Frank Beamer is Virginia Tech football, and Virginia Tech football is Frank Beamer. It's hard to picture one without the other, like trying to imagine Calvin without Hobbes or Elvis Andrus without Adrian Beltre. Something about the split would leave fans feeling hollow.
Still, after losing 34-27 at Boston College on Saturday—the Hokies' second loss in two weeks after starting the year 6-1—whispers about his job security are likely to ratchet up. Until now, they have been hushed and (admittedly) premature, but with another season starting to crumble, they will reverberate loud and clear.
Those whispers will mention the offense, which has been among the worst in America for most of this season. They will mention how football is a young man's game, and how Beamer's system is not tailored for the newfangled pace of the sport.
They will mention last year's ugly 7-6 record, and they will ask stupid rhetorical questions like, "What have you done for me lately?"
Those whispers are coming, and they're about to get louder.
But don't listen to a word they have to say.
Since arriving in Blacksburg in 1987, Beamer has transformed the Virginia Tech program. He crafted his own brand of football—"Beamer Ball"—that will forever link winning with special teams and defense, no matter what coach or school implements it.
Under those principles, the Hokies have enjoyed unprecedented success. The team has won 10-plus games in a season 13 times since 1995 (an 18-season stretch), including eight straight times between 2004 and 2011.
The year 2011, by the way, was less than 24 months ago. On Jan. 3, 2012, Beamer was standing on the sidelines at the Superdome, preparing to coach his team in the Sugar Bowl against Michigan. It was his second straight BCS bowl and fourth in five years. Few coaches have ever enjoyed that much success.
Now, a scant 669 days since that moment, there is speculation that he might be on his way out.
If you went to sleep that evening, then woke up today and heard that Beamer might be on the hot seat, you would think that something catastrophic must have happened.
But nothing catastrophic has happened. Just a mild rut. It hasn't been the same success he enjoyed during the majority of the 2000s, but Beamer has still gone 13-9 and won a bowl game in the interim. Some schools would consider that progress.
And therein lies the irony of this whole ordeal. Beamer has been hoisted by his own petard, spoiling a city into expecting 10 wins every season to the point where it assembles with pitchforks whenever the team falls short.
These past two seasons haven't met the Virginia Tech standard of success, but Beamer is the only reason that standard exists in the first place.
Pardon my French, but he can hang up the headgear when he's good and damned ready.
There is something rotten in the state of Blacksburg right now, but it's not the gray-haired guru roaming the sidelines. It's the turnover machine taking the snaps.
Logan Thomas has been a train wreck-level bust under center, and his inability to provide efficient quarterback play has been the fulcrum of Virginia Tech's struggles. With two more interceptions against Boston College, he now has 12 on the season.
After getting stripped for a sack in the fourth quarter—his fourth turnover of the second half—Thomas became the focus of blame for CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman:
Coming out of high school, Thomas was supposed to be the "next big thing." He has every physical tool in the book, but he has never been able to reach his potential.
To some, that would signal a failure on Beamer's end to develop him.
But that is absurd. Beamer is the guy who helped build Michael Vick. In the past few years, he has helped groom guys like Tyrod Taylor and Bryan Randall into productive college quarterbacks. He has proven that he knows what he is doing.
Still, despite the fact that Thomas is the most appropriate scapegoat, Beamer refused to throw him under the bus or blame him after Saturday's loss. According to Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times, he remained publicly supportive of the embattled QB:
Beamer still understands the nuances of good coaching, which brings up an underrated point: His players genuinely enjoy playing for him. That is more rare than it appears and more important than it sounds.
There may be discontent in the locker room, but that has to do with the losing, not second-guessing of the coach's decisions. Every single player on this team would run through a wall for their coach, and honestly, who could blame them:
When a prestigious program starts losing games it shouldn't lose, the immediate reaction is to fire the coach. That's where we are as a football culture in 2013; that's the easiest way for athletic directors to say that "only winning will be tolerated."
But there's a difference between the easy move and the smart one. Beamer's sample size extends all the way back to the 1980s, and for the most part, all of the data says that he knows how to win. A second bad season would create a bigger data point to the contrary, sure, but even that wouldn't be enough to justify his termination.
I say "second bad season would..." for a reason, by the way. Even after losing to Boston College, the 2013 campaign is not a loss. The ship is starting to sink, but there is still enough time to plug the holes and keep it afloat.
Boston College is not a horrendous loss. The Eagles gave legitimate scares to both Florida State and Clemson. It's not like losing to a cupcake.
Next week, the Hokies get Miami at Sun Life Stadium, a road venue that hardly inspires fear in opposing teams. Depending on what happens against Florida State, the 'Canes might either be demoralized or due for a major letdown.
If Miami does in fact lose in Tallahassee, the Hokies would be playing for a share of the division lead next Saturday in a game they are talented enough to win. If they can pick themselves up by the bootstraps and rebound from an unfortunate loss, they can still go on to make some national noise.
In order to do so, the Hokies will need the leadership of a coach who has been through the fire and almost never failed to succeed.
Lucky for them, that's exactly what they have.