“Way Too Early” … To Lose Faith

About 15 minutes after the final Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls were released, the 2017 “Way Too Early” preseason polls emerged.

Colorado fared well in the final 2016 polls, coming in 17th in the AP poll; 15th in the USA Today coaches poll.

In the “Way Too Early” 2017 preseason prognostications, however, it’s been a mixed bag.

In The Sporting News, Bill Bender has the Buffs as the No. 22 team in the nation …

22. Colorado Buffaloes … Mike MacIntyre made the Buffaloes one of the best stories of the 2016 season, but the season-ending losses to Washington and Oklahoma State showed there’s still a long way to go. Can Colorado do it again?  

At CBS Sports, Dennis Dodd as the Buffs as the No. 25 team in 2017 …

25. Colorado National coach of the year Mike MacIntrye loses quarterback Sefo Liufau, but essentially the rest of the offense is back. The Buffs aren’t going anywhere in the Pac-12.

Perhaps the highest ranking for the Buffs comes from Alex Martin Smith at SEC Country, who listed CU as 2017’s No. 18 team overall …

18. Colorado … Departing senior quarterback Sefo Liufau did an excellent job this season, but redshirt freshman Steven Montez was solid enough (1,078 yards, 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions) to give Buffs fans hope for another run at the Pac-12 title. He’ll return to a loaded offense that will attempt to offset an inexperienced “D.”

Of course, there were many publications which did not list Colorado in their “Way Too Early” 2017 preseason Top 25. To add insult to injury, some of these prognosticators listed UCLA or Oregon – both 4-8 this past season – as Top 25 contenders, but not the 10-4 Buffs.

Such is the fate of a team which has not been in a preseason poll since 2002. It’s not what you have accomplished in the minds of some of these pundits, it’s “what have you done for me lately?”.

That same mindset seems to have overcome some in the Buff Nation as the fan base anxiously awaits the announcement of CU’s next defensive coordinator. Buff fans have had to sit idly by as other teams, including other teams in the Pac-12, have hired their new coordinators (or, in the case of California, their new head coach).

Potential candidates have come and gone, with much hand-wringing and dire predictions (I had to smirk at how much the message boards disliked front-runner Peter Sirmon from Mississippi State, right up until the time Sirmon took the job at Louisville. Sirmon immediately thereafter became the greatest defensive mind this side of Nick Saban, and CU was in dire straits for missing out on this great hire).

Athletic director Rick George and head coach Mike MacIntyre are being accused of suffering from a lack of vision, a sense of urgency, and/or an unwillingness to pay top dollar for a top coordinator … or some combination of all three.

I would argue, however, that it is “Way Too Early” to lose faith in the CU athletic hierarchy, and “Way Too Early” to press the panic button over a lack of a defensive coordinator.

After all, the two most recent coordinator hires worked out pretty well. Darrin Chiaverini, who arrived last January, and Jim Leavitt, who didn’t arrive until after Signing Day, 2015, proved to be savvy choices.

While we wait – patiently or impatiently – for news of the next defensive coordinator, try to keep in mind …

— It’s “Way Too Early” to forget that the majority of players – and coaches, for that matter – who forged a 10-4 record in 2016 return for 2017.

— It’s “Way Too Early” to forget that the 2016 team, while humbled in its last two games, lost only to teams which finished ranked above them in the final poll. The Buffs lost to No. 3 USC, No. 4 Washington, No. 10 Michigan and No. 11 Oklahoma State. The Buffs defeated two other teams which finished nationally ranked – No. 12 Stanford and No. 23 Utah – and, against teams which did not finish in the rankings, the Buffs went a perfect 8-0.

— It’s “Way Too Early” to project that the lack of a defensive coordinator (and safeties coach) will hurt Colorado in the final recruiting rankings. Colorado presently stands at No. 22 in both the Rivals and Scout team rankings, but will likely fall out of the Top 25 by Signing Day, February 1st.

And this would be true even if Jim Leavitt were swilling Pepsi’s by the carton in the Champions Center as we speak.

