Most people were obviously willing to give Swinney a pass when he took over in mid-year 2008. And then another year’s grace period was acceptable, since it was his first full year of being in control.
Now we have reached the end of season 2. Without Spiller to save the butts of an inept offense through his superhuman athletic ability, we are 6-6. Two of those wins came against teams that hardly count as opponents, and the rest were due mostly to the play of the defense.
The season’s signature victory is NC State. We lost convincingly, again, to the chickens, for the first time in 40 years.
Although the team may not be composed entirely of championship caliber players, past recruiting has done fairly well. It seems that the quality of players currently on the team justify expectations of a record better than 6-6. Few of us expected an undefeated season, but we all hoped that the crapfests like BC would have been eliminated with the regime change.
Even more disappointing has been the complete lack of improvement over the course of the season. The “early season bugs” that always show up in the first few games never went away.
Flaws that could not be corrected, and kept reappearing, such as:
- Defense that got stops on 1st and 2nd down, only to give it all back with penalties for a 1st down, or busted coverages for big gains. What good is a sack and a TFL if you then give up 3rd and 26?
- O line play that was inconsistent, at times blocking well and affording protection, but at others simply stepping out of the way of oncoming defenders. Still can’t get short yardage plays.
- Receivers that cannot catch balls that land directly in their hands. This is perhaps the most puzzling, since presumably these guys have been catching footballs since they were kids. But for some reason, they lose that ability once they arrive here.
- A decline in QB play. I don’t care what the “numbers” say about the season, Parker did not play well on the whole. In particular, he made some really bad decisions, like you would expect from a true freshman, and did this repeatedly. The interceptions this season were not due to good plays by defenders as much as terrible plays by Parker. His accuracy at times was far off the mark.
- One of Swinney’s worst decisions over the summer was to tout Parker as a guy who could play in the Pros already. A sophomore college QB, who is a 2 sport star and already has a big pro baseball payload, does not need his ego inflated anymore.
- Given the previous three points, a heavy reliance by the offense on 4 and 5 WR sets was inexplicable. Why fill the field with people who can’t catch or run routes? Have we completed a slant pattern since Aaron Kelly left?
- A terrible kicking game. Last year it was extra points, this year, field goals. There are too many guys going to school for free for the kicking to be this consistently bad.
Of course, one year of 6-6 does not mean fire everybody in sight. Richt was mighty popular a few years ago (when he had Stafford and Moreno) and look at them now, at 6-6. Mack Brown is considered a legend, and Texas sits at 5-7 this season after playing for the championship. So anyone can fall on hard times. There's no doubt that the staff is somehow pulling in a recruiting class (at least verbally at this point) that far outweighs what you'd expect from a team with this caliber of on field play.
Unfortunately, I did not see any evidence of improvement on the problem areas this year to make me think that this staff can get it done. The offense was simply inept all year, except for a few periods of competence. Those were the exception rather than the rule. I hope I’m wrong and that this team actually looks like it has a clue next year.