It’s time to state the obvious: Pete Carroll did not have his USC Trojans team mentally ready to play against Oregon State last night.
This is not the first time and it will not be the last time that Pete Carroll will have badly misjudged the mental state of his team and individual players, and not have them prepared to play against a team that they have two, three, or even four times the talent as it was against Oregon State last night.
Read the stories below that came out before the USC – Oregon State game:
No, the Trojans did not take the game with Oregon State seriously. No, the Trojans did not restore order against Oregon State. Yes, they had a tough time finding motivation against Oregon State. Yes, they were worried about the national polls and not getting into the bogus BSC national title game, instead of playing Oregon State in a very tough environment at Reser Stadium.
Pete Carroll needs to face the fact that his team did not take Oregon State seriously, just like they did not take Oregon State seriously two years ago, or UCLA almost two years ago, and Stanford last year. There is just no excuse for USC to lose to Oregon State with all the talent that the Trojans have on their football team and there is no excuse to not have the Trojans ready to play a nationally televised game, especially after coming off of a bye week. Of course, we here at Coaches Hot Seat knew very well the history of Pete Carroll in these types of games and we predicted before the season that Oregon State would beat USC:
Pete Carroll and Bob Stoops are two of the top head football coaches in the college game, but because they coach with such energy and raw motivation, when that energy and motivation dips a little the team notices it during the week of practices before the game and then their team’s relax because they come to believe that the game is not that important. Carroll and Stoops will argue this point that they did nothing different, but we have seen the drop in their attitudes both in televised news conferences and during practices in the lead-up to games where their team’s had letdowns, and there is just no getting around what is actually going on here with these two guys, and many other coaches in the college game as well.
The quote on Coaches Hot Seat today is…
“The coach is the team, and the team is the coach. You reflect each other.” Tommy Prothro
… and that quote is especially true for coaches that are high-energy and build their teams around the very obvious strengths of Carroll and Stoops. The danger when a team always looks to their head coach for energy and motivation is that when the coach is down and does not have his normal amount of energy, the team relaxes and is often not ready to play the upcoming game. That was the case last year for Carroll against Stanford, and for Bob Stoops against Texas Tech and West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl last season.
There is only one way for a head football coach that uses a lot of energy and motivation to coach his team to avoid letdowns and that is to very actively manage the mental state of the team so that they are not always looking at the head coach for direction, especially when the head coach realizes when he might not be quite up for a game. Of course, the great head coaches in the history of college football spent a lot of time monitoring the mental state of their players, and although we believe that Carroll and Stoops do have a lot of concern for their team’s mental state, these letdowns keep happening against much less talented teams.
In November/December 2006 a couple of us here at Coaches Hot Seat were in Los Angeles on business in the lead-up to the USC – UCLA game at the Rose Bowl and we spent several hours one day at USC watching practice and talking to people around the program, and the word around USC was that the 10-1 Trojans team was confident and even very cocky that they could beat UCLA easily. There was an article in the Los Angeles Times that week that confirmed what we were hearing that Carroll had convened a team meeting during game week to see if his team was ready to play the Bruins, because he was concerned about the team’s mental state. The Trojans said they were ready, but on December 2, 2006 USC lost to a 6-5 UCLA team 13-9, and Pete Carroll did not have his team ready to play that day, nor last night against Oregon State.
The greatest coaches in the history of college football, a level that Carroll and Stoops are not at yet, knew how vital it was to manage the mental state of their entire team, and the mental state of individual players if necessary. Therein lies the weakness of Pete Carroll and Bob Stoops, that their teams are so good that they sometimes don’t drill down to make sure that all their players are ready to go, and until both men address this weakness they will continue to lose games that they are not supposed to lose.
“You must learn how to hold a team together. You lift some men up, calm others down, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat. Then, you’ve got yourself a team.” Paul “Bear” Bryant