Is Randy Edsall Maryland Football's Version of Al Groh?
This weekend the Virginia Cavaliers travel up to College Park to take on their rival Maryland.
These two programs appear to be on two very different courses heading into this weekend, considering that the Cavaliers are fresh off a stunning victory of Miami on the road and the Terrapins are reeling from a loss to Boston College at home.
Virginia is just one win away from a bowl and the Terrapins need to win out to have any chance of going to a bowl.
Yet, despite these differences, Cavaliers fans cannot help but notice a familiarity in Maryland's current predicament.
Yes, the Terrapins have an unstable quarterback controversy, much like the one Virginia fans have suffered through all season, but the connection goes deeper.
First-year Maryland coach Randy Edsall has already drawn criticism from his own fan base. Just the other day, Edsall was lambasted by Washington Post columnist Michael Wise in an article entitled: "Baton Pass to Edsall Could Not Have Gone Worse".
In it, Wise points out Edsall "as an X's and O's guy might yet be a great coach," but he was "oblivious to the market he is now coaching in".
Funny how all one really had to do was replace the word Maryland with Virginia and the word Edsall with former Cavalier coach Al Groh to see a startling connection.
Both Groh and Edsall know how to game-plan. Groh put forth schemes that shut down future NFL stars, like wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson.
Groh knew how to put together a plan, but his arrogance and demeanor turned off fans, recruits and the media, so much so that the Cavaliers fell into mediocrity and eventually the doldrums of the ACC.
Reading the article, many of Edsall's flaws are ones that Groh embodied.
First, both gentlemen insist on being the sole voice for the program. Neither Edsall nor Groh allowed assistant coaches the ability to speak to the media, and they often limit interviews with players as well.
While stifling or censoring the message keeps your program on point, it can build animosity, particularly if your team is not winning, like the current 2-6 Maryland program. If players can't vent their frustrations, their anger will surface in other, far more damaging, ways.
Both ignored the regions in which they were coaching. Groh quickly gave up trying to recruit in Virginia when he was in Charlottesville. He alienated many of the high school coaches and shut off successful pipelines in hopes of creating new ones in the North.
This allowed Virginia Tech to have an almost unopposed selection of top talent in the Commonwealth, something that has made the gap between these two programs larger than ever.
Maryland is allowing Edsall to do the same thing. By taking a former coach of Connecticut and allowing him to maintain a military-like control on the program, Edsall is ignoring the Washington D.C. culture and allowing other programs like Virginia, Virginia Tech and Penn State to steal away some top names.
One of Virginia's big players last Thursday was true freshman wide receiver Darius Jennings. Jennings lived in Maryland and played at Gilman, just outside of Baltimore.
Is Maryland regretting their decision to fire "The Fridge"?
If Edsall cannot recruit in the Maryland area, he too will create long-term repercussions.
Ultimately, coaching comes down to one thing, and that is winning. Edsall has way too small a sample size to make any snap judgments about the guy as Maryland's coach.
On the other hand, Edsall has to realize that there is more to being a head football coach than game-planning and the minutia of the game.
Great coaches sell their programs. Unless you are an ultimate winner like Nick Saban, you cannot afford to be a jerk, or even portrayed as one.
You need the media to carry your message, particularly when you are not winning.
Virginia's current coach, Mike London, may not have the best overall record, and his legacy as an in-game manager is suspect, but you see the love and admiration his players have for him. The media eats it up, and it helps generate positive buzz that really led people to believe the Cavaliers are an up-and-coming program.
Look at the recruiting rankings the past couple of years and ask yourself, how did a team that has not been to a bowl game since 2007 beat out a team that went 9-4 last year?
Edsall has to sell an image, and right now that image is not working. He must learn to adapt. He must learn to change.
Otherwise he will have to learn to accept the same fate as Al Groh.
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