I really can't stand when I hear this crap- you know, "No one scares me on Purdue's schedule." or "This team really has me worried."
I can fully-understand those who work for our alma mater's athletic department being worried...players- absolutely. Coaches- they should care enough to worry. And current students, they get a pass. But for me, my true worries involve my livelihood, my family and friends and my country. So if you seriously ask, "Who has you worried on this year's schedule?" I'll tell you no one.
Not one team makes me lose sleep or gets me nervous when I think about them. That said, I still think way too much about what's going to happen this season...and there's a lot that has me bothered as I look ahead.
I'm not as old as some of you reading this, but I do remember watching Purdue in the 80s...back then, I worried about football season. I liked Leon Burtnett a lot. He was enthusiastic, seemed to have a good time coaching, often got ahead of himself with the media...and seemed over his head at times.
I think some of you see where I'm going with this.
You won't ever hear me say Danny Hope doesn't know football...because I think he does- so did Burtnett. In fact, Burtnett coached for over 35 years with stops at some very good programs and even coached in the NFL...but he wasn't much of a head coach.
The jury is still out on how Coach Hope will be judged as a head coach...and it's really not fair to measure his worth with what we know, but here are some things that we do know.
In Hope's brief time at Purdue, it's clear he's been able to motivate his players. Drew Brees himself says he'd run through a wall for Danny Hope...and there's nothing wrong with that. Hope's passion for his players and the game is fun to watch...and every now and again, it motivates the team to do tremendous things. His Boilers nearly pulled off wins versus Oregon and Notre Dame in his first season...and got over the hump versus the talented and well-coached Ohio State Buckeyes. Last season, they played with the highly-ranked Badgers for a half, beat a superior Northwestern team while barely being able to complete a forward pass, and took a very good MSU team to the brink before losing a heart-breaker.
But, not every team that Purdue plays is a world beater...and sadly, our Boilers have dropped some games that they simply shouldn't have during Hope's time in God's Country.
An emotionally-drained Boiler team reflected its coach as it came out flat versus Northern Illinois at Ross-Ade in '09. In fact, Northern Illinois simply controlled the trenches and manhandled our Boilers on that afternoon. An evenly-matched Northwestern team settled down after the homecoming emotion wore off for Hope and Co. and methodically picked apart Purdue's large first quarter lead to leave Ross-Ade with a win. In 2010, Purdue looked lethargic in both the Western Illinois and Ball State games before dropping a home loss to Toledo. I do know that was a tough day for the team as they lost Marve early in that game. But, before Marve was out, Purdue's defense allowed one of the worst offensive teams in America to flex its muscle and simply control the line of scrimmage. And probably worst of all of Hope's losses in many of our fellow Boilers' view, Purdue threw away an early lead to give the bucket back to IU.
While football is a game that needs a ton of emotion to be played at a high level, it also needs preparation and execution that we haven't seen a ton of out of Hope's teams...and that's what really troubles me.
The practice report that came out yesterday doesn't really help my outlook either. Both Nord and Hope are bothered that the passing offense isn't where it should be at this point...but they say it's better than it was at this point last year. That's good, I guess...but it's not much of a positive. At some point poor execution trends come back on the coaches...and this season hasn't yet began and a lot can change in the next month...but what we're hearing might be ominous.
Let's get back to Leon Burtnett for a second. Burtnett languished through a few seasons with 3 wins in an era where you didn't get to pad the schedule with mid-major (and lower) opponents...so his teams were performing similar to Hope's teams, in my opinion...before Jim Everett became Purdue's starting QB his Junior year. Everett and Purdue's high-powered offense revived a sleepy fan base and helped earn Burtnett the BT COY honors.
The question is, does Hope need a player like Everett to have a winning record...and the follow-up, is that guy in the stable?
While there's a ton of potential on this team, there's really nothing I've seen to convince me that Marve, nor Henry has the ability to put a team on his back and pull them to a 7-win (or more) season in 2011. I think some might argue that we didn't know that #11 would become what he did prior to the fall of 1984...and that's why we watch. All of us want to see something amazing...but at this point, that's what it's going to take.
I love being wrong when I predict a gloomy outlook for my Boilers...and I'm the first to admit it when it happens. Sadly, I've been right more than I've been wrong...and there are just so many question marks on this team.
-Can Purdue develop a pass rush with a group of unproven D Ends?
-Will our Boilers' experienced linebackers be able to make open field tackles and defend tight ends and running backs on the short passes?
-Can Henry become a formidable passer and stay healthy? Is Marve going to be able to play at his full potential?
-Will Bolden's knee stay healthy? If so, can he endure the pounding on the rest of his body of being the number one guy after a full season away from contact?
-Who's going to catch the ball?
Couple all of these questions with a history of poor clock management, emotional let-downs and losses that should be wins, and my outlook is less-than-stellar. My thought has always been that for Hope to be truly successful as a head coach, he's going to need to be surrounded by some of the best assistant coaches in the B1G. And while I like the coordinator situation a lot more than I did in the past two seasons, I'm still not convinced that the attention to detail in this staff as a whole is where it needs to be for this team to be better than just OK.
A few weeks ago, Hope said,
"The teams that stay healthy, play hard and execute are going to win."
As Purdue fans, we know that one-third of that equation is out of the hands of the coaching staff. But in the wake of last season, they should be preparing for anything. We also know the players will play hard for this coaching staff...but the execution is a huge question mark. One out of three just isn't enough when there's so much talent in this league and so many well-coached teams.
So am I concerned about this season? You bet...probably too much for a 36 year old product designer. As for the worrying part, I'll leave that to some other guys who can actually do something about it.