This was a man who filled up the Gertrude Ford Performing Arts Center on campus to hold his introductory press conference with media and fans. This was a man who could have been elected mayor after leading the Rebels to back-to-back Cotton Bowl wins in his first two seasons. He was the choice of so many fans when he was hired. He was the man with head coaching experience that everyone was clamoring for.
Now, he’s out and looking for another opportunity to coach and make a difference in a young man’s life. The reasons why Nutt is no longer the coach — at least in three more weeks — aren’t hard to pinpoint. It’s not just one thing, but the main reason he won’t return for a fifth season — something I personally thought would and should happen — goes back to recruiting.
When you play in the most competitive league in America, as Nutt has pointed out so often, you must have the players to win games. You must have depth. You must have talent to match the opposing team. It really is as simple as that.
Yes, there are more reasons for the losses. Coaching decisions this year and last hurt the team at different points, but the reality of it all is there simply wasn’t enough talent to stop a conference losing streak that has now reached 12 games.
As good as the true freshmen like Nick Brassell and Donte Moncrief and Serderius Bryant are, they can’t stack up game-to-game, half-to-half, quarter-to-quarter to teams like Alabama, LSU and Arkansas who have older, more experienced players on their rosters.
I asked a question a few weeks ago in a column written about the state of the program: Does anyone really expect Ole Miss to beat teams with many more seniors and juniors on the two-deep depth chart? Is it realistic for them to be 7-2 right now rather than 2-7? I got a few e-mails saying it was a tough situation, that it was tough for freshmen to be the core of a winning team in a league as good as the SEC.
The point here is there is nothing really wrong with wanting something to be different, to break the cycle of losing that has taken back over the program.
That’s natural. No fan likes to see their school or favorite team lose. But what are realistic expectations? What can this program really accomplish each year? There are some who think they should win 10 to 12 games a season, play in Atlanta each year and beyond. It’s great to shoot for that, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect that either. Being great or excellent is something to strive for, but there has to be some balance levied along the way. Sports provides us all with failure just as much as it does with success. I’m not saying don’t work to be the best, but there has to be some balance, some sense of understanding with what can and can’t be accomplished. The next coach, whoever it is, will want to win every game, but no program does that every year. LSU fans may love Les Miles today, after that colossal win at Alabama, but just a few years ago when Nutt led the Rebels to a win in Death Valley, there were many who wanted him out.
Patience is a word that has to be part of the equation for Ole Miss fans and the administration moving forward. This losing streak isn’t going to just change itself, it’s going to take a lot of hard work. The right coaching staff can turn things around, but it’s not going to be immediate, either.
I believe Nutt is right that good things are going to happen down the road, that the freshmen are getting closer and closer to really getting things turned around and playing more like the guys that wear uniforms at schools like Alabama, LSU et cetera, but it will take some more time and lots and lots of hard work.
Dedication to the task, the goal of winning is something Nick Saban gets out his players at Alabama. Something similar has to happen here in Oxford.
I thought Nutt and his staff were working hard to try to get that accomplished, but it’s obvious it wasn’t enough.
His failures, long term, are a direct result of the prior coaching staff’s inability to recruit across the board. The deck was stacked heavy at the top. Not many good cards after a couple of good hands if you will. Nutt’s first two classes didn’t pan out too well either, and that made the situation worse.
Dating back to Coach O
The real answer to all of this is recruiting and evaluating like I said before. Former Chancellor Robert Khayat deserves some blame in this whole thing for approving the hiring of Ed Orgeron, a man that recruited hard at the start, but brought no substance and really nothing else to the table.
Ole Miss’ success in 2008 and 2009 was great, it was refreshing after four years of losing, but it turned out to be a flash in the pan. It was just a small fix to a problem that really needs some real time and energy to get right. The next coach has to get that time, real time, to accomplish the goal of winning at the level everyone desires. The revolving door of coaches has to stop with Nutt.
This is Ole Miss’ last chance to really get this right. It only gets tougher from here with Missouri and Texas A&M entering the league and we all have to realize that. Or else, moments like Monday will continue to happen. (November 8, 2011, Page 8)