Restrained Exuberance

The problem with starting anew with a new head coach is that it gives fans a case of collective amnesia.

Had Mike MacIntyre been retained, we would have spent the entire 2018-19 off-season burdened with the yoke of a seven-game losing streak. There would have been constant reminders that CU had missed out on a bowl bid – again – going a collective 0-10 over the past two seasons with a bowl invitation on the line.

This just in … the players who won only five games in 2017 and 2018, are, for the most part, the players who will take the field in 2019, and will do so with a more difficult schedule in 2019 (New Hampshire will be replaced by Air Force in the non-conference schedule; Oregon State and Cal replaced by Oregon and Stanford in Pac-12 play).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about the hiring of Mel Tucker, and the quotable quotes he has given in his first few days as CU’s new head coach are inspiring.

The thing is … we’ve heard them before.

“We want to have a team that changes the way people think,” Tucker said at his introductory press conference. “When it’s all said and done, when they leave the field, we want them to think ‘I never want to play that team again.’ That’s the type of the team we had here in the early 90’s. This is a no excuse program as of right now.”

Remember Dan Hawkins, and his “Ten wins. No excuses” campaign?

Yeah. So do I.

“I met with the players this morning,” Tucker said. “We had a really good conversation. I had them to myself. Sometimes you just know, and I know the young men in that room are hungry. They want to win. They want to compete for championships. They want to be relevant. I promised them if that they follow a process and buy in and they do the things we’re going to ask them to do, we will achieve at a high level and they will reach their full potential and compete for championships.”

Remember “Return to Dominance”?

Hell, I still have my “RTD” key chain from the 1999 season, the year Gary Barnett returned to Boulder.

Did you read all of the glowing quotes about Mel Tucker, from the likes of Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, and Jim Tressel? (If not, you can find them here). Great stuff.

Problem is, there are not too far removed from the quotes we heard about Mike MacIntyre from the likes of Bill Parcells, Eli Manning and David Cutcliffe when MacIntyre was hired (If you want to check them out, they are still there on the CU website as part of the Game Notes for the Cal game – page 32).

Bring in a new coach … lather, rinse, repeat the promises.

I’m not saying that this only happens in Boulder. It happens all across America, every off-season. Schools fire coaches, and the new coach promises better days to come.

Okay, enough of being a Debbie Downer.

There are several notes on Mel Tucker’s resume which do have me excited about the future.

— The Saban Factor —

Mel Tucker coached at Michigan State, LSU, and Alabama — all under Nick Saban, one of the most successful coaches of all time. Rick George couldn’t help but notice.

“Nick Saban hired him three times,” said George. “There’s probably a reason for that, because (Tucker) is one of the best in the business… That speaks volumes.”

Added Tucker: “(Saban) is a mentor to me. He’s been like a father-figure to me in the world of football. He gave me my first opportunity to coach in 1997 at Michigan State, and I’m forever indebted to him.”

Saban returned the compliment. “I’ve known Mel for well over 20 years and he is one of the brightest coaches in our profession,” said Saban. “I think he will do an outstanding job as the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.  They are getting a guy with a great personality, who knows college football, works hard each and every day, and does it with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and positive energy.”

— The Process —

Saban – Part II. If you follow football, you have heard about Nick Saban and his “process”. It’s the process which has made Alabama the year-in, year-out favorite to win the national championship.

Remember the 2007 Independence Bowl? A 6-6 Alabama team squared off against a 6-6 Colorado team. It was Dan Hawkins’ second year at Colorado; Nick Saban’s first year at Alabama.

Alabama won that night, 30-24 … and we all know the direction the two teams took after that season.

“You will hear me use that word, process, quite a bit,” Tucker said. “Everyone wants to win, but how do you win? There is a process of winning. If you do things the right way each and every day and the standards and expectations are high and the environments are right, then you can achieve success. But there is a process. We will work that process day in and day out. All of the great coaches I have been around have had a plan. They have had a process that they implemented and haven’t wavered, and have gotten great results.”

— Recruit. Recruit. Recruit. —

Slogans will only get you so far. At some point, it comes down to the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s.

“He’s a great recruiter. He’s recruited nationally,” George said. “He’s brought in some of the great players to the schools he’s been at. He’s a proven recruiter, and I’m excited about what he will bring and add to the tradition of the Colorado Buffaloes.”

“You want guys who can win one-on-one,” said Tucker. ” They can win their box in whatever position that is. The evaluation process is critical. It takes talent to evaluate talent. We first have to identify the players, evaluate them, and once we decide that those are guys who can be difference makers and help us reach our goals, it’s all about marketing at that point. We know what we’re looking for. We know what it takes to compete and win. It’s not always about talent; it’s about talent and character. We know what we’re looking for and we’re going to go get it.”

— Expectations — 

“He’s been a part of two national championships and that is where I aspire this program to be,” George said. “Those are the expectations that we have for this program. It is about winning championships and he has experienced success at the highest level. That is a level we want to be at here at the University of Colorado.”

