I tuned into the end of the first quarter of the Penn State-Iowa game last Saturday. My wife told me there was bad news.
Of course, I knew what she was saying - that the Nittany Lions were losing. I quietly watched the rest of the game and listened to JoePa mumble something to the sideline reporter. I proceeded to keep my comments to myself as the game worsened and ended 24-3.
I came back this afternoon and read the Sunday and Monday sports editions and coverage in the Altoona Mirror. I got so disgusted in what I was reading that I stopped reading.
I don't know what better word to describe what is going on with this team and this program. But under an 83-year-old coach whose philosophy and leadership were great in the 20th century only, what is new?
If Joe were a CEO/President/chief bottle washer of any major organization involved in profit and loss, he would have been fired during those four dark years going back to 2000. If you are looking for some people to place immediate blame on, just look at the PSU administration of President Graham Spanier and Athletic Director Tim Curley. They had the controls and could have removed Coach Paterno and staff and the end of the 2001 season but chose not to. And now in 2010, the monster has come back to bite them and maybe harder and deeper.
With increased Nittany Lion Club dues and new seating alignment effective this season and in 2011, what will these two very confused men do in renewing or not renewing Joe for 2011?
The sharks are circling and seeing blood.
I really felt this team could go 9-3 but more like 8-4. Now after watching Iowa annihilate these non-developed and poorly-coached players, it is very realistic to see the season end at 6-6 or worse at 5-7. If this comes to pass, Spanier and Curley have no choice but to put Joe and the staff out to the cow pasture.
Having said the above, what kind of head coach should the Board of Trustees, Spanier and Curley be looking for? I will give you a clue: Look in last Sunday's sports section in an article written by Cory Giger on a football coach from out in corn country.
This coach is described as being very confident in himself, and his confidence spreads to his players. He soft-sells his program to those he is recruiting. Most of these players are two- and three-star athletes who seek out Iowa football.
But he knows how to develop his players his way. He welcomes any four- and five-star players who want to play his style of football. Oh, Iowa's strength program is much better Penn State's program. Why is it all these ACL injuries seem to be happening with Penn State players in the Big Ten and in the NFL?
Well you know who I talking about: Kirk Ferentz. The stars are all in alignment for Joe Paterno's retirement in 2010, and it can't happen sooner to the grand old guy.
Problems traced to offensive line
As I have been complaining for years now, Penn State's offense is poor to average most years and the offensive line is constantly rebuilding/shuffling - and I am sick of hearing each year that we are a "young team."
When you look at who is starting, the linemen are mostly seniors and a few juniors.
This is becoming so predictable. We can't score against the good teams. You figure the game is over when the opposition scores a touchdown or 10 points. Last year's schedule and Daryll Clark helped mask an above-average offense (why did we have to move an All-American guard to center?) and you saw what happened when we played Iowa and Ohio State.
In fact, have we ever scored more than a touchdown in Columbus since joining the Big Ten? Even the '08 team that was good offensively (it does happen perhaps once every four or five years), could only score one TD against the Buckeyes. Unless the defense scores a TD, expect a shutout in Columbus on Nov. 13.
And no offense (pun intended) to Iowa, but you will never see Ohio State or even Michigan in its current state lose seven out of eight (or whatever it is now) to the Hawkeyes. It is embarrassing for a team with the tradition of Penn State.
At the very least, something has to be done relative to the year-in and year-out poor performance of the offensive line. We seem to be getting good skilled players so don't blame Rob Bolden, Evan Royster or even playcalling for that matter. Very good to great offensive lines that execute can usually beat any defense. They say here we come, try and stop us. Very few gimmicks needed. I just hope Bolden and Royster can survive the season.
Weighing in on Altoona's struggles
The current state of Altoona football is hard to believe.
I also don't think it has anything to do with Tom Palfey. After all, he doesn't play a single down. For a town that used to pride itself on its football tradition, the cupboard seems to be bare when it comes to tough, talented kids.
The opening-day roster showed 18 seniors on the team. Why are kids quitting this program after one or two years? I know there are tough kids still in this town. Let's face it: Weightlifting does not produce toughness; it produces strength. Toughness cannot be taught.
I have my own theory about how the program has gotten to this low point.
There are kids out there that know they will not go to school on a football scholarship, either because of their size or their academic prowess. They don't want to lift weights and attend offseason workouts that are more or less mandatory if a kid wants to play. There are tough kids in this city that want to play football for three months and then go do whatever it is that they do in their spare time. We need those kids!
Things have gotten way too specialized at the high school level. It seems assistant coaching has become a second job for many past players also. A former player doesn't necessarily have coaching ability, and the ability to tackle is a lost art.
Whatever became of tackling legs, keeping your head in front so you don't slip off the tackle? All these coaches, and there must be a dozen of them, sure look good in their matching gear, but are they able to teach the game? It appears not from what I've seen recently.
What is the administration doing, if anything, to inspire kids to play football? Who's in charge of overseeing how these programs are run and who's running them? I see a lot of familiar names within the coaching ranks. Is that the criterion?
With all due respect to Palfey and his short tenure, maybe we need to clean house at Mansion Park. Maybe some new faces in the coaching ranks and abandoning this silly idea that the kids must lift weights and attend offseason workouts would encourage others to come out for the team.
Let's face it: What we're doing now sure isn't working.
In no way am I being critical of the kids on the current team. They are doing their best. Are they being taught the basics of blocking and tackling by the best people available is questionable from what is witnessed from the stands? Do they need some more of their classmates to come and help them? Definitely!
Walbeck deserved better fate
Matt Walbeck, a successful coach and a proven winner, was dismissed because he wanted to ascend the ladder to a higher position. The Pirates organization had no openings for him.
The parent team (Pittsburgh Pirates) has the worst team in baseball this year. Their manager has the worst career record in baseball - 172 wins (out of 453) in three years for a 37.9 percentage. He may be a great guy, but he loses consistently.
That may be his fault or the fault of the cards (players) he's dealt, but still, he loses. And apparently his coaching staff isn't much better. The Pirates offense is 28th or 29th (out of 30) in the entire majors in most categories.
Pitching-wise, the team ERA is last in the majors - as are wins and complete games. They are first, however, in several categories - hits given up and runs given up. These stats point to the fact that the present coaching staff just isn't getting the job done - offensively or defensively.
And still there is no place in the organization for a winner like Matt Walbeck.
Indianapolis (the Triple-A affiliate) had an overall losing record (71-73) and finished middle of the pack in most offensive and pitching categories. There's definitely room for improvement but still no place in the organization for a proven winner.
Good organizations reward success. The Pirates let them go rather than having to pay them what they're worth. Until that policy changes, the Pirates will continue to be losers, and Matt Walbeck will end up where he belongs - with a winner!