Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gophers AD Maturi Needs to Go, Brew Too




Tim Brewster was hired to be the head football coach of the Golden Gophers on January 16, 2007, just over two weeks after the team decided to fire Glen Mason for what was at the time considered another disappointing season. Mason had worn out his welcome in the Twin Cities. He improved the team from a cellar-dwelling Big Ten team into a second tier one, as the team would consistently win between 7 and 9 games. Unfortunately for Mason, every time the program seemed ready to take that giant step into the 'elite' category, the Gophers would collapse and fall back into the second tier. The best example of this is the Michigan game in 2003, when they blew a 28-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter to eventually lose 38-35. At that point the team was undefeated, 6-0, and seemed poised to finally contend for a conference title. It didn't happen, and Mason's next few years were harshly criticized because the team was going to the 'feel good' bowls, and the program seemed to be headed in the wrong direction.

After firing Mason, Gophers Athletic Director Joel Maturi narrowed the head coaching search down to three candidates: TCU head coach Gary Patterson, then USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and former Texas recruiter turned Denver Broncos TE coach Tim Brewster. Maturi originally made the right decision; he offered TCU's Patterson over $2MM a year, which would have been a sizable raise over what he was currently making. Patterson, likely realizing it was much easier to recruit at a school in Texas, turned down the offer and received a modest raise from TCU. That team is currently 5th in the country, so Patterson made the right decision and has built a national championship contender at TCU.

That left Lane Kiffin and Tim Brewster as the two candidates, and from the get-go Kiffin seemed to be nothing more than a negotiating ploy to get Brewster hired as cheap as possible. There were very few good, positive stories about Kiffin in the local media, and as time has gone on that's not difficult to understand. I don't think Kiffin is nearly as selfish as the media portrays him to be now, but I'm also admittedly biased because Kiffin is a fellow Jefferson Jaguar graduate, even if he is more than a decade older than me.

Brewster, on the other hand, was written about like he was the savior. The most common story that was told during the time was that Tim Brewster single-handedly brought Vince Young to Texas. As the story goes, Young apparently didn't even have Texas on his radar, until he met with Brewster and from that point forward Young fell in love with Texas and the rest is history. I have no idea if that story is true, but with how many times I've heard it, I think there's probably at least some truth behind it. Of course, recruiting a kid to Texas to play football SHOULD BE EASY, so the fact that Brewster got so much credit always was somewhat surprising to me.

Now, three years after the Brewster hire, Gopher football is at an all-time low. This is worse than the 1-11 team in Brewster's first season, mainly because there are no excuses. In Brewster's first year, the team was transitioning from a heavy run based offense to a spread offense, and the struggles were abundant. Brewster's offensive coordinator left after one year, though, and the offense again was switched from a spread attack to a more pro-style scheme. Despite having the same starting QB for the last three seasons, the Gophers have shown almost no progress, and have lost three consecutive non-conference home games. The only team in the country that's worse than the Gophers is Mid Tennessee State, since they lost to our Gophs, but even they have an excuse. Their star QB, who was about 77% of the teams total offense last season, is suspended indefinitely for stealing checks from his roommate to pay off a debt. Had he been eligible to play, there's no doubt in my mind this Gophers team would be 0-4.

Brewster will absolutely be fired after this season, or so I hope. Joel Maturi needs to go with him. Looking at Kiffin and Brewster because they were key recruiters to very good programs seems logical--after all, if these guys can recruit talent, the winning will come. Unfortunately, Maturi underestimated just how easy it is to convince a top recruit to spend three or four years on the campus of USC or Texas, and how difficult it is to even keep the rare in-state talent in Minnesota. (See Floyd, Michael and Henderson, Seantrel) Brewster is a positive guy who tries to spin even the lowest of lows into a positive. That's a great way to live life; but when it results in a Gophers team that will be very lucky to finish this season with two wins, it's quite obvious why everyone is calling for Brewster's job.

Maturi will almost certainly get a pass for the Brewster hire, for two main reasons. One, as mentioned above, Patterson was the top choice and turned it down, so Maturi will get credit for targeting a coach who appears to be in the 'elite' category. He didn't deliver though and for that reason he shouldn't get any credit for targeting Patterson. He also hired Tubby Smith to turn the basketball program around, and that's been a success for the most part. Tubby, in my opinion, is the basketball version of Glen Mason. He'll get the Gophers back to the tournament, as he's done twice now, but the chances of them becoming an elite team even in the big ten probably aren't all that great. After years of terrible Gophers basketball, though, fans are more than willing to accept a 22 or 23 win season with a 7-10 seed in the tournament. That line of thinking also has many Gophers fans missing Glen Mason. Mason did a good job, no doubt, but he wasn't the guy to take this program to the next level either.

The Gophers need to replace Maturi and let a more qualified, talented individual lead the search for a new head football coach. My preference is to target Charlie Weis, see if he'd be interested in coaching college again. I doubt he'd take the job, and his hiring probably wouldn't be immensely popular, but I think he's a very good recruiter who is among the best offensive minds in the game at any level. Considering the Gophers best player next year will almost for sure be QB turned WR turned QB Marqueis Gray, Weis could get the most out of him to help the team approach .500 before he can get his own players in. Weis is a long shot at best, but to me he seems like a better choice than the despicable Mike Leach, and definitely a better option than some up and coming recruiting coordinator. They tried that route, and it failed.

Joel Maturi, it's time to go. Take Brew with you, and that loud noise you hear on the way out is the collective cheers of every Gophers fan in the country.