By Derek Johnson
As Washington’s demoralized football team staggered across the seasonal finish line at 0-12, I considered the on-field failure in olfactory terms. Just 16 years ago, Husky football had inhaled the musky fragrance of three consecutive Rose Bowls and a 12-0 record. Now, in the wake of the Willingham era, the program reeks of a whorehouse at low tide.
Sarkisian and Matt Leinart
When I first heard of Sarkisian’s hire, I felt the remaining wind disappear from my psychological sails. I felt like UW President Mark Emmert and athletic director Scott Woodward went on the cheap. I felt UW a school worthy of hiring a big-time coach. I also realized that I had reached a personal crossroads. Did I want to continue to follow Husky football? I had felt last year with all my being that Emmert’s decision to retain Tyrone Willingham for the 2008 season would be disastrous, and it certainly proved out. The longest fifteen weeks in the history of Husky football.
I asked myself if I really wanted to continue following a program that had clearly de-emphasized football.
But two things changed my mind. First, I harkened back to that quote last year from my friend Nathan Ware, when he addressed on his old P-I blog why Husky fans wouldn’t jump ship. “For those of you on the I’m giving up my season tickets bandwagon, I feel your pain,” Ware said. “Although, I’m not completely sure I believe that you’re actually giving up your tickets. Husky football is like crack and Jake Locker is your dealer.”
Jake Locker continues to be the one shining hope that things can turn around quicker than expected. His injury in the fourth game this year expedited Willingham’s departure more than anything else. For it had been Locker’s epic scrambling ability that managed to mask so many deficiencies from the poor coaching of Willingham and offensive coordinator Tim Lappano. With the Locker fig leaf suddenly snatched away, the prideful Willingham acted like the Black Knight from Monty Python. With each sliced limb/catastrophic loss, he responded in essence by shrugging defiantly and saying “it’s just a flesh wound.”
Secondly, as I learned more about Sarkisian, the better I felt about Emmert and Woodward’s selection. Sarkisian knows the west coast in terms of recruiting. He comes from a USC program that has won 7 Pac-10 titles in a row. He is young (34), energetic and hard-working. If college football’s greatest coach deems him worthy of being OC, that’s worth something. And Sarkisian will do what Willingham wouldn’t, and that’s sell Husky football to the public and infuse life into Husky Nation. That’s why Monday’s press conference announcing Sarkisian’s hire will instantly galvanize the increasingly glum Husky fan base.
As 2009 progresses and Sarkisian performs triage upon this broken and dispirited team, a healthy Jake Locker will mask many of the team’s ills. No longer will Washington trot out a disheveled version of the spread option offense. Word is that Sarkisian will bring a pro-style offense with a reliance on power football – at least once he feels confident that his new players can carry it out.
Having followed Husky football for so long, I have decided to throw caution to the wind and give the Sarkisian Era a chance. I look forward to seeing the Washington Huskies build themselves back up. I look forward to enjoying football again. And I look forward to witnessing the Huskies recapture their rightfully prominent perch in the Pac-10 pecking order.