This past Sunday, following Washington’s stunning collapse to the Cougars in the Apple Cup, I was talking on the phone to a friend of mine. “Willingham needs more time,” he pleaded. “Three years isn’t enough to fill the team with his players and get his system into place.”
My friend’s belief mirrors 98% of the Seattle media, which is firmly entrenched in its limitless defense that Willingham be given 4-5 years. This despite the fact that Willingham took over a last-place team in 2004 and after three years still remains stranded in the Pac-10 basement, while fielding the worst statistical defense in school history.
The discussion with my friend raised comparisons in my mind. For example, back in 2004 it was clear to everyone with half a brain that the Keith Gilbertson regime wasn’t working, even though it was only his second season as UW head coach. Why wasn’t the Seattle media loudly insisting that he be given more time?
But the Seattle media’s insistence that Willingham needs more time is curious. Three years is not enough, they say. However, the facts are self-evident, and a majority of Husky fans are now fed up. Brutal losses are stockpiling, recruiting is suffering, team confidence is lacking, attendance is dwindling, fans and boosters feel alienated, the program has become a Northwest laughingstock, Athletic Director Todd Turner behaves like things are progressing nicely, and yet Willingham needs more time?
It reminds me of a conversation I once had with a book publisher. He told the story of a lady writer who was furious because her manuscript had been rejected. She had previously glued some of the middle pages together in order to detect whether they had been read. When she got the manuscipt back she saw that the pages were still stuck together. “You only looked at half the book!” she shouted at him into the phone. “You didn’t give it a fair chance!”
“Ma’am,” he replied, “When someone serves me an omelet, I don’t have to eat the whole thing to realize that the egg has gone bad.”
So what now for Husky football? The hard decision is in the court of UW President Mark Emmert. The firing of Athletic Director Todd Turner and Head Coach Tyrone Willingham must be done with the expediency of yanking a Band-Aid free from a hairy arm. Emmert must then hire current Seahawk assistant Jim L Mora to restore hope to long-suffering Husky fans.
Mora’s hiring would send positive shockwaves throughout Husky Nation. It would make for an extra festive Christmas season in Seattle. Mora would help tear down walls that have been erected by the Willingham regime. Fans and boosters would immediately feel reconnected with the program. The sins of the Hedges and Neuheisel years would be washed away, leaving the UW program united and free of baggage for the first time in almost a decade.
With his dynamic personality and NFL pedigree, Mora would enter the homes of prized recruits Kavario Middleton and Jermaine Kearse and represent the Huskies well in this critical time. Spring practice would be a time of fresh optimism and rejuvenation.
And heading into the 2008 season, fans would be galvanized by hope that Jake Locker’s epic talents will be maximized. Given Mora’s reputation for being a defensive mastermind, the days of egregious errors plaguing the Husky defense would presumably come to an end.
And come September 13th, a caravan of several thousand Husky fans would accompany the Dawgs to descend upon Eugene for an early-season clash with the Oregon Ducks. It would be the first step in a long journey toward reclaiming Washington’s rightful dominance of the Northwest.
If President Emmert does the right thing and makes the tough decisions, a new world of possibility awaits.