Senior leadership, and reality check time

First, remember a couple of years ago, when ABC ran that graphic during the Cougs run with Gesser about how important a SENIOR QB means in the Pac-10!?!? Even though the last couple of years it hasn’t mattered that much due to some pretty big execptions, the overall results are just too hard to ignore. Consider the last 10 years, and then look at what’s happening on the field right now:

2004 – USC wins the Pac-10 and the whole thing with Leinart, a junior, but he’s clearly a special case. The 2nd best team was Aaron Rodgers and the Cal Bears, also a junior. And, it’s becoming crystal-clear they’ll win it all again in 2005, this time with Leinart as a senior.
2003 – USC wins the Pac-10 and the whole thing with Leinart, a sophomore, again, this is a special case (and on paper? Leinart in his sophomore actually threw for more yards and TD’s than the 2002 Heisman winner, Carson Palmer). WSU comes in 2nd, led by senior QB Matt Kegel.
2002 – USC and WSU tie for the conference title, with the Cougs gettting the nod based on head-to-head with SC. Seniors Carson Palmer and Jason Gesser actually share conference offensive player-of-the-year honors. Carson wins the Heisman trophy.
2001 – Oregon wins the Pac-10 and goes to the Fiesta Bowl behind senior QB Joey Harrington. Oregon actually finishes #2 in some polls, and some claim they were screwed out of playing Miami for the National Title.
2000 – UW wins the Pac-10 behind senior QB Marques Tuiasosopo, wins the Rose Bowl and finishes #3 in the nation. Their only loss was a 7-point game at Oregon. That team will always be remembered as one that rallied no matter what, behind you-know-who.
1999 – Stanford wins the Pac-10 behind senior QB Todd Husak.
1998 – UCLA wins the Pac-10 behind senior QB Cade McNown.
1997 – WSU wins the Pac-10 behind 4th-year junior QB Ryan Leaf, who finishes 3rd in the Heisman and was the #2 pick in the draft.
1996 – ASU wins the Pac-10 behind senior QB Jake Plummer

I think that’s enough of what’s happened in the past. Now look at today’s Pac-10:

USC-Leinert, 100th year redshirt senior,5-0
UCLA-Olson, senior, 5-0
Oregon-Clemons, senior, 4-1

Everyone else:
Cal-Ayoob, Jr College transfer, 4-1
ASU-Keller, junior, 3-3
WSU-Brink, Sophmore, 3-2
UW-Stanback, junior, 1-4
AR-Kovalcheck, sophomore (only 38 players left from MAcovick regime (injuries, Flunkouts, Quitters) out of 75 scholarships), 1-4
Oregon State-Moore, Jr transfer, former Bruin, 3-2
Stanford-Edwards, Senior, but 3 different Head coaches and systems in 4 years, 2-2.

History has shown that UNLESS you are USC where all-americans line up to be 3rd string, well, you better have at least an upper-classman, if not a senior, QB to lead you in Pac-10 play. See, it’s not just our own WSU offense that is hard enough to learn at a young age in “playing time years”, but it’s also an issue in just flat-out beating other Pac-10 teams!

So, that said, why exactly should we expect history to reverse itself and see Alex Brink lead us to contention this year? I was with Lawson and really thought 9-2 was possible this year, so I believed early on that we could be sensational NOW.

Well, we are wrong there. Now factor in that we’ve lost our #1 offensive player, and truly one of the best WSU WR’s of all-time in Hill, and our #1 defensive player right in the heart of the defense in Derting? You know what??


Maybe it was the nature of cupcake-city early on, and the expectations were just raised too high, but these last two weeks have been a huge reality check. Maybe Stanford saw our confused, young team and thought “we won here last year, we’re a year older, these guys are a mental mess, so let’s get this one” and their senior QB led them? We are young, OH SO YOUNG in key areas, and young players F-UP weekly. I never would have dreamed Trent Edwards would run for nearly 100 yards and they would own us on that field, but it’s exactly what happened.

No, I’m not going to put all the failure of the last two weeks squarely on the sophomore, Brink, even though he deserves a good chunk of the blame. No, the bigger failure is a big-picture, overall, team-wide lack of leadership, but again, being so young in so many areas, that is what we should have expected! As much as our three 10-win seasons in a row was great, it also might have put some unrealistic expectations on where we really should be as a program.

What’s frustrating? It doesn’t appear we’ve learned anything from last year’s pain. At least last year we came back on the road a couple of times, with the idea that was building towards great things, but here we are losing in 2005 in the exact same fashion we lost in 2004.

Oh well, hey, at least the $206 million payroll bought George Steinbrenner absolutely NOTHING – AGAIN!

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