The reality is that Colorado filled in much of its recruiting Class early, and, as four- and five-star undecided recruits declare their intentions, other schools will fill out their Classes and rise above CU in the national rankings. It’s simple math, and it has nothing to do with CU’s coaching staff vacancies.

— It’s “Way Too Early” to assume that there will be mass defections from the Recruiting Class of 2017 if CU doesn’t get its act together and name a new defensive coordinator immediately. There has been only one defection since Jim Leavitt left, and that was by an offensive lineman, Xavier Newman of DeSoto, Texas … who had previously committed to Texas before de-committing and committing to Colorado.

Other players who are mentioned most often as possible defections – wide receiver K.D. Nixon and offensive lineman Grant Polley – play on the offensive side of the ball, not the defense. Naysayers are quick to blame the CU coaching staff (or lack thereof) for defections, while failing to note that CU just happens to be well-stocked at both wide receiver and along the offensive line.

— It’s “Way Too Early” to forget that, when hiring the next defensive coordinator, it’s about hiring “Mr. Right”, not “Mr. Right Now”. In response to a question about the firing of Cal head coach Sonny Dykes, ESPN’s Ted Miller had this to say:

Dykes is a good football coach, but his desire to become a Power 5 head coach when he was at Louisiana Tech perhaps blinded him to a simple truth: The most important thing for a good head coach to do is hire a good staff. Otherwise, he turns into a mediocre or even bad coach. Dykes didn’t hire well on defense, and that became his downfall — both in terms of staying at Cal and getting another job where he’d be happier.

It’s much more important for Mike MacIntyre to find the “right fit” for CU’s next defensive coordinator than it is is find someone who appeases the masses and their clamoring for an immediate hire. It’s important for MacIntyre and Rick George to pay a competitive salary to the incoming coaches, while maintaining balance within the existing staff salary structure … and some sense of balance in this latest collegiate arms race (once again, with the deep pockets of Oregon at the center of the problem).

I’ll leave you with a few “Way Too Early” predictions of my own:

— Colorado will finish on Signing Day with its highest-ranked Class in years. This is not a bold prediction – CU’s Recruiting Classes under Mike MacIntyre to date have been ranked (by Rivals): 66th; 64th; 72nd; and 66th. Still, despite landing a top 30 Class, hand-wringers will complain that, had CU had its defensive coordinator in place earlier, the Class ranking would have been higher;

— After the CU Spring Game, the naysayers will have a field day. If the offense dominates, it will be because the Buffs lost eight senior starters on defense, and the new defensive coordinator is no good … or … If the defense dominates, it will be because offensive co-coordinator Brian Lindgren has bound and gagged Darrin Chiaverini, and tied his fellow co-coordinator to a column in the dark recesses of the parking garage underneath the indoor practice facility.

While it’s “Way Too Early” to fret about how many wins the 2017 team will produce, it is never too late to celebrate where the program is now. Less than three months ago, we were delirious over CU’s 10-5 win over Stanford. Not just because it was CU’s first win over the Cardinal as a member of the Pac-12 (which it was), not just because the win gave the Buffs road victories over the only two teams, Oregon and Stanford, which had won Pac-12 titles (which it did) …

But because the win over Stanford gave CU six victories, making the Buffs frickin’ bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007.

How soon our priorities change.

From being excited just to be a part of the national conversation to be being upset that the Buffs didn’t finish in the Top Ten in the nation.

It’s “Way Too Early” to forget how awful the CU football program was for the past decade … or to lose faith in the administration which brought about #TheRise.

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17 Replies to ““Way Too Early” – To Lose Faith”

  1. This is hilarious.

    The most important thing for a good head coach to do is hire a good staff. Otherwise, he turns into a mediocre or even bad coach. Dykes didn’t hire well on defense, and that became his downfall — both in terms of staying at Cal and getting another job where he’d be happier. Mac2 didn’t either. But he fixed it. Course the fix left. (Some say RG had the influence the Fix coming in the first place.

