutions. Because there are problems.
What problems, you ask? Well this team turns over the ball too often. Not just in the NW game, but during the entire season...and these are almost-always in Purdue territory and lead to opposition points with the quickness. While one of our readers called turnovers a nearly-random occurrence, I think it can and will be easily argued that the good teams have less of the "random occurrences" and lousy ones have them more-regularly.
And on the other side of the ball, tackling is still a concern. If Purdue's defense can play another solid game defensively, I'll back off of this point a bit...but one game does not a season make...and isn't it just awesome that when the defense thrives, the offense flounders? What ifs stink.
Pass coverage is pretty horrible too. First off, Purdue almost always never plays bump-man...and when they do, you can feel the imminent disaster. On Saturday after downs-upon-downs of the standard 10-yard cushion, David Pender creeped up and got right on the NW receiver. Kafka saw it and went for a big play. Pender (wisely, mind you) grabbed the receiver to keep him from catching the ball. Soft DB play is something we've seen for years...I'm positive we were all hoping that with an experienced group of starters and a new DC, we'd see that change...we've seen no change. And technique has been pretty lousy. Instead of watching the man they're guarding, the corners have an awful tendency to watch the quarterback and break before the ball's been thrown. We saw this on Saturday a few times...and it usually ends with the safety having to make a game-saver. Along with the DBs, the linebackers have struggled covering the short routes...and in my opinion, most of this is based on coaching.
How about fundamentals on special teams? OK- First off, most-glaringly, guys can't hold onto the ball on returns...obvious one. But something that really bothers me is the fact that the spacing has been so bad, so often. Guys seem to over-pursue and put themselves in positions which they must take bad angles to attempt a tackle...and the result is usually a longer return than it should be. In fact, Carson Wiggs has made way too many tackles this season...the good news is he's a damned-good tackler, it seems...and he's got some mean in him. I always like that.
Oh, and there's more...but I don't want to waste my entire work day.
I'm venting...and like many of my fellow Purdue fans, I'm frustrated. I'm sure the players and coaches are too. But let me close with two requests...not demands, mind you, just requests.
First- be slow to blame players. These kids make plenty of mistakes, no question. I think Elliott deserves a large chunk of blame this season, and Valentin's recurring mistakes are painful...but almost everything can be traced back to poor-preparation or poor-positioning (meaning a guy probably shouldn't be playing in that situation). Blame the pros, not the amateurs...unless a player is divisive to a team, acts like a thug or malcontent or simply gives up, blame the hired guy, not the one placing himself in harm's way for free.
Next- don't jump ship, yet. It's been five games...and I'm clearly angry at the coaches for some prevalent themes I've seen. But, it's so darned early...And there are a lot of factors that are playing into this equation right now.
We're not blind...we see Kevin Sumlin's success...and we know there are other good coaches out there. But, they're not Purdue's head coach...and it's not fair to give up on a guy and a program this early. A ton of coaches have flat-out lousy first seasons at their school. Kirk Ferentz only one a game during his initial season at Iowa...and Alvarez at Wisconsin struggled for a few before the Badgers became the mother of a program that he was given time to build. And while I don't think Hope needs three or four seasons, I do know that there's a lot to look forward to...if some things can go Purdue's way. It's hard right now...but let's try to keep our collective head up.