My prevailing thought as I watched the Gophers get run over by Purdue and as I thought about it more throughout the weekend is that if you want to get Minnesota Football back to a level of respectability, it is going to have to get worse before it gets better. And it might even get worse than our current state of worseness considering our upcoming schedule.
This team struggles mightily to execute their given assignments consistently, they are not big or fast enough, they make far too many mistakes and it doesn't appear to be getting any better. But what JD cautioned and what I want to drive home is that it is WAY TOO EARLY to make any reasonable judgement on the Jerry Kill era. I urge Gopher fans to let him rebuild. He may fail, I'm not making a prediction of success, but let's not presume failure. Allow him to rebuild, as he has done before, and after three or four years we can make an adequate judgement.
There is a vocal minority within the fanbase that loves to declare failure long before it is reasonable to do so and I think it often is just so they can come back later and say "see I told you." Conversely there is a significant majority that hangs on to hope far too long and often ignores the obvious that is playing itself out on the field. Six games into the Kill era, neither have any foundation to stand on.
The MN Daily had a good recap of last week's press conference where Coach Kill somewhat discussed the state of the program.
Kill was animated at Tuesday’s press conference, moving around the podium, clapping his hands together and drawing up schemes on the white board. He spoke much more on the state of the program than the upcoming battle against Purdue.
His description of the program was simply that they have to dismantle everything in order to rebuild properly. These comments reflect directly to the previous coaching regime, led by Tim Brewster.
I have read meassage boards and talked with Gopher fans who say things like 'Kill is obviously in over his head'. Or there are those who presume a full spring, fall practices and six games are more than enough time to turn a program in the right direction and to start seeing signs of imrovement. Just because Michigan kicked their ass in game 5 and they played better in game 1 does not mean they are not moving in the right direction.
As is often the case things have to get worse before they get better. I'm not suggesting Kill take a Hoosiers approach and beat these kids into the ground physically and mentally. But when you have to break bad habits and when you spend as much time teaching them what is expected as you do how to do things the right way, you may take a couple steps backward so that when you start moving forward you are doing it correctly.
The 10 months of the Jerry Kill era has seen a lot of time devoted to getting kids into class, teaching them what is expected of them in the weight room, teaching them yet another new playbook, teaching them how they are expected to practice and then on top of that preparing game plans. This stuff takes time. And let's not forget role seizures has played in distracting the team this season.
I don't think I have spent much time harping on the epic failureness of Tim Brewster. But one of his many bad decisions made was choosing to not properly rebuild. He He is the cheap contractor who comes in to make things look shiny and new without putting in the needed time, money and effort to rebuild or remodel the right way. The hope (and this is hope, not a guarantee of anything) is that Kill is tearing down what was previously built and rebuilding it appropriately to code. Kill is Holmes on Homes.
Kill is trying to get his team to play better and more consistent, but he is also desperately trying to change the mentality of the program. He is trying to instill in his team the way he wants them to play. And he's teaching them the fundamentals and technique necessary to execute what and how he wants things executed.
I will also scold the other side of this argument. Pointing out that Barry Alvarez and Kirk Ferentz went 1-10 in their first seasons and Kill himself had the same record in his first year at Southern Illinois does NOT mean that he is going to be successful here. Just because Southern Illinois was awful and Kill built them up does not mean he is certain to do the same thing in Minnesota. He is now recruiting against Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State (and apparently Western Michigan) for Big Ten caliber athletes. There is less room for error here and this is not going to be an easy process, even if he has done it before.
We are stuck with Kill for the foreseeable future, not that I think that is a bad thing. I think we can assume that this is going to be a one or two win season. Assuming next year isn't another one-win season I'm sure we will see Kill for a third season. So if you have already written him off then get ready for about 30 more games under his watch.
So what's my point? The point is that nobody knows whether or not Jerry Kill is going to be successful and we should quit trying to ascertain the answer to this question when we are just six games into the process. Don't take pride in being the first one to say Kill will fail and do not cling to false hope that he is guaranteed to take us beyond what mediocre-Mason was able to do. This season is brutal and it is probably going to get worse. But let the process play out.