    Well Stuart, the same hiring applies to the OC. You been raggin on me about ragging on Lindgren. So Answer me this. Should Lindgren Stay. Just answer that. And ya know what, it is not too early to ask that question.
    So Step up.

    Uh Oh 7+ 2017wins for the Mighty Buffalo………..even so………guess that is okay eh Oh?

    Go Buffs.

    Note: Yup Certainly Mac2 has a plan. Even though it may be plan H

    Note 2: There is defense talent on board and those JC guys will have a huge impact and they came after Leavitt left. The defense will be fine as long as the buddy-system is dead and the Baer-trap don’t show up.

    Note 3: The offense? If there is no change, expect no change. Party time shooter challenge predicting the plays during the game. Everybody wins.

    1. Until or unless you can document how Darrin Chiaverini is not part of the CU game plan decision making, the attacks solely on Brian Lindgren are unwarranted.
      If you want to call for the removal of both Lindgren and Chiaverini, we can have that discussion (I, personally, would be opposed).

      CU offense under Lindgren (pre-Chiaverini): In his first season with the Buffaloes, his offense improved significantly in 12 major statistical categories, most notably jumping from 96th to 47th nationally in passing offense, 116th to 87th in total offense and 117th to 86th in scoring offense. Averages per rush, pass and overall jumped, most noticeably in yards per pass attempt, which rose to 7.3 from 5.7, the first time since 2003 that a CU team averaged seven yards or more per pass play.

      In 2014, he tutored an offense that rewrote CU’s passing and receiving records, with 110 individual and 24 team records set as CU averaged over 400 yards on offense (439.2) for the first time since the 2001 season. The Buffs averaged their fourth-most passing yards ever (284.6) and averaged over four yards per rush (4.11) for the first time since 2006. CU ranked 37th nationally in total offense after not cracking the top 40 in the NCAA since 2001.

      1. Oh Stuart they commiserate together all the time. But the caller of the plays as dictated by mac2 is your buddy……Damn I wish I had a screen shot of him in the booth during the bowl game. You saw the child in a mans game.
        And Yes Stuart, There was some improvement his first year. Hell you could have gotten improvement.

        The Record setting 2nd year. Yup there were a lot of them. No wins though. The game has changed eh? 110 individual records………Wow. Paid off. but the next year. Not so much. But there were more records set.

        But look a little deeper.

        Conference games only. No pansies

        Those records you brag about in the fitful year of 2014 got the
        Buf offense all the way in the Pac12 rankings to:

        Scoring……………..#8 in scoring

        Wow. Come on Stuart, no glossing over facts. No legal tricks on the audience okay? Hey you think Lingren is great. Well good for you. Mac does as well. So good for him. Hey maybe lindys 5th year will be an epiphany . (Please God)

        So lookee here…

        Pac 12 rank (conference games only) (I won’t include wins)

        Stat…………………2013……2014……….2015……….2016

        Scoring offense………..11………8………….11………..7
        Rushing offense………..10………9………….10………..8
        Passing offense…………7………5…………..7………..8

        So what do ya think? Facts.
        Growth? Stagnant? Digress?

        Spinning “records” is easy. I mean look at all the “DJ’s” out there.
        And you can blame the players with that goofy Mac2 Mantra. But coaches are the difference makers. Listen to Vance Joseph.

        But the facts say the offense is:
        Stagnant,
        has not grown,
        has not developed
        is predictable
        is not a winning offense (Defense was this year don’t ya think)

        I am just gonna say I hope Lindgrem can take the next steps for the Buffs (all of ours) sake and that “Peter” is not in the house. Although facts would say different and that in fact, “Peter” moved in around 2013.

        Uh Oh is there finally gonna be a real offense for the Mighty Buffalo.

        Note: Nah, not today.

