By Mad Son
It was the winter of 2014/2015 when Washington lead his troops from the TicketCity Battle of White Marsh Bowl to Valley Forge to wait out the off season. Following a lackluster campaign thus far against the rest of the British-12, pressure was mounting to replace the Commander-in-Chief with Horatio Gates-Saban. In response to his critics, Coach George Washington replied, “Whenever the public gets dissatisfied with my service...I shall quit the helm...and retire to a private life.” General Petersen also stated, “I can assure those Gentlemen that it is a much easier and less distressing thing to draw remonstrances in a comfortable room by a good fire side than to occupy a cold bleak hill and sleep under frost and Snow without Cloaths or Blankets; however, although they seem to have little feeling for the naked, and distressed Soldier, I feel superabundantly for them, and from my Soul pity those miseries, [which], it is neither in my power to relieve or prevent.” (in other words, “have you ever coached at this level before? I didn’t think so”)
This is not to say no criticism is due. Just because you and I couldn’t do a better job doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t. Results matter. Wins matter.
A major problem faced by Washington in the war effort was that his troops were not uniformly trained. Some troops had read one playbook but others had read another. To remedy this Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand Steuben, a former officer in Europe and a member of the elite Prussian forces of Frederick the Great, was enlisted (he had been unemployed due to the end of Seven Year’s War) to train the troops at Valley Forge. Despite not speaking English, Friedrich von Steuben wrote the Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (the Blue Book) with the assistance of interpreters. This became the training manual for the Continental Army and helped bring the army from a group of ragtag volunteers to a disciplined, unified team. Training was a priority at Valley Forge and with the help of assistant coach Baron Friedrich von Steueben the soldiers finally received the coaching they needed to win consistently.
Similar to the Revolutionary forces of 1777, the talent at Washington is not the problem. Chris Petersen didn’t win big against real teams at Boise State because he had superior talent. He won because he had the best trained team. They had the fundamentals down and they played to the top of their ability. I see a lot of people (especially people who are not fans of Washington) predict this to be a down year - in fact a year with a losing record. If that happens Chris Petersen is not Washington. Washington trains its players, and each year, each soldier is better than he was the year before. I don’t care that we lost a veritable stable of All-American talent. They kept us in games because they could cover up mistakes, but the depth was the problem the team had. If our depth plays at an acceptable level then we don’t need All-Americans to try and mask our deficiencies. I will take a solid top-to-bottom team over last year’s Washington team any day of the week. If Petersen isn’t transforming this into that kind of program then he isn’t who we hired. We hired a man who trains his teams rigorously to make them into the best they can be. His problem at Boise State was that he couldn’t get the talent he has proven he can recruit at Washington. This will only be Petersen’s second year but expectations are still high. It took Harbaugh his third year at Stanford to show a real change and his fourth year to win big, but Petersen has a head start because Washington NEVER (not even the 2008 0-12 season) sank to the depths of pre-Harbaugh Stanford. This is Washington dammit and there are still people who demand greatness here and realize that the right coach can turn our team into a winner.
One outstanding issue is the quarterback position where we have Lindquist who has proven to be mediocre thus far in the upperclasses, KJ Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning as untested younger players with promise and two JC wildcards in the Tonys. This is really the only component of the team that tempers my expectations for the year because while a true star can make an impact at any position, the quarterback is the single most important position to have solid play. Incomplete passes, interceptions, sacks (not all on the QB of course), missed opportunities kill drives and a chance to win. If the defense can rest and the offense can score now and again you have a chance to win ball games. We don’t have anyone that we know can sustain a drive (although I would hope we could have at least coached Lindquist into that position – he does have some experience and raw physical capabilities) so I don’t know that we can beat everyone we should beat next year. Not that I still don’t expect to win games but we may lose a game or two that really should have been within our grasp. That is a really disheartening prospect but it is the reality of next year in my opinion. What I do expect though is that following an improved training regimen we don’t have a repeat of the Battle of Crooked Billet (May 1, 1778) where we are caught sleeping. A loss to an inferior team like Utah State would be inexcusable.
I don’t expect Petersen to lead Washington to a national championship THIS year however I do expect to see improvement and a winning season. This is only the second year under Petersen and it is too early to make a complete judgement. Rightfully so there is no real push to unseat Petersen but rightfully so speculation is still forming about whether or not Petersen is the right fit as head coach here. Washington should come out of Valley Forge and into the 2015 season as a deeper, more hardened team that is ready to compete and win games. If we don’t have that then General Chris Petersen-Washington may not be who we think he is.