05.Aug.2010 Why the Beavers Start Slow…& Why They Will Continue to do so.

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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.

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  • ObjCritic says:
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    I noticed the same thing in his quotes, its maddening and tiresome. I’ve written before how Riley needs to define the identity he wants the team to have, set goals, objectives, and coach them there. I am so tired of reading how “we need to find our identity.” He has spring ball, fall ball, he knows the roster, he knows who’s on his coaching staff, he knows the playbooks, and they need to find their identity in October or later? He’s not just setting expectations low for the players, he’s setting them low for himself. Then he can “aww shucks” after another mid-level bowl game and accolades of “nobody does more with less” or “another typical strong finish from a Riley squad.”

    Even the team’s season recaps spout this rhetoric. His boldest statement is in the form of a question: “Why not us?” Like he’s talking about a lottery instead of a conference championship. There’s luck, then there’s fortune (the confluence of preparation, opportunity, and execution).

    With the skill players he has now, and some key defenders, Riley has the opportunity to challenge them in a positive manner, prepare, and expect to win. Not hope to win a lottery….

    • angry angry says:
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      Well said.

      Not only does he know the roster and staff, he recruited and hired them.

      Why does the media turn a blind eye? Semi-rhetorical question. We know it’s because he is a super nice guy who is genuinely happy at OSU. That’s great and all, but at some point these tough questions need to be addressed. Say you’re dating a gal (or dude, if that’s your thing) and they never look for a job. Do you bit your tongue and say nothing because your…grateful…that any girl is willing to date you? That’s the desperate and pathetic attitude Beaver fans have with Riley. They seem to think, “nobody wants to coach at OSU, we better not offend the one guy who does.”

      • Beavocalypse says:
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        I have a feeling that with talk like this we’ll not only get beaten by TCU, but Riley’s low-expectations will have our boys’ legs high in the air as they receive a 30 point loss ass pounding.

        I guess getting raped in prison makes anybody a little tougher, right?

        • angry angry says:
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          What to do about it?

          I’m blowing off steam by blogging, but what the hell else can I do? This guy signed a massive extension. I love the guy as a human being, but he’s a crummy motivator and perennial underdogs need motivation.

          Think about it: what motivated the teams of the past five years? Not Riley or the fans, but being picked to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-10. All the USC-rejects with a chip on their shoulder. Now they’re picked to finish in the top of the division…chip on their shoulder, gone. Motivation? Should be coming from Riley, but instead they’re receiving the garbage above about how the team will get better (after TCU dismantles them).

  • angry angry says:
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    Guys, when I get this angry over a Riley quote the season must be near.

  • ObjCritic says:
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    Not that it would help, but I was thinking it would be interesting to at least outline what the identity and goals should be given this roster.

    A couple of things that lead me to believe the preseason could be painful to watch is TCU and BSU will both run non-conventional defenses; 4-2-5 and (apparently) 3-3-5. How a young QB like Katz responds to these alignments is critical, I seem to remember the “first-year” Matt Moore having trouble with a 3-4 alignment (Cal?).

    I was also thinking part of Riley’s approach to motivation should be inspired by BSU’s approach of taking player’s who aren’t starters but giving them valuable, if infrequent roles. That gives the players an indication of trust from the coach, and motivation to prepare every week.

  • Michelle says:
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    Earth to Riley Haters,

    Oregon State is major underdogs in the media. But this team seems to have something special lined up.

    Do you fools really want Riley running his mouth like Quackers did pre-boise state last year? I’d rather use his ho-hum Mr rodgers remarks to lay low publicly, getting ready to strike.

    • Jim S says:
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      Michelle, I agree to a point. Every time the Ducks players started boasting before a game last year, they lost that game. Execution and discipline by your players is something I think Kelly needs to work on as a head coach. Tressel in the Rose Bowl could serve as the perfect model in that regard.

      However, I don’t think anyone on this board wants Riley and Co. to be brash and cocky. But, being confident and expecting good results from a challenge is a winning mindset.

