Inside My Head

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Don’t Hire Who You Can’t Fire

Posted by Kevin on September 4, 2007

When Larry Templeton hired Sylvester Croom as Mississippi State’s head football coach in 2003, the program was in shambles. Jackie Sherrill had retired been run out of town after three straight horrible seasons (combined 8 wins from 2001 – 2003) and the football program was facing NCAA sanctions.

Before being hired at Mississippi State, Croom was a finalist for the Alabama job, his alma mater. The SEC had never had a black head football coach and pressure from the two racists reverends, Jesse and Al, was heating up. State got to play the sacrificial lamb and hired Croom. State was on a two-year probation period, so the powers that be at State gave Croom a four year contract that started after the probation period was over.

As if Croom didn’t already have an uphill battle ahead of him, he didn’t even arrive in Starkville to get to work until January 2004. He missed much of the critical recruiting period and didn’t even have his staff hired until February/March. Croom brought with him yet another variation of Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense – a run first, short pass based offense designed to eat up small/medium chunks of yards. It’s a great system if you have the athletes to run it and a quarterback to drive it. Mississippi State had neither. The offense was essentially made up as they went. Just how bad was Mississippi State in 2004? We lost to I-AA Maine. SEC schools don’t lose to I-AA schools. Period. State did, however, stun Florida and get Ron Zook fired mid-season.

Probation year #2… second verse, same as the first. Three wins; eight losses. Jerious Norwood turned in a 257 yard performance at Houston and scored three times against hated rival Ole Miss to close out his Bulldog career as the school’s career rushing leader.

Year #1 of Croom’s “contract” ended quite the same as the first two. If you’re a moral victories type person you could say the team had improved since four of the losses were by 3 points. However, the record remains 3-9 for 2006. Moral victories do not count toward being bowl eligible.

So here we are in 2007, Croom’s second year on his four year contract if my calculations are correct. The one statement Croom has said leading up to this season that will stick with me is that for the first three years he’s been here they haven’t been able to run his offense for a variety of reasons. This year will be different, he says. He has a quarterback who knows the system and athletes who can run it. Yeah… we’ll see about that.

Game 1… #2 LSU. We open the 2007 season for all of college football on national TV. Did I mention we’re coming off 6 straight 2 & 3 win seasons? Playing #2 LSU? Surely you know the outcome already. Michael Henig throws 6 interceptions and gives up a 7th turnover on a fumble as LSU sleepwalks its way to a 45-0 victory. I know it sounds odd to talk about positives in a 45-0 loss, but the defense looked pretty good. LSU had 14 drives in the game; 7 started inside the MSU 45. LSU scored on six of those sevn short-field possessions. In fact, State’s defense held LSU in check on all but one drive where LSU started on their own end of the field. The defense is good. Hell, they’ve been pretty good all through the six years of losing seasons, but they aren’t super heroes. They can’t hold opponents in check forever. The offense has to help out.

Tulane is up next. Tulane is one of those I-A programs who SEC schools just don’t lose to, yet, Mississippi State finds a way. This year Tulane has a new coach, a new offensive system, and very little returning experience outside of their running backs. But this game is no longer a gimmie win for State. In fact, I would not be surprised if the odds makers have us as the underdog.

So… back to Croom and the original point of this post. Don’t hire who you can’t fire. How much longer can State continue losing before we cut the cord and go looking for another coach? If the powers that be stick to their word, Croom has two more seasons after 2007. There’s no way in hell we’ll have a winning season in 2007. We’ll be lucky to eek out another 3 win season. I haven’t seen any proof that Croom can recruit talent, either, so who’s to say 2008 looks any better? And so on…

But how do you fire the first (and only) black head football coach in the SEC? In this day and age, we’d be labeled as racists regardless of the fact that Croom just simply isn’t head coach material.  And would there be even more pressure to hire another black coach, or would State be free to hire the best candidate for the job?  Now don’t go off and call me racist for that comment.  I don’t care what color the coach is.  I want a winning program.  It’s that simple.

And for the record… when State was in the process of hiring a coach in 2003 I wanted Randy Shannon or Charlie Strong.  They’re both black, so shove it up your piehole reverends.


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