Time for some tough love

| September 20, 2009

Know the play you are about to run.

When you line up, be where you are supposed to be.

Know the snap count.

Then once the ball is snapped, have some idea of what is going on around you.

These are just a few of the basics things football players need to do just to be able to play their game.

They are the bare minimum, and they have nothing to do with the physical part of the contest that takes place after the snap.

Kent State couldn’t handle even those basics in a hideous performance Saturday at Dix Stadium.

The Golden Flashes lost 34-14 to Iowa State. They should have lost by more.

Considering the way these same mistakes pop up week after week and season after season, either the Flashes roster is filled with airheads who shouldn’t be expected to understand how to line up, or too many Kent State players simply can’t be bothered.

My belief is they just can’t be bothered. From what I’ve watched, KSU coach Doug Martin has assembled a group of players who possess enough talent to compete for a Mid-American Conference championship.

Unfortunately, not enough of those players have the heart it takes to play like champions.

They don’t care whether they win or lose. They don’t care what their fans or opponents think of them. They don’t care if they are a laughing stock. They don’t care if they squander their talent. They may not even care if they are signing their coaches’ pink slips with their devil-may-care attitudes.

They may say they do, but their actions prove otherwise.

To see a group of players who actually take some pride in their performance, Kent State should have taken a field trip to watch Crestwood High School’s 0-3 football team play Friday night. The Red Devils played almost an entire football game without committing a single penalty. They were finally flagged in the closing minutes of their win over Coventry, and by that time they had already turned the game over to their junior varsity team. The varsity team that played error-free had only three returning players from last year’s squad.

Twenty four hours later, Kent State was flagged twice on the game’s opening kickoff. That’s hard to do. Most of the Flashes mistakes were committed by veteran players who should know better. Those players are receiving a free education in exchange for playing a game on Saturdays.

By contrast, the kids at Crestwood who cared enough to know their assignments on Friday night all had to pay their school system $200 just for the right to play this season. Because of budget cuts, football at Crestwood is a pay-to-play sport.

With money problems leading to a leaner roster and thinned talent, Red Devils coach Tom Hannan has preached the importance of his players’ attention to detail.

I’ve watched Martin advocate the same thing for six years at Kent State. Unfortunately, his pleas always seem to fall on deaf ears.

After Saturday’s loss, KSU co-captain Brian Lainhart blamed himself and his teammates for another lackluster performance.

“Coaches don’t run the ball. Coaches don’t backpedal and play deep-half,” said Lainhart. “That’s all on us.”

But it is the coaches who will ultimately be held responsible for the sloppy performance of their players. The time has arrived when the Flashes need to understand they are playing not just for themselves, but for their coaches to keep their jobs.

KSU’s coaching staff needs to realize that, too.

Last week, Martin showed how much he loves his players by standing up for injured star Eugene Jarvis and demanding he be granted a sixth year of eligibility in the wake of his suffering a season-ending kidney injury.

Now Martin needs to engage in some tough love.

He has some veteran players on this team who make the same mistakes every week, every season. Those young men should never see the field again. Allowing them to play or even practice is an insult to players like Jarvis, who demonstrated a pride in his performance with every snap he played at Kent State, and who showed how much he cared about his coaches and his teammates by ignoring the recommendation of his doctors and leaving Robinson Memorial Hospital in a wheelchair just to be at Dix Stadium Saturday night.

Allowing players who suck the life out of a program the opportunity to keep playing is also an insult to alumni like Julian Edelman, Josh Cribbs and others who fought against the tide in an attempt to change the culture of Kent State football.

The message needs to be to this – live up to the standard set by Jarvis, Edelman, Cribbs and a few others, or just go home.

Martin doesn’t have the time to coddle players who don’t care.

It’s time for tough love. It’s time for fire and brimstone. It’s time for the wrath of God.

Related posts:

  1. Up to the challenge?
  2. Jarvis out for the season with kidney injury
  3. Depth chart out for week one…
  4. Random Notes, June 13
  5. KSU practice notes …

Category: General Discussions

About DavidCarducci: View author profile.

Comments (11)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Marc says:

    Well said Dave! I know there was someone over on the Rivals board that criticized the article that you wrote today. I believe that you are absolutely right though.

    I went to 8 KSU games last year (All home games, including Cleveland, BG and Miami) and stayed to the bitter end of every single one. Yes even the snow bowl vs. NIU.

