The first game week of the 2019 Rutgers football season is finally here. There are plenty of questions and concerns that need to be answered for this team to achieve significant improvement after last season’s 1-11 record. We’ve previewed every position group, broken down the options at quarterback, looked at areas and players that must improve and more in our preseason preview here. In an effort to lighten things up and hopefully provide some key points regarding the outlook for this team, here are five quotes from five of my favorite movies of all-time. I didn’t include any football movies because that seemed too easy and not all that interesting. I hope you agree and let’s kick things off her.
The Shawshank Redemption
“Hope is a dangerous thing my friend, it can kill a man...” - Ellis Boy “Red” Redding
“Hope is a good thing, maybe even the best of things, and good things never die.” - Andy Dufresne
One of my personal all-time favorites and possibly the most important quote of the movie certainly applies to the Rutgers fan base heading into this season. The offseason is a time when even for a program that had just 1 win a year ago, things can appear to be on the up and up. Head coach Chris Ash had a pretty solid offseason considering the circumstances, adding several potential impact transfers and turning over the coaching staff with key adds like defensive coordinator Andy Buh and offensive line coach Pete Rossomando. Whether these moves pan out remain to be seen, but Ash certainly was aggressive in making changes to both the roster and his staff, as he should have been.
As for the fans, it’s hard to be overly optimistic, but we all want to believe this season will be a far better one than last. As Red said in Shawshank, hope is a very dangerous thing and that’s why I think most Rutgers fans aren’t expecting much. But as Andy points out, hope is a special thing and I suspect we all, even myself, in our hearts are hoping real progress can occur this season, even if our brains may say otherwise.
“Strikes and gutters, ups and downs.” – The Dude
This one of a kind movie never gets old in my view and I’m proud to have seen it in the theaters well before it became a cult classic. This particular quote speaks to the adversity this team will likely face and need to overcome at times to have success this season. Life in the Big Ten East is no joke, but Rutgers has an opportunity to patch together several wins by the time the 150th anniversary rolls around and they enter a bye week. (Note: No joke intended, just the facts, but I do get more upset the closer it gets that Rutgers isn’t playing on that historic weekend.)
Home games against UMASS and Boston College in the first four weeks, followed by a reasonable five game stretch against Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Liberty, and Illinois doesn’t get much more manageable than that in any season. Road games at Iowa and Michigan the first month make it important that Rutgers doesn’t get derailed long term in those matchups, something that seemed to happen in week two last season at Ohio State. Unlike last season, let’s hope Rutgers does produce some high moments we can revel in, even if there aren’t enough to generate at least five wins.
“There’s good and bad everywhere, don’t you think?” - Jonathan Mardukas
“Eh, well, I’d say there’s bad everywhere. Good I don’t know about.” - Jack Walsh
(NOTE: Sadly, I couldn’t find the clip of this quote)
Love this movie and one of the best and most underrated performances that the great Robert DeNiro ever produced is also relevant to this Rutgers football team. Former cop and current bounty hunter Jack Walsh was a pessimist with most things in life, as most Rutgers fans are about this season. For me, it’s hard to have much faith when at least half the position groups face serious questions or concerns. The depth of the defensive line, the inexperience of the secondary and tight ends, the uncertainty at wide receiver, and of course, quarterback play are major concerns regarding this team. Whether enough players can step up to push this team forward remains to be seen. Until they do and this team proves it can stay in it and close out games in the fourth quarter, consider me in the camp of Jack Walsh.
“We review...all the fears and anxiety...which are soinherently symptomatic......of a losing team. The mind is a strange thing, men. We must begin by asking it......What is losing? Losing is a disease......as contagious as polio.Losing is a disease......as contagious as syphilis. Losing is a disease......as contagious as bubonic plague...... attacking one... ... but infecting all. Ah, but curable.” - New York Knights Team Doctor
Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the imagining you are a ship at sea part, but hopefully you see the relevancy here. Rutgers desperately needs to generate some positive vibes and momentum early on this season to build team confidence and further put last season in the rearview mirror. The more setbacks that occur, the harder it will be for this team to mentally rebound. There is no doubt losing takes its toll on the soul of a team and it certainly did last season. Ash did praise his players for responding well this offseason and moving forward in a positive way. I want to believe they’ve put the past in the past, but what happens if Rutgers turns it over in the first quarter against UMASS? What happens if they fall behind by multiple scores against Iowa and Boston College? Their ability to overcome those mental obstacles are just as important of any they’ll face on the field this fall.
Star Wars - Empire Strikes Back
“Do or do not, there is no try.” - Yoda
Simple but very true from the ultimate Jedi master. Remember, these are student-athletes and there is no doubt the players on this team work extremely hard throughout the year. However, like all industries, results are the most important thing and for Rutgers to make major progress this season, they need to produce. There can’t be any moral victories. They need wins to truly change perception and inspire belief among the fan base that the program is heading in the right direction under head coach Chris Ash. Let’s hope they make Yoda a believer too.