“The expectations are high,” Tucker said. “You heard it from Rick (George); we’re here to win championships. That’s O.K with me … I’ve never been in a game — as a player or coach — where we weren’t expected to win. Ever. There’s one thing that I can tell you — there’s no one on this planet that can put more pressure on me than I can put on myself. The expectations that I have for this program are extremely high. We’re going to start working today to get this thing going in the direction it needs to go.”

For a program that is 0-13 all-time against USC, it’s refreshing to hear its head coach say he’s never been in a game where he didn’t expect to win.

Let’s hope he’s able to maintain that philosophy through his first year in Boulder.

— Mac II … a different Mac II – 

Mike MacIntyre was supposed to be Mac II, the reincarnation of Bill McCartney at Colorado.

Instead, the MacIntyre era will be remembered more like the Dan Hawkins era – one good season, but ultimately, disappointment.

Mel Tucker comes to Colorado without a huge national following.

He will not be perceived as a “splash hire”. Most Buff fans – including this one – had never heard of Mel Tucker until recently.

A relatively unknown defensive coordinator from a Power Five conference team back east.

The same way Bill McCartney, defensive coordinator under Bo Schembechler at Michigan, could have been described when he came to Boulder in 1982.

Let’s hope so …


12 Replies to “Restrained Exuberance”

  1. I just have to say that comparing Dan Hawkins…
    …who had taken over a team that played in the BIG 12 TITLE GAME the previous TWO SEASONS before Hawkins managed to lose his opener to a Div II school!!!…
    …to Mike MacIntyre who took over a team that had only won 4 games total the previous TWO SEASONS is completely unfair to MacIntyre. Complete apples to oranges.

    Anyway, after initially being disappointed that we didn’t bring in someone with head coaching experience, I have to say that I have become VERY excited at the idea of Mel Tucker being our new football head coach. Looking forward to seeing what he does with his staff. MacIntyre has certainly left the program in WAAAY better shape than when he took it over, and Rick George seems to have done his homework in this coaching hire. Go make some noise in the Pac-12!

    Go Buffs!

  2. So this is my first post on coach Tucker. Stu I think you pointed out some good points but I am an optimist so I think I see a lot more positives than questions. Here are the things that caught my eye:

    1. No excuses. Man I am so tired of excuses. Hawkins came in with excuses. Embry and Mac as well. All of them were talking about “rebuilding”. Tucker has come in and said we are going to win. Period. End of story.
    1. Fundamentally sound. God I have hated how we are not fundamentally sound across the board. This is coaching. We have some players that are but too many are not fundamentally sound and then the coaches lament that the guys miss assignments. This is a coaches job, if you cannot teach your kids to be fundamentally sound you need to go back and learn how to do it. I am really looking at you online coach. The fact that you cannot teach these young men how to be fundamentally sound is an indictment on your abilities not theirs. Good technique on the line will outweigh pure physicality more often than not. Sure having a physical specimen helps but sound technique on a slightly lessser athlete will win out over time.
    3. No excuses version 2- coaching staff. No more two extra years after you have failed to get better at your craft. This one is a wait and see. Frankly, if the online coach is stil here, Chev is still calling plays then we are probably not really going to get better. The head coach needs to hold his coaches accountable and if he does not then he deserves the opportunity to coach somewhere else. I will say I don’t think Saban would put up with this so I am better Tucker won’t either.
    4. Recruiting. Man I love the guys answer about “selling Colorado”. It is NOT about selling Colorado. It is about selling what that kid and his parents want. How CU fits into those goals. For those who have sold in the business world successfully you know that is the right way. Go hunting the No’s. Find out why a kid won’t come here and show him why he should be here and why this is the place. That is real sales and Tucker obviously gets it.
    5. I have always hated “players make plays. Players win games.” I get it. Football takes athletes and without a certain level of athlete it is tough to compete. But coaches put the athletes they have in a position to compete. I think the Oregon state game is a perfect example of this. When things went bad the coaches just kept waiting for their players to make plays….. instead of pulling them together and coaching them through it. I heard there was never a time during he epic fail that the head coach didn’t pull everyone to the side and actually lead them through that…. that is what a bunch of 20 year olds needs not. 50 year old man asking them to make some plays…..
    6. Never go into a game expecting to lose. I am tired of usc record against us. We need to go into every game knowing we can win. I don’t think Mac really had that approach.

  3. Damn, hit it on the nail. Cautious optimism.
    One major difference I think is that there is now support from the top. Every night when i go to bed i thank god for Rick George coming to Colorado. CU has so much more to offer at this point in time than with any of the coaches from the last 20 years. I am hopeful that this the difference maker this time around.
    Other differences:
    1. beer being sold in stadium adds to revenue and honestly game atmosphere
    2. concerts in summer to raise revenue
    3. support from regents
    5. Epic recruiters we haven’t had in 25 years
    6. Talented skill players in place
    7. all thats really missing at this moment is fan support

    RTD – How is winning CU’s only big12 Championship in 2001 not a RTD ???

