Randy Edsall should be fired — today.
There are all sorts of reasons why such a conclusion can be labeled rash and overboard. For one thing, Maryland is in a financial crisis right now, one that has forced it to announce plans to eliminate eight varsity sports at the end of this school year. Adding a tab of $2 million per year for the next five years to pay someone not to coach the football team sounds ludicrous.
What’s more, it is unfair to judge a coach—good or bad—on the basis of one season, no matter how horrific it may have been. Maryland went from 9-4 to 2-10 this fall, losing its last seven games by double digits, culminating with the extraordinary meltdown at Carter-Finley Stadium.
And yet, if Anderson finds the right replacement, spending $10 million over the next five years to get Edsall out of Gossett Team House will absolutely be a financial plus.
Here’s why: If Edsall stays, attendance at football games next season will be even worse. Contributions to the athletic department, already down in recent years, will plummet. Any recruiting successes in February will not offset the anticipated exodus of players on the current roster.
Beyond that, the athletic department will face more cuts if the football bleeding isn’t stopped quickly. To quote Barry Gossett, a member of the committee that recommended the cutbacks: “Without success in football and basketball, we’re not going to have a great deal of income to work with.”
Anderson might not deserve full blame for the Edsall hire because many believe he was ordered not to hire former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, who certainly would not have gone 2-10 and could not possibly have offended as many people along the way as Edsall has.
In all likelihood, if Anderson told Edsall he was out, he would be able to negotiate a buyout that would allow him to coach somewhere else. Given his ego, Edsall will certainly want the chance to prove that his time at Maryland wasn’t really who he is as a coach.
Here’s the real reason Edsall should be fired: He doesn’t get it.
He didn’t get it a year ago, when he didn’t have the class to tell his Connecticut players in person that he was leaving. He didn’t get it when he started spouting off about rules as if he had invented the idea of discipline.
Here is what one fairly successful coach said about rules: “I don’t have any rules. The way I figure it, if I can’t communicate to my players the difference between right and wrong without a list of rules then something’s wrong with me. I let the older guys make it clear to the younger ones what they can and can’t do and should and shouldn’t do. If someone does screw up, then I tell them they screwed up and decide how to punish them.”
That coach was Bob Knight, who had a fairly decent reputation when it came to discipline.
Even as the losses have piled up, Edsall still hasn’t gotten it. After the awful 38-7 loss to Temple, he declared that Maryland was rebuilding. Three days later, he claimed he wasn’t throwing anybody under the bus and then threw Ralph Friedgen, his predecessor, into a cage of hungry lions.
After a good defensive performance against Georgia Tech, Edsall credited his coaches — without saying a word about the players who played so well.
The coup de grace, though, came last week.
Edsall was asked if he had regrets about the lost season. Oh sure, he said, he had regrets. Then he went on to say that he had watched Patriots owner Robert Kraft talking about “the Patriots way” in a TV interview.
“So I am sitting there and saying, ‘Wow, that’s all I’m trying to do here at Maryland,’ ” Edsall said to reporters. “And I said: ‘You know what? I must be doing something right because here is a guy, one of the most successful franchises in the NFL, basically saying the same things that I am saying and trying to instill in this program.’ ”
After a season that was a failure in every possible way, Edsall still insisted his way was right. Saturday, when he talked about reevaluating, Edsall brought up things such as making offseason workouts more competitive.
How about reevaluating yourself? Does a career record of 76-80 make you exempt from that? (For the record, Leach was 84-43 in a much tougher league.) Does the fact that your failure ruined the last college football memories of your senior class — something Edsall never brings up — bother you at all?
No. Nothing bothers Edsall. He’s never wrong. He coached well; his players played bad. And wore their caps backward too often. The media was unfair. And he’s just like Bob Kraft and the Patriots.
Kevin Anderson should hand him a plane ticket to Boston today and suggest he go and study the Patriots up close for a while. Then Anderson needs to find a new football coach. Maryland deserves much better. It can’t possibly do worse.
For more from the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com