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Getting the right coach: not an easy exercise -- first in a series

Rutgers has gone through seven coaches since this writer first stepped foot on campus - and that's a pretty long time ago. It includes a few that you had to scratch your head over. What makes a person the right coach? We'll take a swing at that question - and some others - over the next few days.

"As a matter of fact, I could come up for an interview...."
"As a matter of fact, I could come up for an interview...."
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, our Griffin Whitmer wrote about how Rutgers shouldn't/couldn't drop Kyle Flood after the season.  Regardless of the results the rest of the way.  Hmmm, not so fast, my young friend.

I'm a person who usually is in for the long haul.  It takes a lot for me to give up on something or someone.  As a teacher, I had a principal once who everyone on staff said had to go; I liked the guy and thought, if he just had some more time to acclimate to us and the school it would be okay.  I mean, even with the Titanic, I'm still not totally sold that it was entirely the iceberg's fault.

But even the most die-hard and loyal among us sometimes have to face facts.  Sometimes there is just a reality that you can no longer overlook.

And I'm there with Kyle Flood.

The Post Game Press Conference

As usual, the head coach met with the media after the OSU game.  There were a lot of things asked and answered.  But there was one answer from Flood that I had a very hard time comprehending.  The question was certainly one that Flood could and should have anticipated which, to me, makes his response that much more incomprehensible.

Q. Can you talk about why you put Hayden in when you did and what you saw from him?
COACH FLOOD: I thought it was an opportunity to get him some experience, to let him operate the offense. At times, I thought he did a good job. But the most important thing he got tonight was experience, and now he's got something that he can build on as he goes forward.

An "opportunity to get him some experience".  With 4:17 left in a 49-0 game.  That was the time to get him some experience.  Not in the Penn State game?  There, it was 28-3 with 4:21 left in the game.  Not in the Kansas game?  You were up two touchdowns when you got the ball with 8:59 left, and again with 2:50 left. But those weren't good opportunities to get your back up quarterback some reps. And I know that Norries Wilson was on the sideline then, but if they hadn't discussed that possibility, well, that's just one more nail.

Between the hard-to-believe email saga and this most recent post-game comment, I'm beginning to believe that Kyle is not only a coach of questionable merit, I'm beginning to believe he may not be all that smart.  He certainly doesn't know the right things to say.

The Right Guy

Which brings me to where I was originally going to travel with this post.  Getting rid of a coach who isn't getting the job done and bringing in a shiny new model sounds great, until you look more deeply.  As the saying goes, the devil is in the details.  But bringing in the latest and greatest - or even the best we can get - doesn't always lead to success.  Trust me: I've been there, seen it, suffered through it.

I started watching Rutgers football when I came to the Banks as a freshman in 1969.  During my time as an undergrad, John Bateman was the head coach and the teams went 22-19.  Yes, my years saw a winning record; how many of you can say that?  But after my senior year, it was felt that Bateman wasn't the right man any longer, and so assistant coach and RU grad Frank Burns was promoted.  "Flingin' Frank" Burns (RC '49) had been a part of Rutgers' "Golden Age" when the Knights went 27-7 in the post-WWII era.  But Frank Burns' greatest feat would be leading Rutgers in its transition from a small, eastern college that regularly played Princeton, Bucknell, and Lehigh, to a team that was going to be "bigger time".

And he was the right coach for the time.  And that's my point.  A team - a school - needs the right coach for what it is and for where it wants to go.  In 1973, Frank Burns was the right coach for Rutgers.  And he continued to be that for a decade....until he wasn't.  Although there's more to that story.

Over the four-plus decades that I watched it, Rutgers hired - and fired - four head football coaches, including Burns.  Along with the firings, RU is now on, and so am I, the sixth coach since John Bateman left after the 1972 season.  By comparison, how many coaches do you think these other programs have had since 1970?  Answers tomorrow....and don't cheat!

Boston College          Virginia

Maryland                    Syracuse

Pitt                                 Purdue

Virginia Tech               Baylor

Tomorrow: Part 2, How Rutgers didn't get the right coach....over and over