When hunting for a scapegoat Plaschke aims high
I was obviously wrong about the postgame fallout that would follow the drubbing in Oregon. I said a 27 point margin of defeat would likely leave a losing hand fisted without a finger to point. That isn’t the case. Pete Carroll unfolded his hand and pointed that finger at himself, which coaches typically do. But accepting responsibility wasn’t enough to stave off further criticism. Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Plaschke loaded his hunting rifle and fired several shots in the dark. And as the rounds flew without a legitimate course, Pete Carroll became the recipient of several hits.
“Pete Carroll’s Trojans do not look like Pete Carroll’s Trojans. They don’t swarm, suffocate or scheme like them. They don’t attack with the same intensity, defend with the same abandon, or behave with the same inspiration. And, oh yeah, these Trojans don’t tackle like those Trojans, largely because they don’t tackle at all. Who is coaching these guys? After five years of whirlwind turnover, the answer is, we don’t really know. And the scary part is, perhaps the players don’t either.”–Los Angeles Times
Plaschke goes on to mention the “curse” of Norm Chow, with his departure triggering the exits of other coaches on the Pete Carroll staff. It’s an article about coaching instability and the effect on players. It’s an article about new voices not being loud enough to oppose Pete Carroll decisions. It’s an article wrongly looking into the past and trying to compare it to the current situation.
Sure, the program has been a revolving door of coaches, because each has a goal to someday sit in Pete Carroll’s seat at the head of the table. Sarkesian, Kiffin, and Orgeron all left to become head coaches. Dwayne Walker is now a head coach. Nick Holt chose a big payday in Washington, and though he was the defensive coordinator, all decisions went through Pete Carroll, a defensive mind.
A 27 point paddling is a new experience, but defensive collapse is not. Defensive implosions of the past were often rescued by offensive firepower. It was November 19, 2005 when the Trojans allowed Fresno State to hang 42 points on the scoreboard. It was a prequel of things to come, and two games later in the National Championship game, USC failed to swarm, suffocate, and tackle the Longhorns.
If Plaschke wants to make comparisons to yesteryear, he should focus more on the player personnel and less on who is wearing the headsets. Never before has Pete Carroll been in a position where he had to replace nine defensive starters. If we go back to 2005, the year after Norm Chow’s departure, you will also see youth in a defensive unit that allowed Vince Young to run wild. That unit eventually molded to become the best in the nation. That unit eventually went on to produce 5 first round NFL draft picks, with Rey Maualuga going high in the second.
This isn’t about Norm Chow or new coaching faces. Every successful program will have its closet raided by others in need of new clothing. It’s about understanding where we are right now and the challenges set forth before the season ever began. It also doesn’t help that the Pac 10 conference has dramatically improved since those Norm Chow days of old.
Bill Plaschke is always quick to load his weapon when the results aren’t what he expected. Maybe it’s because he spends so much time on ESPN promoting and declaring the Trojans the best team in the country that he needs a target to fire upon when support isn’t given on the field. Pete Carroll and USC haven’t been perfect since 2004, but they are also not sharing that bed of misery with Paul Hackett coached programs.
Yes, the Empire faced the embarrassment of the woodshed. But Plaschke should allow the bruised bottoms time to heal and show correction, before taking them back for more.