Lighten Up Francis

[The original title of this was going to be "Shit Tyrone Get It Together" but then Paragon asked me to main-page it, and SBN doesn't like the filth-flarn-filth in headlines...]

I was working against the limitations of AT&T's network, spousal disapproval, and the inherent limitations of the SBNation app last night to keep up with the community commentary on the second half of the Minnesota game, when I came across this gem of a quote from Lane Kiffin's post-game press-conference:

We have 1….we have 2 good players on offense right now

Since I'm still above the jump here, I'll skip my initial reaction, and go to a rhetorical question: is this a joke? Because this has to be about the worst man-management (to use a soccer phrase) that I have seen in some considerable time... especially when being used in reference to a group of players the majority of whom can't legally drink yet.

I've defended Kiffin in a variety of places to fellow alumni who are sceptics, as well as alums of other universities, but this is the kind of "candor" that makes me wonder about the underlying coaching skills.

It's not that I don't see the challenges that Kiffin is up against. He has to contend with serious sanctions, fielding a reduced squad, working for an AD who didn't hire him, having a bad reputation outside the university, being a massive target as every Pac 10 team seeks to address some historical beatdown or other at SC's hands, placating grouchy unconvinced alumni, etc., etc. And he's supposed to deal with all of this while keeping the team clean and occupied. And I can understand that giving in to the cult of "football - serious business" seems like a perfectly sensible approach to staying out of trouble and keeping the program out of further trouble. I get all of that.

But what I don't get is all the persistent negativity, because even allowing for the inherent abuse that's tolerated within football, you can overdo it. How long until someone says "the hell with this" and just walks? At the end of the Carroll era there was definitely too much blowing of smoke up asses, but I think Kiffin is overcompensating and it's going to hold the team back.

Here's a different way of saying what Kiffin said:

That was frustrating to watch. We knew coming in to the game that we had two players who were really top notch, and they didn't disappoint us. We also knew we had a lot of young players, and that they would try hard but they would make mistakes... and they did. But in the first half, there was a lot done that we can build on.

Same facts, but a very different message: these are young players, and we have faith in them, and we know we're going to get better.

The next several seasons with reduced scholarships are going to be difficult for the team, and taking the kind of tone that Kiffin showed yesterday is not going to keep current players motivated, and it's not going to make recruits want to play for him. That's not being a serious coach, that's overcompensating for lack of experience and trying to look serious.

You may be reading this and thinking, "well it's easy to criticize," which is true, and I have years - a lifetime, really - of practice. But I wouldn't have written this if I didn't work every day to demonstrate the kind of management I'm recommending. I don't have anything like the challenges that Kiffin does in professional life, but I keep 25 nervy and experienced developers and assorted techies focused and protected from a customer who could best (and most politely) described as challenging... and I can assure you that no matter how angry I may be at members of my team, I would never in a million years say anything like what Kiffin said yesterday.

Coach Kiffin, you've got a tough road ahead. We all saw yesterday that the team has a lot of work to do. By all means keep these kids practicing hard, be honest with them about their faults, keep discipline intact... but please, don't just tear them apart in public. They don't have to play for SC, but they do. They've got a lot of challenges ahead of them. The alumni want to see you and the team succeed, not wallow in negativity. You plainly have a good group of players, and together you can make the alumni proud. Start by staying honest but positive: you never know who you might win over, and there's no shortage of people who can take care of the negativity for you.

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