The label of Spoilermaker became pretty popular in the Burtnett, Akers and Colletto years simply because no one really every expected Purdue to win...so when the did, it spoiled some unexpected team's afternoon and maybe even their season.
Now, expectations are back to being low, how low? Hear what Joe Tiller had to say about last week's effort v. UND:
"I told our team at halftime, 'Fellas you couldn't be in a more enviable position. You're sitting here at 14-all and could be up, but your not. Lets go out there and get up on them like we're capable of doing.' I thought I would get a great big, 'Yea,' but I got more like an, 'OK.'"
"After watching the tape on Sunday, I can understand why they were of that mood," Tiller explained. "Even though we were in the football game and actually were in position to be ahead in the football game, they were getting knocked around pretty good, they were getting manhandled pretty good in the first half so I could see why maybe at halftime they weren't quite sure how much more they had in them if they had to go out on the field and had to stay on the field. Of course, that's exactly what happened to us.”
So, Joe asked a few years ago for fans to manage their expectations. Now, he's got what he wants...no one has any expectations of his squad...not his players, not his coaches, not even himself. He got his record, smoked his victory cigar, what more does he have to prove, right?
I think regardless of how this season goes, Tiller will be remembered by the majority of the super-soft Purdue fanbase as one of the great coaches, if not the all-time greatest...I don't agree with the idea that this season doesn't affect his legacy.
He decided to leave the cupboard pretty baren following this season; he had faith in this team during camp...it's time to show why. Afterall, it gets even harder next week.
Painful But Imperative Rebuilding Process
Tiller doesn't like the idea of rebuilding, clearly. He came in and won right away with the group that Colletto couldn't seem to win too many games with. Then the Boilers got even better as a few recruits came in. But, after the Rose Bowl, Purdue probably should have focused on rebuilding toward another great team instead of accepting just another bowl game. Tiller wanted to go to a bowl game, no matter how lousy, each season. Now, it looks like the program is finally going to need to be rebuilt next season.
A watered-down spread offense with very few weapons remaining and a defense that hasn't been the aggressor in five years is what '09 looks like. Coach Hope has a tough road ahead of him in his first season as head coach. Not only does he have to pick up the pieces of three or four poor recruiting off-seasons, but also needs to re-install a sense of discipline and accountability among the team.
The system, the attitudes and the overall culture of Purdue football desperately needs an overhaul.
My Sources Say...
Here's what Purdue football has become, according to a few people close to the program.
Young players are afraid of Tiller...he's always quiet, doesn't raise his voice, doesn't talk a lot; and the young guys are worried about what he's thinking and how he's going to punish those who step out of line.
Conversely, the older players have seen that the coach won't discipline guys that have been arrested or have been involved in conduct detrimental to the team...So many of them take it easy. In fact, I'm told some players simply don't practice as the seasons wear on. As a result, team unity is pretty lousy because these vets aren't punished for their lack of effort and instead, are rewarded with starting roles or significant playing time...while a guy buried in the depth chart who busts his hump barely sees the field.
If this is what the program's become, it's sad...but it also makes a great deal of sense. As I talked about a few days ago, individual players and the greater program no longer seems to move forward from year to year.
Tiller came into Purdue and held Chike Okeafor accountable for his actions...and made him earn his way back onto the team. This showed who was running the show and earned immediate respect from the team. Keep in mind, Okeafor was one of the only members of the Purdue defense to have received accolades coming into the '97 season...his class and previous accomplishments didn't matter...there was one standard and he had to live up to it.
It's going to be hard for this Purdue team to turn around what we've seen so far. The culture of "you only have to win by one" and "never too high, never too low" is deeply engrained in the captains and Seniors. My hope is that someone is given enough latitude that they can smack their team mates around and bring this underachieving group back to life...It's not probable, but it is possible. I'm still holding out for Hope's sake.