Actually, it started right about the time Marc Verica couldn't escape the grasp of Purnell Sturdivant and went flopping down to the Lane Stadium turf. That's right, all-you-stick-in-the-mud "bowl-eligible" teams. The '08 bowl season is so last year. We're getting a jump start on 2009. Bring on TCU. Or whoever we open the season with.
I spent most of the rest of Saturday, and about half of Sunday, all down in the dumps over Saturday's loss, and kind of pissed off at Verica for making my worst fears about him come true. Because let's face it: that was a better shot to beat Tech than we had last year, and probably a better shot than we'll have next year. But somewhere in between transferring my rage to the imbeciles populating I-80** and finally figuring out exactly how I felt about the future of our intrepid coach, I started to think for real about 2009 and what we'll see and won't see.
We won't see a new head coach, despite the calls for one from the fans. Myself, I've always been slow to call for a firing, and that goes back to the Wayne Fontes days with the Lions when I was about three years behind the rest of the fans in that regard. I don't wish Groh fired this year, either. However: 2009 must be Al Groh's last chance.
It seems likely Groh is running out of magic. Last year, he was able to put aside the doubters early and with much authority, reeling off a seven-game win streak after a horrendous loss to a bad Wyoming team. This year he tried, but could only hold off the wolves for a few games. You can also count Craig Littlepage among the doubters, after the announcement that Groh's tenure won't be extended the one year that his contract allows for. Groh now has three years remaining, but the wolves, as they should be, are circling.
The future does not look as bright for Mike Groh, however. Al Groh got extremely testy when asked about that, which to me says that Al already thinks the question is obnoxiously old after reading one of three things:
B) this blog
C) the writing on the wall, in Littlepage's handwriting
Yeah, my guess was C) as well. I hope Mike is demoted to QB coach where he belongs; Littlepage would lose much credibility as AD if he felt like Mike's performance as OC has been acceptable.
So. Demote Mike to a position he does well, and give Al one more year; that is the official position of this blog. Much has been made of the extreme youth on this team; the QB situation has not been ideal; and there is a respectable recruiting class coming in. I am willing to accept these as excuses for this season. But if a competent coordinator is brought in, and the team is still spinning its wheels, it'll be time for a change. Al Groh has never yet had two bowl-less seasons; the first time it happens should be the last. Anything less than 8-4 ought to be grounds for a firing.
Now, what we will see next year is this: another quarterback mess, though with somewhat more talent involved. We were already going to see Verica and Jameel Sewell duking it out; Vic Hall, much to the interest of the many fans who were calling for this, inserted himself into the discussion with authority on Saturday. With Chris Cook likely back, and Chase Minnifield maturing nicely, the need for Hall at cornerback is much lessened. Here's what we're looking at for next year:
- A traditional pocket quarterback with an extremely accurate arm, but prone to brain farts. (Verica.)
- A pure running quarterback who has been away from the position for a while and likely can't be trusted to throw very much, especially early in the season. (Hall.)
- A mix of the two: Hall's athleticism and Verica's inexplicable decision-making, but not the accuracy. (Sewell.)
The problem is that Hall worked out terrifically as a new wrinkle, but VT was able to adjust within a few series. It's fun to do for a game. It's not going to work as an offense unless Hall can throw, and clearly the coaches didn't trust him to do so. Sewell's been out of action for a year and needs an adjustment period. And Verica's going to be remembered primarily for that pick in the end zone for quite a while, not to mention the other 15. So next spring, we'll be right back where we were last spring.
In any case, buckle up: it's now the offseason, or, if you will, preseason 2009, which means questions without any answers and rampant speculation on everything and everyone. And hopefully we'll be in contention for something other than the Fulmer Cup.
**Kindly flush your car keys down the toilet and, for the rest of your life, travel in nothing but taxicabs, buses, and airplanes, if you are one of the fuckers who:
- Is scared to pass a truck in the rain because of all the backsplash, but is perfectly happy speed-matching it.
- Slams on the brakes upon sighting a sign warning of bad weather ahead. These signs do not delineate the border between good and bad weather. It is OK to continue driving.
- Decided it would be a good idea to send out the highway-clogging salt trucks in the middle of the day during one of the top five travel days of the year.
- Races up to the very end of the merging lane, possibly even on the shoulder, when traffic is stopped almost completely, and expects to be let into the lane in front of me. Fuck off.
- Cuts off the traffic in the left lane, then decides not to pass the car in front after all.
Next year, all you people just stay home for Thanksgiving, OK?