No one is a bigger honk for Pete Carroll than I am. But some of his recent comments really bother me in regards to the game management in both the Stanford and Oregon losses. Let me be clear, I am not one of these bandwagon-jumping fans who just showed up as the party was well underway. I have been disappointed with this team for many years before this run and while I may not have followed them as closely as I do now but I saw enough to beg for Tolner, Smith and Hackett to be fired. No one could have seen the success that Pete Carroll would bring to this program when he was hired. It was dumb luck for us and we have had the benefit of celebrating his achievements while also enjoying all of the accolades of that success.
People continue to mock Pete Carroll's record in the NFL and say that is only a matter of time before the same type of thing happens here. That's fine, there are entitled to their opinion. They turn out to be right but until it does happen that sort of talk is mindless drivel of the backers of a program that resembles the gang that cant shoot straight. SC fans have been spoiled at this incredible run and the fall that we have taken hurts more because of where we have been and the expectations that a lot of people put on us. Face it we are not the darlings of the college football landscape like we once were.
I am as frustrated as the next guy about our fall from the top but not because that IT happened but more because of HOW it happened. It is easy now to say you could see it coming because the signs were there, but now that we are here I am little bit stunned about how it appears the team is addressing it. I said yesterday that I was not pleased at Pete Carroll's comments about that 4th and 1 being a freebie. When you can't punch it in on 4th and 1 against Stanford what makes you think that the same situation against a vastly better defense is a freebie?
Scott Wolf in his piece today in the Daily News brings up another interesting quote about the state of the team.
And you start making excuses.
Carroll said again USC had been restricted offensively as it weaned quarterback Mark Sanchez the past three games.
"It does affect your play calling," Carroll said.
He did not mention USC lost to a Stanford team that had a quarterback making his first career start. Ironically, Carroll brought up the Stanford game when he said Sunday he wished he played Sanchez against Stanford after John David Booty broke his finger.
"We made a mistake with John, not knowing the situation," Carroll said. "I wish I could have assessed that better at the time. Maybe we would have put Mark in and played it closer to the vest."
So Sanchez needed to play against Stanford, but hurt the play calling against Oregon? That's the logic following two losses for
USC (6-2, 3-2). And after winning five straight Pacific-10 Conference titles, Carroll's suddenly forced to talk up the other teams.
I don't want to say that Pet Carroll has played fast and loose over the years but for some reason the play calling and conservative tone is not what we are not used to. True, SC fans understand the losses as no program wins them all and even fewer get the level of attention that SC has received in the past 4-5 years. But the bravado that we have been used to seems to have turned to either rationalization or excuse making. That sort of tone just doesn't seem right. Hell, I would prefer a more defiant tone but not what we are hearing now. I realize that it may be just me but it just sounds different to hear it this way.
It is hard not to see how we got to this place without hiring competent assistants to replace those who were responsible for getting us here to begin with. I know I sound like a broken record but as long as Pete Carroll continues to micromanage this situation we will continue to struggle in certain areas. A special teams is absolutely essential and improved tackling also needs to take place. I have seen very few teams that can throw the deep threat against us so we should be playing tighter coverage on those underneath plays and force our opponents to beat us deep. Maybe our secondary isn't what it has been made out to be but until they are tested how will we know. It is clear that SC doesn't have a dominant running back because we are rotating guys in and out. That may have been the plan early on to get a feel with who would fit where but that is obviously not the case now.
Gary Klein brings up an interesting point in his piece today about Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Sark is now falling under the same sort of criticism that Lane Kiffin received last season.
"We've had to try to keep [Sanchez] under wraps so he can play confident -- that's what's at hand right now," Carroll said. "It does affect your play calling and your decision making."
That is certainly not happening here, but Sark has put himself in a tough spot with his play calling. I am obviously not qualified to break it down in the way that paid experts can but when I can figure out when you rotate the same players in on either running or passing plays it would seem to me that those who get paid to do it for a living can figure you as well and keep you in check. My questions are more to why you would keep an injured player, with a broken finger on his throwing hand, in the game and continue to call passing plays while the ball sails wildly off target.
I guess I'm just surprised at the their level of second guessing. Look, the season is far from over. Yes the BCS and probably the Rose Bowl are out of reach but there is still a lot to accomplish so we shouldn't lose sight of what we need to do. SC needs to get back up on their hose and ride the season out and worry about next season in the off season.