The Washington Way, Or The Chris Petersen Way

This week, Marcus Peters was kicked off the team.  Either you think it’s a good thing – because he’s likely a bad apple – or you think it’s a bad thing – because he’s a really good football player.

I mean, who gets kicked off of a football team without breaking some law or otherwise getting arrested?  Maybe this happens more than I realize and I just don’t pay attention, but I assure you, college football teams aren’t in the market of throwing away first round draft picks.  That’s not how you win football games.

I don’t know what happened.  No one but the people on the Washington Huskies football team knows what happened, and we likely never will.  We know that there were a number of incidents leading up to this, and apparently there was some straw that broke the camel’s back this week.  There was the apparent sideline tirade during the Eastern Washington game that resulted in a 1-game suspension the following week.  But, other than that, we don’t have a concrete idea of what he’s like as a teammate.

I mean, no one had a problem with Marcus Peters last year, did they?

In the short term, yeah, this sucks.  I was really hoping we’d find a way to beat UCLA, and this puts a serious damper on our chances.  But, let’s face it, it’s not like the Huskies were going anywhere this year.  Having Marcus Peters on our team isn’t going to result in a magic wormhole opening up where we’re all transplanted into another universe where the Huskies are competing for the Pac-12 championship.  We’re 2-3!  There are 8 teams ahead of us in the conference standings!

Likewise, losing Marcus Peters isn’t going to prevent us from going to a bowl game.  We need one more win.  We happen to play both Oregon State and Washington State to close out the season.  That 7th victory is coming regardless.

So, this move doesn’t really impact this season too much, if we’re being honest.  But, really, this move was never really about this season.

This is one of those statement moves.  You have to wonder – if the Huskies were 9-0 right now – would they opt to make the same statement?  It’s a legitimate question anyway; but they’re not 9-0, so they can afford to hurt the team in the short term in an effort to help the program long term.

The thing is, these “statements” can have both a positive and negative effect.  One would hope that this shows not only the players currently on the team – but prospective recruits in the future – that we want players who are going to fall in line.  Buy in to the program and all that.  The University of Washington is far from alone in being an institution and a program that wants quality individuals under its umbrella.  We’re not special in that regard.  But, it’s always a fine line between finding the right type of people, and the type of people that will win you football games.  Sometimes, those groups don’t overlap.  At what point do you sacrifice talent for good behavior?  At what point do you get fired for having too many Good Guys and not enough quality football players?

There’s being a hard-ass and there’s being an uncoachable twat.  Chris Petersen doesn’t necessarily strike me as being overly overbearing, but then again, he’s certainly more of a disciplinarian than Sark was.  If a move like this makes things a little easier; if they make the players a little more coachable, then it’s a positive.

But, if these types of moves hurt the product on the field, then there’s a problem.  Players aren’t going to want to come here if they’re worried about getting kicked off the team.  Granted, as has been stated before, this isn’t an isolated incident with Peters.  But, there’s the coach’s side of the story, and there’s Peters’ side of the story.  We’ve yet to hear the player’s version of how this season has unfolded.  When that story is finally told, how is that going to play in the media?  More importantly, how are future recruits going to take it?  Will they ultimately side with the coach or the player?

And, finally, if these types of dismissals continue, at what point do the players currently in the program start to revolt?  Making a statement like this, showing the world how you want to run your program, only works if it ultimately leads to winning and sustained success.  Coach Pete is just starting out, so you figure he has some time to build upon our foundation.  But, if we continue to spin our tires at Just Good Enough To Get To A Bowl Game year-in and year-out, at what point do we stop lauding the coach for his ethics and morals and start condemning him and his holier than thou act?

Like everything, this is another slippery slope he has to contend with.  Many fans really love this approach to running a program.  They like their players disciplined and playing “Washington Football”, a throwback to times of yore where Men Were Men, and the kids did what they were told without any lip.  But, I would argue there’s a strong contingent of fans who are loathe to see the best players – their favorite players – getting kicked off the team for what may or may not be ticky-tack reasons.

Did he rape someone?  Did he burgle a home and get caught by the police?  Did he pick a fight with a bunch of drunken Seahawks fans after the Super Bowl?  No.  Apparently, he mouthed off one too many times and the coaches had enough.  I dunno.  Is the greatness of a coach measured by how strong he is in his convictions, and how he’s able to cut loose a future NFL star because he doesn’t live up to some sort of standard?  Or, is the greatness of a coach measured by how he’s able to work with and mold a troubled kid?

Again, I don’t have all the facts.  All I know is, in one year, we lost our best cornerback and our best wide receiver due to code of conduct violations.  Washington fans like to preach about doing things the Washington Way, but that has nothing to do with Chris Petersen.  He has no ties to this school prior to his hiring this year.

This is all about how Chris Petersen wants to run things.  Which, fine, it’s his team, and he has obviously earned this right through years of success at Boise State.  At some point, within the next couple years, this team will be comprised of almost exclusively Chris Petersen’s Guys.  I’ll refrain from total judgment until then.  I hope to holy hell that he has a team full of saints who are some good, coachable kids that make this staff glad to come to work every day.  But, if they’re not winning some serious ballgames at that point – if we’re not sticking it to Oregon again on a regular basis – then we’ll know what all of this has been for.

Remember, Tyrone Willingham made it his mission to change the culture and bring in a bunch of Good Guys.  Fuck that.  I’ll take some ballers with attitude anyday if it means we’re back to being an elite program.

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