JOHNSON: What are you thoughts about the recent firings at UW and President Emmert’s decision to retain Tyrone Willingham as Husky coach?
RODGERS: I’m not a Rick Neuheisel fan, and I really didn’t like how he recruited (while at Washington from 1999-2003). So really, the Willingham Era hasn’t even started yet. He’s still trying to coach Neuheisel’s kids. That’s kind of hard to do. I don’t know every detail of Willingham’s methods of coaching, but he’s dealing with what Neuheisel left, and is making the best of it. The season was still bad, no matter how you slice it. You have to make some changes to make it work. We had some of the worst defensive stats in U-Dub’s history.
JOHNSON: Particulary disappointing was the play of the defensive line. There were three seniors and they just didn’t get the job done.
RODGERS: I know Coach Hart, and I know how he coaches defensive linemen. He is as good a defensive line coach as there is in the nation. He could have coached in the NFL had he wanted to, everyone who played for him knows that… Watching his d-line this year, I was sick for him. I know that’s not what he teaches, but that’s what he had to work with. I don’t want to dig too much on the current kids, but you recruit certain types of kids for a certain type of football. I don’t think they are the hard-nosed kids that the U-Dub is used to. They are great kids and some of them might go on to fine pro careers. But if you put them in the wrong system, they’re not going to succeed.
JOHNSON: From your experience, can you give me a specific example of how the defensive linemen weren’t playing Hart’s style of football?
RODGERS: First thing, they stand up at the snap of the ball. If Steve Emtman and I stood up like that, Coach Hart would go crazy. He was very anal about that first step. If we didn’t make the first step correctly, it wouldn’t matter if we made a sack or what—it was considered a terrible play and he would go crazy on us. The current guys don’t use their hands. Also, the second effort usually isn’t there. For us, the second effort was automatic. Coach Lambright even wanted third and fourth effort from us. Everybody had to be at the ball, and everybody had to be there to celebrate. If we didn’t make the effort to be there, then we didn’t love our brothers.
JOHNSON: But it’s different with today’s Huskies.
RODGERS: It’s just not there right now. It’s an individual game out there. One guy might make a good play, but the other ten guys are heading back to the huddle. They’re not celebrating. They’re in the huddle. So that’s not the Lambright and Hart mentality that I’m used to.
JOHNSON: But it goes beyond mentality…
RODGERS: It goes into the scheme too. I think Coach Hart is geared less toward the read-and-react, and more of the attack defense. Destroy the line of scrimmage, and then take care of what is left. He was tough but positive. He never allowed you to give excuses… He would say, “Ah, okay, you’ve got a little hangnail, huh? Can’t practice? That’s okay. Let’s put a little bra on you.”
JOHNSON: And so they end up looking like Oregon State’s uniforms this year.
RODGERS: Exactly! (laughs) Coach Hart would say, “Okay, you sit here (in the training room) with your bra on, while the rest of us run extra just for you.” Then we would have to get up and run.
JOHNSON: Your final thoughts on Coach Willingham?
RODGERS: I would like to give him a chance to bring in his kids. His kids are going to be there next year. The whole team is his. If he doesn’t show up and win games next year, then he needs to be fired. I want to give him another chance. Because whomever we get now will have to start over anyways. That’s the bad thing about bringing in a new coach, because you’ve got to start all over again. Willingham has a chance to make some changes and get everyone into his way of thinking.