Let's Play Football
There has been some “meh” responses I’ve seen out there from jaded Purdue fans about the hiring of Jeff Brohm. And to this I politely say….you’re nuts. Or you may not be real familiar with college football. So we'll talk a bit about why you should be excited.
But first, let me reiterate some things that need to be said about the candidates that most fly-by-night Purdue fans thought had to come to Purdue.
Les Miles: Les was never coming. At best, he was using Purdue to gin up interest in his name being back in the fold. At the time, Purdue was really the only open Power 5 job so this makes sense. According to GBI, Purdue did talk to him but it really never went anywhere. This is because, as we’ve said here at BS, Les (or his agent) was trying to drive up interest.
PJ Fleck: PJ reportedly never really took Purdue that seriously. Maybe he was hoping for a more exciting opportunity or one that didn’t require a wholesale rebuild (which he just did at WMU). Or maybe he’s just as abrasively crazy as he appears to be. As we said on Handsome Hour 100, his brand of crazy is something we love but it was alternatively exciting and terrifying.
Kevin Sumlin: I can’t believe I need to explain this to people, but Kevin Sumlin is, uh, employed. At one of the better jobs in America. And he wins a lot. And is paid a lot. Getting him to Purdue would have been nearly impossible.
Bo Pelini: This one may have been partially our fault, as we really liked Pelini for this job and weren't shy about saying so. But from what we heard, he was approached and said he wasn’t interested early on. Some people hated the idea of Bo, others thought it had to be someone established like him. Regardless, he wasn’t interested.
In the end, it was our consensus number one choice here at BS, Jeff Brohm. And you should be excited about this. Why? Well, let me explain.
Brohm is a quarterback who grew up in the Midwest and played at Louisville and then in the NFL (and XFL!). He’s only 45 years old and has won Conference USA the past two years. This isn’t the MAC, so those of you opining that he’s “just like Hazell” are incorrect. Hazell had two seasons of head coaching experience, including just one that was really good. Brohm, while not having a ton more experience, is 30-10 as a head coach across three seasons. His WKU Hilltoppers also won the Conf-USA title each of the past two seasons, going a combined 22-5 (15-1) over that time. Oh, and his teams slung it around.
I absolutely love how he didn’t look super-comfortable during yesterday’s presser. The dude is all football and that’s what he wants to do. He looked slightly more comfortable when addressing the players, which further reinforces that he’s a football coach first who doesn’t have a ton of polish. The last guy had lots of polish so this works out fine for me.
One of the biggest things we felt was missing from Darrell Hazell was a willingness to acknowledge that Purdue was not Ohio State, nor could it ever be. Purdue doesn’t have the horses, the big uglies, the manpower, the five-stars….to beat teams by grinding it out in the trenches and playing “traditional” Big Ten football. Purdue has to outgun opponents or get them back on their heels in some way. This isn’t nonsense, either – it’s what has worked for Purdue during their success of recent decades. Joe Tiller famously came in and threw the ball everywhere, regardless of down or situation. And it took the conference a while to catch up. Once Purdue started winning games, recruiting got better and Purdue stayed good for a while. Morgan Burke then failed to capitalize on this momentum in the mid 2000s and the downward spiral began. He’s also getting $3.5M for his coaching staff which means he’ll be able to pay a DC near the top of the conference. That’s huge. Let’s hope the hire is a good one – the money won’t be the issue this time.
Coach Brohm has already acknowledged in his first meeting with the players that they will find their edge:
It’s important to find a way to have an edge. Sometimes you think you’re gonna work hard, lift hard, watch film and learn. But when you’re doin’ that, guess what? Everyone else in the country is doin’ that, too.
A lot of people think that it matters what you do when people are watching. I think it matters what you do when they’re not watching.
I love this. His quote here is a variation of one I’ve always loved about hard work: "The best kind of pride is that which compels a man to do his very best when no one is watching." And it’s such a truism. This is what is important to have instilled in Purdue players – working hard isn’t good enough. You need to find that edge.
And as for how Purdue is going to do that, he was very clear in his steps:
1. We’re gonna make sure we play harder than the other team.
2. We gotta find a way to play tougher than the other team.
3. We’re gonna find a way to play smarter. Not gonna have silly mistakes, not going to have misalignments.
Do those three things and you’ll have a chance to win.
I know a lot of coaches talk about being tougher and smarter but for some reason I’m drinking the kool-aid here and I believe it. I do think that sometimes when you make it a simple list – and this is why there are so many leadership books and seminars featuring lists – it feels more attainable and you’re able to focus. When you come in with a several-hundred-page book on winning at life, well, you may have a few guys nod off.
Coach Brohm also spoke about how the players will grow under his watch. He spoke of academics coming first, followed by having the players “develop as an expert in athletics” (which was a description I thought was great). He then said they would grow spiritually under his watch and in fourth place was soecial development because, as Coach put it, college “will be the most fun you’ll have for the rest of your life.”
There was no talk of boat-rowing or goofy taglines. One thing that began to catch on, though, was something Brohm was semi-famous for saying during his XFL days: “Let’s play football.” It comes from this clip of wonton disregard for player safety. (One has to assume Kevin Wilson would love this approach.)
Wrapping up his remarks to the team yesterday, Coach said this:
I believe in finding a way to win. I’m gonna do my part as a head coach and outwork every other head coach in America.
Dammit, give me a helmet, I’m ready.
Let’s play football.
Photo Credit: Charles Jischke