Change is difficult. Change is uncomfortable. Change can be ugly. But sometimes change is necessary. That statement holds just as true today as it is did when I wrote it after PJ Fleck had been hired. The Gophers lost their second consecutive B1G game to a team they probably should have beaten. Purdue tried giving the game away, but the Gophers simply don’t have the horses in the stable to put games away.
The message has been clear and repeated often since the end of last season. No matter who was coach, whether Claeys had been retained or a new coach brought in, this season was going to be a transition year. Claeys was let go, PJ Fleck was brought in. He has repeatedly said there are major depth concerns with this team. They had a very fine line to walk when it came to depth. Unfortunatly those depth concerns have been tested.
Maybe the message was lost in the excitment of Fleck being hired. Maybe the message was simply ignored. Maybe the message was lost in translation. The B1G media predicted the Gophers would win 4 games this season. That wasn’t by accident. They saw the issues, whereas a lot of our fanbase only saw 9 wins last year and are stuck on that number. But the mesage has been clear and repeated often, there was a good chance they were going to take a step back this year.
A thin secondary has now lost four players to either injury or suspension, not to mention two more players who had been expelled for their role in last years events. A thin WR corp is now basically down to one receiver. A thin offensive line lost another player to injury. Some may say these are excuses, but the fact is they couldn’t afford to lose these players, yet here they are in that exact situation. Players who aren’t ready to play are now being forced to play. This affects everything the coaching staff wants to do. Add in the quarterback situation and it adds up to back-to-back losses to teams many thought we should have beaten.
Let’s discuss the quarterback situation. Bless Conor Rhoda. He is playing his heart out. He is playing to the best of his ability. But that’s the problem, his flaws have been badly exposed. There is a reason he was a walk-on coming out of high school. There is a reason he couldn’t beat out Mitch Leidner. He’s not a particularly good passer. He’s a complete lack of a threat in the run game. He is basically what we all thought he would be, a mediocre at best quarterback. He is also sadly the best option the Gophers have.
I don’t mean to rip on the guy. It’s not his fault he is the best option they have. Demry Croft is back with the team, but are we positive he is a better alternative? He’s played essentially one half of football. Can we definitively say he is a better option to play off that one half of football? Let’s also add in, he obviously did something to get himself into Fleck’s doghouse. Are we positive he won’t make the same mistake and end up right back in the doghouse? But what about Seth Green, why not give him a chance? Let’s face facts, if Seth Green wasn’t a local product no one would be calling for him to play. The fact he was never even in the conversation to be named starter under Fleck should tell you how far away he is in his development to being ready to play.
These are just the facts. I don’t like it anymore than you do. But this is the reality of the situation. But PJ Fleck isn’t the one you should be mad at. The people you should be directing your anger towards are Jerry Kill and Tracy Claeys. Jerry Kill was here for 7 years. Yet Mitch Leidner was the best quarterback he could develop. Kill ran off Philip Nelson, who played well enough at East Carolina to garner NFL looks. Kill couldn’t find a use for Chris Streveler who is now torching teams week-in and week-out at South Dakota. Jerry Kill chose to play an offense that all but ignored the passing game, which has now left the wide receiver corp completely lacking playmakers except for Tyler Johnson. The offensive line development under Kill was so bad he didn’t have a single player even garner a look in the NFL, let alone drafted by an NFL team. That shouldn’t happen at a school like Minnesota, where offensive linemen are the one area we do produce talent.
As for Tracy Claeys, let’s remember Seth Green was going to be the starter for him this year. The one quarterback he receruited was so bad he lasted two weeks under Fleck and never signed with another team. Team discipline fell so far under him, Fleck is now left cleaning that all up, which accounts for the rash of suspensions being handed out. PJ Fleck recruited a better class in 3 weeks on the job than Claeys did in an entire year. Again these are just the facts of the situation.
PJ Fleck didn’t walk into a complete mess like Kill did. But to sit there and say everything was perfect is also being disingenuous. This team had a razor thin line to walk this season and unfortunately through two B1G games their issues have been exposed. If beating Maryland and Purdue are good enough for you and winning 7 or 8 games is your ultimate goal, things should have just stayed with the status quo. If that is good enough for you we might as well closed up shop and called it a day. PJ Fleck has higher aspirations. Beating Maryland and Purdue in Season Zero isn’t going to help this program achieve those lofty goals. This is a process and it takes time to implement everything into the plan. It takes time to change your best. This doesn’t just include the players, this includes us as fans. We too need to change our best!
Change is difficult. Change is uncomfortable. Change can be ugly. But I believe in PJ Fleck and his process more than any coach we have had here in recent memory. Stay the course. Stay with the process. Keep rowing the boat becasue I believe the end results will be worth it!
Now onto what really matters, the Stroll Through Twitterland.
The main hashtags for this week were:
-Our esteemed leader @GoAUpher was at the game. He met this thing while tailgating. Not sure if it is a bear, a puppy, a furball or a fluffball, but I do know I want to pet it.
OUR TAILGATE NEIGHBORS HAVE A LITTLE BEAR PUPPY! pic.twitter.com/WVSD1jsntW— Elite Zubaz (@GoAUpher) October 7, 2017
-Sticking with the dog theme @fauxfleck because dogs make everything better and we all need a little cheering up to do.
-Not sure what a grape job is @BenjaminJDawson Then again, it’s actually a very fitting description.
I'd just like to thank Jerry Kill and Tracy Claeys for our OL and DB depth once again. Grape job!— Ben Dawson (@BenjaminJDawson) October 7, 2017
-I stood and cheered when reading this from @kilpatrickjeff1
Gophers may not win 6 games this year.— Jeff Kilpatrick (@kilpatrickjeff1) October 8, 2017
Firing Claeys and hiring PJ Fleck was the right choice.
Both of these things can be true
-Classy move by Fleck and company!
-I stood and cheered when reading this from former Gopher @AlexEMayes
Sad to see so many fans with so little faith. Keep the course guys! #SkiUMah— Alex Mayes (@AlexEMayes) October 8, 2017
-I stood and cheered when reading this from @RTBGophers
You see, WHEN (NOT if) PJ Fleck brings championship football back to Dinkytown, and he WILL, I'll know that my belief NEVER wavered. #RTB— Gophers Forever (@RTBGophers) October 8, 2017
-Even Doogie knows the reality of the situation.
As annoyed as I was about 3rd-&-4 call playing for FG, there's a reason Fleck has told folks he needs 2+ years. Roster needs work. #Gophers— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) October 8, 2017
-A regular contributor @Baileytherapy13 back to help provide therapy on this sad day after a loss.
-I know the feeling Lacy. I know the feeling.
-Last but certainly not least, there is room for more than once voice. I’m all for supporting good content and if you haven’t been reading Still Got Hope since the Ghost of Frothy has returned, please give it a read. But definitely give the post in this tweet a read. For those who question Fleck’s constant message, I implore you to read this. It is important you do so.
There you have it, this weeks Stroll. Where are you at in your feelings about the season so far? Are you still rowing the boat or have you jumped ship? What are your thoughts about the game?