        Note 2: During bowl season 40 to 60 teams have sat home over the last ten years. But this year, not the Buffs. Leavitts legions. (Deny at your own risk)

  2. Finding a really good DC is going to be critical to next year’s success. This last season the D carried this team through games in the middle of the season when other DC’s realized they only needed to watch a few minutes of game tape of Lindgren’s offense…..which we can only assume will the same again next year.
    sigh

  3. I totally agree with you, Stuart…yet I am still nervous the Buffs don’t have a DC yet. Sorry, that’s just the way it is for this Buff fan…

  4. Stuart, I guess everyone needs to be reminded that just 2 years ago CU was very late in hiring Leavitt as DC and the handwringing and wailing was ear shattering. So maybe it is just too early to panic as it turned out pretty good by taking time and not just finding a warm body.

    1. hopefully Mac is looking to (word of the day) “poach” someone off of an NFL team that is still in the hunt….kinda like he did with Leavitt. If not, how do you explain this to recruits on the D side? You want to take your time to find the right guy but you dont want to wait until you have to panic either.
      He might be trying to find a guy who doesnt mind a lack of public “attaboys” too.

  5. Exactly. Let’s not rush. Let’s not hire someone just because they have ties to the program (time heals all wounds but Barnett literally drove the nail into the program’s coffin, and ~cough~ Embree’s only qualifications were being cheap and being a former Buff.)

  6. Stuart, you are grounded and balanced as usual. Since I have fallen behind on posting and reading Buff stuff, have you heard of a potential short list for the D coordinator role? Unlikely, I know with Tumpkin’s suspension but what are the thoughts regarding potential candidates?

    1. Plenty of speculation, but no confirmed names from the Champions Center.
      CU is playing this very close to the vest. It’s frustrating for now, but in the long term, this makes the most sense.

      1. Alright, I’m going out on a limb here but what about Gary Barnett. Time heals old wounds. I know he was on the offensive side of the ball but he was a good coach and a great recruiter. Last summer I believe he made overtures to “I want to be part of this”. Guy deserves a chance….

  7. always the voice of reason and perspective Stuart.
    However, and you see it coming miles away from me, your parking garage hyperbole wasnt that far from the truth. Not that I want to see Chev install a 100 percent air raid offense but be truthful. Specifically what did you see that was any different from the Lindgren “offensive” (pun intended) than the previous 2 years before Chev got here. I will admit that they threw deep more than I expected but they always seem to forget about it later in the season….even when they were trying to play catch up. If wasnt the bubble screen they tried ad nauseum in years past, it was the QB draw this year, sometimes 3 times in a row. Still no tight end. Howell’s excuse that they cant catch is also false. Frazier has displayed that ability nicely in the past and its obvious the tight ends dont get to practice catching anyway.
    Basically the real problem is the 2 page playbook and the diversity therein isnt much different than one ant from another on the anthill. I shiver with disgust imagining the talent we will have on O being wasted thusly next year.
    Before Clark’s deflection along with Tumpkin’s troubles I had no fear the secondary would slip backwards next year. We have plenty of young talent in the area coming back. Ditto for Linebackers. Put that together with what maybe Mac’s wandering with a lantern looking for a replacement with Leavitt’s ability that he can coexist with casts more than a little doubt on my initial optimism.
    If Tumpkin can emerge from the allegations relatively unscathed maybe the bright side is he will at least be around next year for the secondary, the accusations scaring off anyone that might offer him a decent paying job.

  8. Thanks for the great reminders, Stuart. Our Buffs have come a long way! Just when we feel like we’ve finally begun to arrive, however, it seems the carpet has been pulled out from under us. Watching Oregon lure away various coaches from around the country has been very difficult to stomach. Has it really come down to “he who has the most cash wins?” The spending is out of control, and something needs to be done across the NCAA to equalize the field. Of course, if that were done, coaches would have to learn to be more content with where they are rather than looking for greener ca$h…I mean grass. Where is the coach who is truly committed to the cause more than the ca$h? It appears Coach Chiv is motivated this way. Here’s hoping Coach McIntyre is able to find several more of those, coaches who can truly look into a player’s eye and say they are committed to the team and the cause and not another chunk of change they really don’t have time to spend anyway.

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