    Last night I had it though. KSU had the ball on their own 10 in the 2nd quarter. What did I witness? 3 straight run plays. I got up and left the game after that 3rd run.

    What are the coaches thinking? Do they not trust Spencer Keith? If not, then don’t put him in. However, I saw an excellent performance by Keith (well for a quarter and a half). I saw a person that knew the pocket was collapsing, but scrambled out of it, only to see another dropped ball by Konz. I also saw a beautiful throw down the sideline to Archer for a TD.

    Do I realize that he is going to make some mistakes? Yes of course I do, but let the players grow up. That is on the coaches.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • DavidCarducci says:

      Marc,

      I read the criticism on the Rivals board and he absolutely has a right to his opinion. It’s perfectly fair for him to question what I wrote.
      I don’t agree with him, and I think that’s fine, too.
      I confirmed that was a pretty boneheaded play, and calling it a “brain cramp” was about as nice as I think I could put it.

      The ball had been on the ground for several seconds and Alan Vanderink, the punt returner, was yelling for Gilbert to clear the area. When I was growing up, we always yelled “poison.” I think Kent State yells “peter.” He was alerted in plenty of time to find the ball and get out of its way. Instead, he just kept jogging, completely oblivious to what was going on around him.
      That doesn’t mean Gilbert is a bad kid. It just means in this case, he was extremely careless and it cost his team at an important point in the game.

      I also criticized Brian Lainhart for being offsides on the opening kickoff. That doesn’t mean I think Brian Lainhart is a bad kid. Quite the opposite. I think he’s one of the guys other players should model themselves after.
      People make mistakes. Lainhart did his best the rest of the night to make up for his error and was one of the team’s most productive players, as he always is.

      There are too many players on this team, however, who never correct their mistakes, who do the same things over and over again and they need to be held accountable. And there are a few in particular, including a couple of veterans, who should never play again.

      Obviously, I make my share of mistakes in my job. Occasionally those mistakes are careless or the result of “brain cramps.” Usually they are the kind of mistakes that are typical in daily newspapers. We pump out a lot of copy on deadline, and you are going to have typos like the other day when I called this the “2006 season” instead of the “2009 season.” But my mistakes are not big enough and they don’t arrive with enough frequency that they threaten to bring down my newspaper. In this case, I don’t consider using the words “brain cramp” to be a mistake. It was actually giving Gilbert the benefit of the doubt that he knows better, is capable of avoiding the mistake in the future and takes enough pride in his work that he will do better from now on. After watching this team for as long as I have, I don’t believe some of his teammates are interested in making that kind of commitment.

  2. Kent 76 says:

    “..the wrath of God”? Dave, you sound like Robert Duval in the movie “Network”! Seriously, though, you are exactly right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • DavidCarducci says:

      Kent 76,

      “We’re not a respectable network. We are a whorehouse network, and we have to take whatever we can get”

      Great movie!

  3. FlashFan says:

    Dave,

    As another who has been cited on the Rivals network as a “for instance” in a post that is, in my opinion, misleading and factually incorrect, I can relate. Glad to know there are those following KSU (such as yourself) who will reliably provide fellow fans with unbiased reports, rgardless of the sport or relationship with coaches or players. I imagine it’s very difficult to set personal feelings aside and report for the rest of us. Writing only for myself, I appreciate your work and rely on it for quality reporting on KSU Athletics.

    Regarding your blog post, unquestionably KSU has a history of talented players who have delivered above and beyond. We just don’t seem to have enough. In the words of the great Josh Cribbs, it’s is time to “show up and shut up” for the entire FB roster. Maybe not everyone can play to the level and heart of a Eugene Jarvis, but all can play to their personal potential. If they are accepting the aid and putting on the uniform, that’s what they are at KSU to do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. DavidCarducci says:

    Thanks for the kind words FlashFah … I really appreciate it!

    I’m not in any way offended by the opinion of the Kent State fan on the Rivals.com site. He has a right to his opinion.
    I don’t agree with him, and I think that’s ok, too.

    I agree with all of your points, though, regarding the state of the team, especially “maybe not everyone can play to the level and heart of a Eugene Jarvis, but all can play to their personal potential.”

