Friday, January 6, 2012

Is Steve Sarkisian making enough progress?

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies have been in the news lately having fired defensive coordinator Nick Holt and hiring a new coordintor in Justin Wilcox. For Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian who will now be entering his fourth season as head man at Montlake there seems to be some doubt whether he is the guy who can carry this program to a Rose Bowl title. In the Seattle Times recently there was an article how Sarkisian is losing out on the prime in state recruits and currently the Huskies recruiting class isn't very good. Neither is the fact that in year three the Huskies were still getting blown out and the defense has still been terrible. In this following post I'm going to compare Sarkisian with the previous Husky coaches Don James, Jim Lambright, Rick Neuheisel and Tyrone Willingham. What I'll do is post their W-L records, what the teams record was before they took over and what it was three years prior to take over. I'll also post how many times their teams allowed 30 points or more, 40 or more, 50 or more and yes even 60 or more. I'll also post how many times they lost by 20 points or more, 30 or more, 40 or more and 50 or more. I'm fully aware that offenses have evolved and each coach took over the program had a different time far as program strength. This is just to give everyone an idea of where the program is at with Sarkisian going forward.

Don James (1975-1992):

Previous three seasons prior to arrival: 15-18
Previous season prior to arrival: 5-6
First season record: 6-5(+1 win improvement)

Coaching W-L: 153-57-2(.728)

20+ losses: 8(3.7%)
30+ losses: 2(0.9%)
40+ losses: 1(0.4%)
50+ losses: 1(0.4%)

30+ PPG allowed: 25(11.7%)
40+ PPG allowed: 6(2.8%)
50+ PPG allowed: 1(0.4%)

You can see why Don James was such a legend. In his third year he took the Huskies to a Rose Bowl championship and in his fifth year he had the Huskies winning 10 games, sixth season another Rose Bowl and seventh season a Rose Bowl title. During his eighth and ninth season had the Huskies going for a Rose Bowl until being upset in the Apple Cup and in his 10th season had the Huskies ranked 2nd in the nation. He rarely if ever got blown out and his teams always played good defense. James set the bar very high for every coach who followed him as he won four Rose Bowls, an Orange Bowl and a National championship.

Jim Lambright (1993-1998):

Previous three seasons prior to arrival: 31-5
Previous season prior to arrival: 9-3
First season record: 7-4(-2 wins)

Coaching W-L record: 44-25-1(.637)

20+ losses: 6(8.5%)
30+ losses: 2(2.8%)
40+ losses: 1(1.4%)

30+ PPG allowed: 20(28.6%)
40+ PPG allowed: 7(10.0%)
50+ PPG allowed: 3(4.2%)

Jim Lambright of the coaches walked into the best situation far as talent having taken over the team after James suddenly retired two weeks prior to the 1993 season. Lambright took over a team who had gone to three straight Rose Bowls. He also took over a program facing two years bowl ban, plus other sanctions including loss of scholarships for two seasons. The biggest obstacle Lambright couldn't overcome was the shadow of Don James despite the fact as you'll see he was the second most successful coach for the Huskies although never going to a Rose Bowl in six seasons he could never live up to James. Lambright was shown the door after six seasons despite winning 63% of his games at the school he once played for and guiding the Huskies through those tough probation years.

Rick Neuheisel (1999-2002):

Previous three seasons prior to arrival: 23-13
Previous season prior to arrival: 6-6
First season: 7-5(+1 win improvement)

W-L record: 33-16(.673)

20+ losses: 5(10.2%)
30+ losses: 1(2.0%)
40+ losses: 1(2.0%)
50+ losses: 1(2.0%)

30+ PPG allowed: 15(30.6%)
40+ PPG allowed: 4 (8.1%)
50+ PPG allowed: 1( 2.0%)
60+ PPG allowed: 1(2.0%)

Rick Neuheisel took over the program after the sanctions had finally wore off and he was very successful at first. He won a Rose Bowl during his second season finishing ranked 3rd in the nation. The next two years he struggled by Husky standards going just 15-10 as the defense was declining and it had appeared the talent level on defense was decreasing as well. The perception due to that 65-7 loss to #1 ranked Miami on national t.v. was that Neuheisel was getting blown out too much which as you can see simply wasn't the case. Neuheisel was caught gambling in a pool and was fired. Keith Gilbertson took over and went 7-16 for two years. The thought was the program needed to be "cleaned" up which set up the shittiest years in UW football history.

Tyrone Willingham (2005-08):

Previous three years before arrival: 14-22
Previous year before arrival: 1-10
First season: 2-9(+1 win improvement)

W-L: 11-37(.229)

20+ losses: 16(33.3%)
30+ losses: 6 (12.5%)
40+ losses: 3(6.2%)
50+ losses: 1(2.1%)

30+ PPG allowed: 25(52.0%)
40+ PPG allowed: 14(29.1%)
50+ PPG allowed: 5(10.4%)

As you can see the Willingham era was clearly the worst era in Huskies football history. Willingham inherited a program on the rocks having just gone 1-10 but he made the program worse somehow finishing his career off going 0-12 and losing his last 14 games as Huskies head coach. While the Huskies were competitive during his second and third seasons there wasn't enough wins to show for it. When Willingham was finally fired the Huskies were searching for their fifth different head coach in an 11 year span.

Steve Sarkisian (2009-present):

Previous three years prior to arrival: 9-28
Previous year prior to arrival: 0-12
First season: 5-7( +5 win improvement)

W-L: 19-19(.500)

20+ losses: 9(23.6%)
30+ losses: 5(13.1%)
40+ losses: 3(7.8%)

30+ PPG allowed: 19(50.0%)
40+ PPG allowed: 10(26.3%)
50+ PPG allowed: 4(10.5%)
60+ PPG allowed: 2(5.2%)

Sarkisian of the coaches I just named did the best in his first season in improving. While James, Neuheisel and Willingham all improved by one game Sarkisian improved by five games.  Sarkisian has guided the team to back to back bowl games after not going to a bowl game in six seasons. Now looking at these numbers though Sarkisian is closest to Willingham. They are getting blown out roughly the same and allowing the same big defensive numbers. Sarkisian is winning more games than Willingham as he is simply a better coach so the Huskies are winning almost all of their close games. Although I don't think Sarkisian is like Willingham instead he reminds me of a different Huskies head coach.

In conclusion, Sarkisian reminds me most of Rick Neuheisel. I think both are great offensive coaches, good game day coaches, good play callers, average recruiters and average program builders. I think had Sarkisian taken over when Nueheisel did his record would be on par with Neuheisel. I don't think Sarisian is the guy to take the Huskies to a Rose Bowl title unless he has a fluke year like Neuheisel did in 2000 when the Huskies went 11-1 but had eight fourth quarter comebacks that season. Sarkisian experience a similar season in 2010 when the Huskies went 7-6 but won four games on the final play of the game. I feel as if Sarkisian is the guy who will continue to put the Huskies in a bowl game much like Neuheisel was. I just don't think Sarkisian is on James level or even Lambrights level as the defense was somehow been worse in his era than even Willingham's. Sarkisian has a lot to improve on heading into year four but we are starting to see a trend develope and he is shaping up to be another Neuheisel where every passing record will fall but the team only wins seven to eight games a season.

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