UCLA Football: Why Rick Neuheisel Shouldn't Finish Season In Charge of Bruins
To date, Neuheisel is 17-25 at UCLA and a pitiful 9-20 in conference play. He has only one bowl victory to his name. During his tenure, Bruin fans have had to bear 14 losses by 20 or more points. He has yet to beat USC which, according to some fans, is more important than a winning season.
As for winning seasons, Neuheisel has only had one (7-6 in 2009) in three years at UCLA. Compare that to three in four years at Colorado and four out of four in Washington.
Where has the winning gone?
I completely understand the popular sentiment to fire Neuheisel immediately. While I personally would show him the door in the coming offseason, some fans can't wait that long. You want blood, and every day Neuheisel stains his decorative legacy as a UCLA player physically pains you.
Enough with the bewildered sideline looks, the shouting, the relentless optimism in the face of overwhelming pessimism; you want him gone.
In that spirit, here are four reasons why the embattled Bruins head coach should be fired before season's end.
Lack of Foreseeable Wins
A quick look at the schedule shows that wins will be at a premium, starting with a hot Washington State team at the Rose Bowl this weekend.
Playing four of their final seven games at home might matter little. The Bruins' struggles have been as acute in Pasadena as they are anywhere else.
Let's be generous and imagine that UCLA can win all four games at home against WSU, Cal, Arizona State and Pac-12 newcomer Colorado. While beating ASU is a bit of a stretch, we are in fantasy land right now.
They then have three games on the road against Utah, Arizona and USC. USC is clearly playing a level above what the Bruins have displayed week to week, and will only get better as the season goes on. Look for the rivalry to be one-sided yet again.
Arizona is 0-3 in conference but has played against the Pac-12's best (Stanford, Oregon and USC), so we don't know how good they can be. Against UCLA, the Wildcats' Nick Foles should be able to feast on a depleted Bruins secondary that even when healthy has been mediocre.
The game at Utah is a toss up. Who knows which Utes offense will show up? I favor them at home, though, so assume the worst.
If we chalk up all three road games as losses, our imaginary finish to the season puts the Bruins at 6-6 with another invitation to a no-name bowl. And this is without having to face Oregon and Washington. Realistically I only see three more wins (WSU, Cal, Colorado) this season, putting the Bruins at a more believable 5-7 and no bowl birth.
Is this good enough for Westwood? I think not.
If UCLA were to get rid of Neuheisel after his next loss (possibly this weekend), the schedule won't change, but maybe some results might. Maybe the Bruins take this mid-season fresh start well and win close games against Utah and USC. Maybe they upset the Sun Devils at the Rose Bowl and edge out Arizona on the road.
Who is to say that without Neuheisel they finish the season 8-4 or even 9-3?
Neuheisel is Beaten
Neuheisel knows the fans hate him and doesn't want to subject himself and the players to jeers, or
He has finally lost the precocious optimism which has dominated his UCLA career.
The moment Rick Neuheisel stopped giving his postgame addresses to the home crowd, I knew his time at UCLA was almost up.
This is the guy who once boasted that the monopoly on Los Angeles football was over. And now he can't even face his own fans?
It's not as if the address is required by some Bruin bylaw, but the fact that he still continued to do it in the wake of atrocious losses spoke to a certain character, and I respected that. That he has stopped doing it could mean two things:
If it is the latter, Neuheisel needs to go immediately. If a man who has been so consistently (some would say mistakenly) optimistic for so long (when all the signs have pointed otherwise) suddenly can't sell it to his fans, you know the team is in bad shape.
And who can blame him? He has no real placekicker, his preseason starting quarterback cannot run the pistol offense, his offensive line is struggling and half of his defense is injured. As a team, the Bruins have struggled to execute both offensively and defensively, with little mistakes and costly penalties at the wrong times adding up.
Besides the start of basketball season, there is little to be hopeful for looking forward. Depressingly, Neuheisel has finally started to recognize that. The team is so bad that even its loudest cheerleader has had to cut back. The passion is gone.
Neuheisel has the feeling of a lame duck coach now more than ever—and sometimes a wounded animal needs to be put out of its misery.
Send the Recruits a Message
Firing Rick Neuheisel in the next few weeks sends a clear message to possible recruits that the school is making a clear break with the failed policies of the previous administration.
No more pistol offense, no more soft defense—times are changing at UCLA, and we want you to be part of it.
If Neuheisel is allowed to continue for the rest of the season and speculation about the security of his job snowballs, the negativity that cycle will create will turn off recruits. Who wants to play at a school with a suspect head coach? How do you learn to respect him?
Having rival USC on probation these last two years should have been a recruiting boon for the Bruins, and yet they are still less talented at almost every position than the Trojans. Missing this golden opportunity is a colossal misstep by the UCLA coaches—and Neuheisel in particular.
A new coach installed and ready to recruit heavily in the immediate offseason gives UCLA a chance to win back the talent they might have otherwise ceded to USC or other Pac-12 schools. Assuming he doesn't transfer, they'll get a chance to play with Brett Hundley—one of the better quarterback prospects the Southland has seen.
As Neuheisel proved, the right coach can make all the difference in recruiting.
Bruin Fans Want Neuheisel Gone
The anger in Bruin Nation at Rick Neuheisel's failure to deliver a winning team after three and a half season borders on biblical.
Everything is his fault. Every missed tackle, sack, incompletion, negative play or defeat speaks to the larger problem of Neuheisel's incompetence.
Why were there twelve men on the field after a timeout we called? Why can't we gain one yard when we need to? Why can't we make extra points? Why did Kevin Prince start against Texas? Why can't we recruit offensive linemen?
Because Neuheisel is a terrible coach. Or so they say.
Let's be fair—there are things coaches can control and things they can't. Injuries are one of the latter kind. You can condition and limit tackling drills all you want, but there exists no complete defense for injuries in football. Players will go down, and nothing you do will stop that, which is why every team has a second string.
UCLA has had unbelievably bad luck with injuries in recent years. Offensive line, defense, skill positions, you name it. They were a significant factor in Karl Dorell's eventual demise, and will be again in Neuheisel's.
The difficult thing with injuries is that they create an almost invisible domino effect to other areas of the game. What shows up on the field might be influenced by factors off it.
Fans will see that UCLA's secondary was torn apart by Andrew Luck, but what they won't see is that some of the damage could have been limited if Sheldon Price, Tony Dye, Dalton Hilliard and Alex Mascarenas were healthy.
Fans will see that a consistent inability to stop the run, but will miss key injuries to Sean Westgate, Justin Edison and Glenn Love as the likely reason.
This is not to say that fans are completely unjustified in asking for Neuheisel's resignation. They correctly point out that a lot of what ails UCLA are coaching mistakes, like poor play calling and drive-killing penalties.
But in the end, those valid criticisms get lumped together with plain bad luck, merging into a unified call for change. Neuheisel should be vilified because of things he can control, not on injuries he can't.
While innocent of some of the charges laid against him, Slick Rick has already been convicted in the court of public opinion and sentenced to be axed immediately.
If UCLA continues to lose, fans just might get their wish.