The consensus has been that after three seasons with no achievement more impressive than a handful of blue-chip signings and an EagleBank Bowl victory over Temple, Rick Neuheisel must either guide his UCLA team back to the postseason or get fired trying.
One person at UCLA who won't argue with that consensus? Rick Neuheisel, as it turns out:
The UCLA football coach must win at least half of his games and play in a bowl or he's gone, and he knows it.
"I hate talking like that, but, as an alumni, I would say absolutely yes," Neuheisel said Thursday. "At the end of the day, I am responsible for this program."That's from a conversation between Neuheisel and Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, during which Neuheisel tocuhed on various aspects of last year's disastrous 4-8 campaign. One of those aspects was the hiring of since-departed offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who the Bruins paid some $500,000 to coach somewhere else. Despite Chow's pedigree, it's clear from Neuheisel's comments he feels he never should have hired the current Utah OC in the first place:
"I was more enamored with Norm's profile than anything else," Neuheisel says ... "I was trying to hit a home run ..."
"It just didn't work, and it's not Norm's fault. It was that chemistry thing. We didn't have the usual give-and-take that staffs need to be successful," Neuheisel says. "You have to have a staff that develops a recipe for success and stays united behind it. … I don't think that always got accomplished and, because of that, there's a trickle-down effect on your players."The result of the Chow hire was that between Neuheisel and his star offensive coordinator, Plaschke writes, the Bruins saw their offense pulled in two different directions. He neglects to point out, however, that with neither Neuheisel nor Chow having any experience with the pistol offense installed before last season, Neuheisel also gave his team a third separate direction for the offense to juggle.
Here's how Plaschke describes Neuheisel's attempt to remedy the situation:
[H]e hired a bunch of strangers to everyone but him, coaches whose main attribute was that they shared his boundless optimism and energy. Anonymous guys. Neuheisel guys. He hired Mike Johnson to bring NFL offensive smarts, Joe Tresey to bring a Midwestern-style defense, and Jim Mastro to bring some secrets from that crazy Nevada "pistol" offense.That's right: he hired a dyed-in-the-NFL-wool pro-style coordinator to oversee a doubling-down on the pistol ... or, in other words, he created -- on paper -- the exact offensive identity crisis that caused so many problems for his team last season.
We're wishing Neuheisel the best of luck. As good as the Bruins' defense shapes up to be, we're guessing he'll still need it.