  4. Stuart: I don’t think that there was another coach out there, actually available, who brings what Mel Tucker brings…Buff fans should be excited!

  5. There is a difference to me from the Hawkins years to the Macintyre years. They took over 2 completely different programs. Hawkins took over a program that won the big 12 north 4 out of 5 years and was only 5 seasons removed from a year where we were in the national championship discussion. Macintyre took over the worst power five program in the United States. I was a student at the time working for Dave Plati, it was very depressing working the embree press conferences and being on the sideline watching my beloved buffs be so awful. Macintyre’s teams actually improved where hawkins’s teams just got worse. What hung Macintyre where his excuses and bewildering game plans. And for some reason inability to develop an offensive line.
    What excites me about Tucker is the fact that he has been involved with success at the highest level. He knows what a good game plan looks like. He knows what works and what doesn’t with kids and how to get the best out of them. Coach Mac brought the Michigan attitude to CU and then made it his own. Tucker can bring the Saban attitude to the buffs and that feels a lot less of a gamble than getting another version of Hawkins it Macintyre.
    Look I get it. New coaches bring excitement and hope. And we have been burned by it before. But this hire feels a lot more deliberate and well thought out. There is no reason why we can’t have success here now. The facilities are in place, the players are in place (o-line lending). All we need the the right coach and we can take this conference and country by storm. Go buffs.

  6. Those of us that have been around a long time remember a certain coach who came here and basically started to recruit players to beat one team in particular….when MT said he won’t go after a player unless they can help us beat USC, that is all I need to hear. Clearly Hawkins and MM could not relate with the elite players who can make a difference up front on both sides of the ball….MT looks/feels and has the cred to get this done…..this is going to be fine to watch…..all in

  7. Is restrained exuberance the way it is? Feels like it.
    RG used a search firm to do some work. Vetting etc. (Some didn’t believe a search firm was going to be used…..)
    RG made the decision. Himself. Unlike the last hires the hire had to go through academic and student committees. This is a big boy hire by a big boy. Was he the number 1 choice? Well he was the only guy that was offered.
    Funny isn’t it all the blog guys and the guys who have sites and all the big wigs with all the projections weren’t even close. No Clue. Me? surprised.

    Yup right Yup. Lotta coach speak right there by Coach Tucker.
    You can see it, even if it is modified a bit.

    Every coach has read and can repeat the phrases needed to say nothing. Every coach has a plan. Some just have better plans. Some execute it better because of who they/you are.
    I am believing Championship quotes from Saban, Smart, etc about plans so much more than I am about midland coaches like David Cutcliff. (Hey Stu, Danny was going to be a homerun according to Bohn………….you got any quotes by coaches about him?)

    Remember WacMac saying that Cutcliff told him that he (Cutcliff) was doing well and then he started getting higher ranked recruits and with this came some problems so he went back to not chasing the 4 stars etc etc? Mediocre WacMac taking advise from Mediocre Cutcliff.

    Ya gotta recruit. Poor recruiting will kill ya. If you listen to Coach T he knows the type of player he wants. Will be interesting to see:
    Whose offers he will honor from the WacMac era
    What other offers he will make

    The mantra of the WacMac era. He is only a two/three star, undersized, slow, etc but we can grow and coach him into something else. ( Yup always gotta have a couple of those in ever class……………but not 18 of em)

    So I am hopelessly totally optimistic. I am not waiting to see. I see it now.
    Good talent on the squad right now.
    Will keep that rolling?
    Need an oline coach cause the Buffs been without one for 10 years.
    Need a real OC. Hmmmmm….Who could that be……………?
    Chev and Hagan? They will be kept. But not in current positions. Is that good?

    Taking on the risk and the pressure. Can he do it. Yup.

    Will he win immediately?
    He will get the team to a bowl next year
    This 2019 recruiting class will be mostly WacMac but it ain’t bad…………kinda good actually (Chev). No big adds by the new HC and New Staff.
    BUT The 2020 recruiting class will be excellent. Book it.

    TUCK EM UP……….TUCK EM UP……………..GO CU


    Note: I am in.

    1. “RG made the decision. Himself. Unlike the last hires the hire had to go through academic and student committees.”

      Do you have additional information on this? I have not heard this before. That would make a ton of sense, too much sense. I always knew that after the scandals etc. that the department had to tighten down, but if this is the case, that explains a lot of the decline in CU over the last 14 years.

  8. I would add a comparison of past schools as compared to the past coaches: Georgia, Alabama, etc vs Boise state and San Jose state.

  9. So far, Mel Tucker has said the right things. The next 2-3 weeks will say a lot. First, with the assistant coaches he brings in / retains. Second, the players that stay (or leave) and the recruits he can bring in both in December and the 2nd signing period. I am excited for the change, let’s see what Mel Tucker can do!

  10. Understood about “hearing it all before”. One difference in this hire…… Mel Tucker was hired by Rick George, another leader with a plan and a process. The need for upgraded facilities was talked about forever, Rick George brought CU the Champions Center. Rick George continues with his process.

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