Last year when I confounded my wife by being more emotional than usual in that odd time between Rutgers Football and baseball season, she knew drastic action needed to be taken. She knows that my frustration was warranted in the 2015 Rutgers football finale against Maryland and virtually any time the Mets have to figure out how to deal with an injured player. But in February even before March Madness? Her solution was for me to read the 90s best seller, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” I recommend the book, but I want to take literally just one page out of it.
In the words of author John Gray, “it works well for any relationship that may be going through conflict, whether it’s a partner, a friend or even a coworker.” There are three steps to writing and sharing your Feeling Letter:
1. First you write a Feeling Letter expressing your feelings of anger, sadness, fear, regret, and love.
2. Then you write a Response Letter expressing what you want to hear from your loved one.
3. Finally you share your Feeling Letter and Response Letter with your loved one.
So on behalf of Rutgers fans, here’s mine on behalf of all of us to offensive coordinator John McNulty ...
Dear Coach McNulty,
It’s difficult to formulate cohesive thoughts when there’s so much anger. When the team is struggling for points, did you really need to throw that utterly ridiculous fade to Hunter Hayek on first down and goal? There is such a thing as “loosening up” the defense, but how does that do anything other than making them more confident they should not try to defend it? Was that your way of throwing a pass with zero chance of being caught by either team?
It’s disappointing that after hearing from you and Coach Ash that the quarterback room has improved so much, yet in the game against Kansas, two of our quarterbacks saw the field and both seemed clueless most of the time despite ZERO pass rush from the opponent. We don’t know if we should laugh or cry because never in the history of football has there been less successful quarterback play with no pass rush closing in.
You may not have been around these parts as consistently as we have, but we are generally fearful based on the track record that the team may not win another game this season. Your offensive style worked great a decade ago, but we are nervous that at this stage as offenses recycle old ideas with new ones that this pro-style will not work. Our third biggest fear is that the 2007 and 2008 teams were a product of Mike Teel possibly being lightning in a bottle and the offense would have been just three yards and a cloud of dust with other signal callers.
Most of us do not regret becoming Rutgers fans in the first place, but we are sorry that we didn’t realize how good we had it for a while there being in a series of mostly unstable, but some fun while they lasted relationships. Being in the Big Ten East is not easy, but there is no excuse for looking unprepared and being worse at executing than Group of Five, FCS, and even Division II teams we watched on our televisions later in the day. We apologize for whining about 3 points against Ohio State when the Kansas game was much worse.
We love Rutgers Football. There have been a million times to stop watching RU or college football in general, but we just keep coming back. Though some of us may need to take a break for a bit, the joy you helped bring us from 2005-2008 is something that can never be taken away. That is one of the reasons, but not the only one we want this to work for both of us.
We need to hear from you. Please re-affirm for us that this will not result in a break-up for the 9th year in a row. We know that although we were together once before this long streak of every which way of breakups began, it’s not you, it’s us. That baggage is something you have to understand from the outset and we were totally up front about when we got back together. Our
children err, quarterbacks have taken it hard and need some stability so they can relax and flourish.
We understand the defense couldn’t stop Kansas even though the Jayhawks had literally zero ability to throw the ball downfield. That was not your fault either, but even a little rest would do them some good on a hot day when they have little depth. It’s not your fault about the depth since you weren’t here in time for the last recruiting cycles. And sometimes the defense just has a bad day and needs the offense to win a shootout. We haven’t experienced that since 2015, and even then it was just once. We need you to at least give us some confidence we could win a shootout one day, but before that let’s start with basics.
When we are down big, which will happen plenty in our division, we need you to help us at least gain some yards when the defense is in a prevent. The last few years not only could we not score when facing big deficits, we couldn’t even get first downs the defenses were handing us on a platter. Even if they are empty box score yards and points, achieving this if nothing else help build confidence. We have zero self-efficacy on this front.
At the even more basic level, we know that you know Xs and Os. It’s evident from people hiring you in the NFL when that’s almost all that matters for assistant coaches in addition to your success last time we were together. That said, our quarterbacks look like they are in a fog out there, so you need to figure out how to fix that. We are sorry we can’t give specific instructions, but you just need to fix it. You were given the New Jersey All-State quarterback from 2016 who would have been the messiah had he suited up for Kansas Saturday, and two early enrollee signal callers in 2018. You have a 5th year senior who won three Big Ten games last year. We know that we are building for the future, but there will be no recruits for the future if you can’t get just one of them to help us win a few games this year.
We know you are not the cause of most of our problems that stem from previous relationships. We admit that we need to work it out with other family members, too. Pat Hobbs hired the best defensive minded coaching candidate available and now we need the offense to help the defense out a little bit. We are not expecting a ring this season or even next. But we need you to help us be the best version of ourselves. Don’t even worry about who is on the other side, just help us be competent at first.
Unfortunately, if you fail, it really might be time for us to settle for mediocrity and just go triple option in 2021, or whenever we have to start our next relationship. Don’t worry, we have plenty of experience speed dating. And plenty of practice dealing with disappointment. But we never give up hope that we will find “the one.”
Rutgers fans, married only once or twice since 1869.
P.S. While you’re at it, can you find the next Brian Leonard? That would be a big help.