Edsall needs to alter his approach in hopes of rebounding quickly. He’ll have to secure a strong recruiting class while also re-recruiting Maryland’s frustrated fans.
Through his actions this offseason, Edsall must change the conversation, which has been trending negative since he arrived. Edsall should reinvent himself somewhat, or at least try, because his long-term employment with Maryland is at stake. Despite everything that went wrong, it’s too soon for Maryland to make a coaching change. After one season, though, it’s definitely getting late for Edsall.
He seems to understand the situation. Edsall says he knows what he’s facing. If a season-ending, seven-game losing streak won’t prompt self-evaluation, what will?
“I’m not perfect. There were things I could have done better. I know that,” Edsall said late Tuesday night, during a phone conversation while on a recruiting trip.
“The first thing I do is, I ask myself, ‘What could I have done better? Where did I make those mistakes?’ I’m taking a look at myself — first and foremost. That’s what I have to do.”
Even Edsall understands that the Terrapins’ closing clunker — a 56-41 loss to North Carolina State in which they were outscored 42-0 in the final 21 minutes — left many Maryland supporters wondering if he’s capable of the heavy lifting apparently required to rebuild the program “because we’re not happy with this, either. From the standpoint of the record, this wasn’t what we wanted. I know [fans] are upset. But we have a plan, and we’re executing the plan.”
For Edsall’s sake, repairing his public image had better be the centerpiece.
Obviously, the team’s drop-off from 9-4 last season under Ralph Friedgen to just two victories was Edsall’s biggest problem. Edsall hurt himself repeatedly, however, with public-speaking missteps.
A portion of the fan base was already upset because of Athletic Director Kevin Anderson’s decision to fire the popular Friedgen and replace him with Edsall, whose comments about the program, which were perceived as negative, alienated fans and players. Players also privately chafed at Edsall’s team rules.
It all contributed to an overwhelmingly negative environment. That’s not what Maryland needs from one of its two revenue-producing sports, especially during a financial crisis that has the school poised to cut eight varsity sports.
Now, the challenge for Edsall is to generate the type of positive year-round buzz that helps sustain elite programs.
Maryland needs some good word-of-mouth. In homes recruiting this week, on campus or wherever he goes from now until next season begins, Edsall’s main job is to sell an improved version of himself.
If he truly has learned something, then put it to use.
“There’s no question, I know more today about the environment [at Maryland] than when I started,” Edsall said. “And when you start in a new situation, there are things you have to find out.
“There are things you have to figure out. Once you do, what you do is . . . you adapt your framework. You tweak some things. I can do that. But you still follow those core values that you believe in.”
Edsall will go only so far. Smoothing rough edges doesn’t mean completely starting over, he says.
If high-profile members of the team decide to transfer because Edsall won’t bend enough for them, “then I can’t control that. If there are young people in our program who might not think that they can fit in here academically, football-wise or socially, and if they think that it’s in their best interests to move on or to go to another school, I can’t control that.
“What we’re trying to do, what’s important to me and important to us as a staff, is trying to prepare them for life. We’re trying to make them the best football players they can be and the best students they can be. That’s all any parent could want from a coaching staff for their son. I’m not going to change that. I won’t do that.”
Although injuries were only partly responsible for Maryland’s regression, they were a factor. Edsall’s message, which clearly didn’t resonate well, may come across better with next season’s team — especially if Edsall improves his delivery.
And Edsall is confident he still has an ally in Anderson, which helps.
“We’re in this together,” Edsall said. “It’s not always going to be good times, but being together is what helps you get through them. . . . We’re both in lockstep in terms of moving forward.”
This week, there have been some encouraging signs about Maryland’s recruiting class, and Edsall “really believes that when it’s all said and done [with the class], the fans and the supporters of Maryland football will be very happy and very pleased.”
Edsall needs many victories. He would clearly benefit from a long, successful stretch. He has to get started first.