    You are also right that this sometimes is not an easy job. I have relationships and in some cases friendships with many of the people I cover. The nice thing is that there is that most of the people I cover know me and understand that I try not to take cheap shots. They understand that I have a job to do and there are very rare occasions when a coach has been upset with me over a criticism. And on the occasions when they are upset, they usually get over it very fast and remember that I take no pleasure in being critical of them. I’m just doing my job. In fact, I can think of a couple of occasions when a coach was mad after reading a story, called and left an angry message on my voice mail, then called back and said they thought about it, that the story was fair and that I probably should have been critical a few other things as well. I know that sounds crazy, but it is true.

  5. gflash68 says:

    Dave,
    I have heard this song before. It is almost impossible for a coach to change his personality, skills, and game plan after 4 years. You can tell most of what you need to know in a new coach’s first or at worst, second year. Long term rebuilding programs do not work. In coaching, the future is now. (someone else who really knew coined that phrase) In most cases, if a team is as bad in a coaches fourth year as it was in the his first, ………. oh heck, you can finish this sentence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Marc says:

    I am so sick of this nation becoming politically correct and that is why I appreciate your articles Dave. You say what is on your mind even though it will probably cause a little controversy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Marc says:

    By the way I am pretty sure I just saw Morgan on my way to class. He was hobbling around pretty bad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. DavidCarducci says:

    gflash68,

    you may very well be right.

    The fact is that something still has to be done now in an attempt to save this season.

    The changes I’m hoping for are less with the coaching staff and more for the players.

    I would love to see Martin sit some of the guys who’s disinterest have really become a cancer on this team… and sit them for good.

    It’s more important, though, that some of the players who can be saved start to take some pride in their performance and start to care about the team and their teammates who are doing everything in their power to make this a winning program. There are a few out there, like Lainhart, Mixon and Jarvis. I think Vanderink is one of those guys. Giorgio Morgan, too.

    I’m also not so sure that a coach can’t change his personality.
    I covered Bill Belichick when he was here in the 90′s. I know people who know him now, and he’s not the same coach. He learned from some of his early mistakes. With him it took a change of scenery, but he changed.

    Jim Christian was a successful head coach during his entire stay in Kent, but he changed pretty dramatically over time. He adapted his coaching methods and most of all, he changed with the way he related to his players.

    I don’t know if Joe Novak changed, but his rebuilding at Northern Illinois was long term, so it could work. Northern stuck with him after several losing seasons and he eventually turned it around. It is possible.

    But you are right, in this case, it may not be possible with Martin.

    I like Martin. I think he is a good coach and an even better person. But I’ve also known plenty of good coaches who don’t make it in part because the players stop listening to them. They tune them out.

    As long as he is here, Martin has to try to find a way to reach them. But right now, many of them don’t appear to be listening. Or at least they aren’t taking the coaching.

    Remember, though, firing the coach isn’t always the answer either. Kent State has been through a lot of head coaches over the last 30 years.
    Look at the Browns where they keep hiring new coaches and the product on the field stays exactly the same.

    For now, I think there need to be some changes within the ranks.

    Long term, I think there have to be changes at Kent State. They’ll be hiring a new AD. Will they hire someone with some experience in winning football programs? I have no idea. Will they be willing to pay a new coach? Will he and the president be willing to pump money into the hope of building a winning program? I have no idea how any of those questions will be answered.

    Right now, Kent State is getting what it pays for.
    Doug Martin is the lowest paid Division I coach in the nation, and he is working with one of the smallest football budget in the nation. He’s not a bad coach, no matter what any fan says. So far, he’s just been unsuccessful here at Kent State. But he’s quite a bit like Dean Pees, who was unsuccessful here and still a good enough coach to be hired away as the defensive coordinator of arguably the best franchise in the NFL. Martin has had similar NFL opportunities during his time here at Kent and he’s stayed to try to turn this around.

    If something doesn’t change soon, a new AD will look for a new coach. As I’ve said before, I think the likely scenario is that Martin is here as a lame-duck coach in 2010 if they don’t turn it around in 2009. I can not see the university and president Lefton paying to buy out Martin and his staff and paying a new coach. This school can’t afford to pay two coaches at the same time. And if they aren’t going to up the ante for a new coach and pay him more than the $190,000 Martin makes, what are they going to get anyway? The cycle will just continue…

    As a wise man once wrote…

    “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

    Of course, that same wise man also wrote about a deaf, dumb blind boy who played a mean pinball, so what do I know?

  9. DavidCarducci says:

    Thanks Marc,

    I appreciate it!
    And that’s bad news about Morgan.

    We have our press conference at 2 p.m., today so I should have a better idea about his status then.