Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bob Diaco Needs to Be a Better Coach, Now

If UConn fired Bob Diaco after Saturday, I’d understand. I wouldn’t agree, but I’d understand.

It is completely inexcusable to lose a game when you have the ball at the 1-yard line because the clock ran out. An interception. A fumble. A bad offensive play. A good defensive play. These things happen. Not getting a play off? That’s unacceptable.

Yet the most confounding thing about UConn’s loss on Saturday to Navy is how many UConn fans are okay with it. The prevailing wisdom seems to be that UConn used to be so bad that we should encouraged they played well.

The low point was a piece on the UConn Blog that surmised the “feeling” of the Navy game was the real victory.

“But the way I know you felt, you probably haven't felt that way watching this team in five years.”

Come on, seriously? In the immortal words of Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.” UConn lost the game.

uconn clock runs outLet’s be absolutely clear – Bob Diaco is in his third year as UConn’s head coach and the team made a bowl game last year. UConn is the only team to beat Houston in two years. I’m supposed to feel good about losing to a Navy team playing its backup quarterback?

No, I’m not. No one is.

UConn is in the midst of trying to prove to the world that he deserves to be in a Power Five conference, specifically the Big 12. How is taking a moral victory from a loss to Navy going to show that to the Big 12?

Navy is a solid football team and has been for more than a decade. However, this is not a vintage Navy football team – not with Keenan Reynolds off to the try the NFL and not with its 2016 starter being lost for the season in week 1. This was a game UConn should have won. They didn’t because the coach failed them.

I can accept our players not executing. I can accept play calls not working out. I cannot accept our head coach preventing the team from winning.

Most troubling has been Diaco’s response to the loss, which should have started with the words, “I’m sorry.”

Instead, Diaco’s reasons are worrisome. First, he said UConn blew their last timeout because the clock was running – the clock was not running. Second, he said that the players wanted to run the ball and he was “fine with it” as if he’s not the, you know, Head Coach who makes that decision. Third, he said that he was there to be held accountable and he should take the blame – um Coach, who else were people going to blame?

Bob Diaco has certainly improved UConn since 2013. But UConn in 2013 was literally the worst team in college football. I’m not going to celebrate that improvement like he walked on water. I watched Randy Edsall win football games for a decade. I have a higher standard for UConn football than close losses to Navy.

What has really annoyed me about the post-game fallout is my real issue with Bob Diaco’s coaching – how the hell was UConn down 21-0 to Navy? It was a continuation of Diaco’s worst trait, as UConn seems to consistently start games slow.

Against Navy, how was our defense so initially unprepared for the triple option? Where was the passing game in the first half? Where was the aggressive play calling? Does UConn have to be down three touchdowns before throwing the ball downfield?

The worst part about Navy’s loss is how close UConn was to something special. They would be 2-0 heading home to face two ACC teams that they should be favored against. They were staring a 4-0 start in the face leading to a primetime showdown on ESPN vs Houston with untold hype.

It’s all gone because Bob Diaco is the only football coach in the world that doesn’t throw the ball  -- or at least rolls the damn QB out of the pocket for a pass-run option. He called the worst possible play and then told the world the players called it.

If you’re read my views on UConn, you know that I have been on-board with Diaco since Day 1. I found 13 reasons to be excited about the ultimately ill-fated 2014 season. I’ve made trips up from DC to the Rent to watch some terrible football over the past few years. But I’ve never wavered in my support for Diaco. Until Saturday.

Simply put, a competent football coach does not allow the clock to run out like that. It was a fireable offense. At a school like Texas or Oklahoma, it could be. Instead, UConn fans shrug their shoulders and take solace in the fact the Huskies don’t suck anymore.

Most frustratingly, the same people who think we should be happy that UConn improved will be the same people decrying the empty seats this Saturday against Virginia. Those fans are the problem because those seats would be filled if UConn beat Navy.

There’s nothing confusing about sports. You play to win games. Fans pay to see teams that win games. Right now, UConn isn’t winning football games, so fans aren’t paying to watch them.

Before the season, I believed UConn had the potential to win 9 games, 10 if you include the bowl game. When you have the potential to win that many games, there are no such things as moral victories.

If UConn wants to be a Power Five school, everyone needs to start acting like it, including the fans. The players did their part in the second half against Navy. Now, the head coach needs to do his part.

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