Riley's weak and feeble comments in the Oregonian reignited my rage. Just in time for the season! The guy is already banking on a loss versus TCU. His quotes on the game are ridiculous:
Riley said the TCU game at Cowboys Stadium will tell him a lot about the 2010 team’s character and personality, win or lose.
“You’ll be hardened. You will know who you are,’’ said Riley.
“Then it’s a matter of who gets better as the season goes on," he said, because he predicts the Pac-10 race "is going to go down to the wire."
1. Riley is already talking about "character" and "personality"…also known as "moral victories".
2. Riley says the team will be hardened, suggesting a loss. Wins do not harden teams.
3. Riley says, "it's a matter of who gets better as the season goes on." Gets better?? Meaning what? He plans on the Beavers playing badly? If the Beavers play well enough to beat the #10 team in the country, then they won't need to get better. The comment was a slip of the tongue that clearly shows Riley figures he'll lose the game.
Ugh. It's sickening to read things like this from your University's head coach. Simply put, it is not a winning mindset.
The following things must change for the Beavers to be both mentally and physically tuned heading into the new season:
Depth–The number one problem, by a long margin, is the lack of quality, experienced depth. Having zero or one viable backup at key positions limits what a head coach can do during spring and fall camp preparation. The Beavers usually field a quality starter at every position, but behind that starter is always a crummy walk-on or some guy who needs three years of seasoning to even become a backup. They've been able to have successful seasons because they've avoided injuries at key positions, or the injuries they did have were at the one position of depth, quarterback. Riley knows depth is either bad or under-developed, so he pampers his starters during camp, and when the season kicks off, they're not ready.
Scrimmages–Riley needs to let the starters (a) actually play in these games and (b) go full speed. This problem is intimately connected with lack of depth. It's not hard to understand that if Player X is valuable, and Backup Z is crummy, then the head coach will protect his asset more than if Backup Z were able to step in and produce to a level similar to Player X. While it's smart to protect assets, it's not smart to coddle them, and that is what Riley does. When the lights turn on and the games matter, guys are feeling their way through the games and playing a step slow (i.e. practice speed). Ironically, as we all know, players are more often injured when playing at half effort than full speed. If Riley is this concerned about players' health, he should recruit guys who are further developed and able to step in before their junior year.
Expectations–For the Oregon State Beavers, expectations are not set before the season's kickoff. They are set a few games into the season when things either (a) go well or (b) go in the tank. If things are going well, suddenly you hear musings about the Rose Bowl. However, if the team starts poorly, Riley will talk about getting better, building character, and learning about his team. This "loser's mentality" is entirely the fault of coaches, and precisely the head man. Mike Riley can't say things like, "The game against TCU will show us what kind of team we have" or something to that effect. He constantly talks in this manner, and it is weak, passive, and has connotations that it is okay to fail. Riley needs to set the highest realistic goal, and he needs to do it publicly so the pressure is square on the team from day one. And most importantly he needs to demand it, not hope for it. The setting of expectations and their subsequent achievement is one of two reasons (the other being creativity) Chip Kelly is twice the coach Mike Riley is. And I said twice the coach, not twice the guy.
Until all three of these things change, I can't take the Beavers seriously in any early season game. Keep an open ear to Riley's quotes and handling of the roster this fall. He does the "aw shucks/loser mentality" thing a lot, and it's time people stop lionizing the guy just because he is nice and instead start calling him out.