      • Beavker Beavker says:
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        I think Riley has a long way to go before he’s flirting with ‘cocky’…so yeah, I like the reserve, but has to be more of ‘we expect to come out and compete and win every game…it’s my job to prepare these kids, and we have high expectations and a lot of talent back…” or something of the like.

        Guaranteeing a victory or even saying you think your team is just as good as TCU/BSU might be pushing it, but setting up an expectation that you can compete with anyone and expect to win every game is not a ‘cocky’ thing to say for a D-1 program that has routinely seen the top 25, many bowl games, and upper 70th percentile in standing in the Pac 10 lately.

      • angry angry says:
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        You can’t play the discipline card after the way Riley handled this off-season. Chip Kelly is twice the coach because he can motivate and lead men. Riley asks his teams to like him to much that they want to win for him; Riley asks his teams to motivate themselves. Riley hopes to win games, but doesn’t demand or expect it. Just speak the truth.

    • Beavocalypse says:
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      Michelle,

      I’m no fool, and apparently you haven’t watched the last…oh I don’t know, 5 seasons of Beaver football. It doesn’t matter who we have had coming back every one of those years…we come out, especially on ESPN and have gotten raped on National television.

      Louisville
      Penn State
      Boise State
      Cincinnati

      Do any of these losses ring a bell?

      Riley said the same thing, practically verbatim, before each one of these match ups and each time we’ve gotten crushed. That isn’t OSU waiting to strike, that is OSU waiting to get struck, which they do.

      • angry says:
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        Those are just the OOC games. The 2008 Civil War was on national TV (ESPN2) as well. The 2006 and 2008 victories over USC are keeping us treading water in perception lake.

      • Michelle says:
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        I’m young, but still a fourth generation Beaver. And I was glad while sitting amongst 100,000 Penn State fans, that we had not done too much trash talking that day. Save that for Pac10 games. I just think its foolish to give these opponnets more reasons to be fired up for us. Talking big to their head coach being foolish.

  • JackBeav says:
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    I have to agree that Riley is a little too conservative with his talk. Reading the transcript of his conference call with Gary Patterson shows the world what that difference is.

    Riley talks ‘why not’ and ‘I think we can’, while Patterson talks ‘they can beat us if we don’t come to play’. That difference is what makes us the underdogs in the media. Our coach puts us there.

    Simply stating the obvious would diminish that underdog perception. He needs to say things like ‘we’ve shown that we can beat anyone’. It can be couched with ‘we have atendency to start slow’, but expectations can then be adjusted to ‘maybe not this year’.

    There don’t have to be any promises, guarantees or bravado. There only has to be a use of a different vocabulary. Action verbs make the reader/listener sit up and take notice. They make any observer go away impressed and supposing greater things are in store for a team. Passive aggressive phrases like ‘why not’ and ‘we’ll see’ don’t provide the observer with any sense that a team has any confidence… not bravado, just confidence.

    • Beavker Beavker says:
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      Well, sorry for bringin up more Husker crap, but I go with what I know. Coach Pelini is good with these things (not as elequent and Riley can be of course), but he talk like he expects to win, while not really even bringing the opponent into the equation. He might stroke the opposing teams ego a bit (“there as good as they come”, etc.), but he expects his team to play with anyone at anytime. His players and fans believe it.

      • angry angry says:
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        Personally, I like the Husker angle. It’s different and objective.
        Why the heck are you a Husker/Beaver fan, though?

    • angry angry says:
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      Felt exactly the same way when reading that transcript.

  • Mud&Sticks says:
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    I suspect this same attitude affects his ability to recruit too.

  • ObjCritic says:
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    Trash talking or bravado is something else all together, I don’t think that’s what (some) of us are advocating.

    Part of instilling confidence in young people means expressing confidence in them, that doesn’t diminish the importance of preparing to win.

    Take Chip Kelly in last year’s CW. He said something like: “Mike Riley is a great coach and a fine person, that said, the Ducks are going to win the Civil War.” He was expressing confidence in his players, his coaches, their preparation, and their home field. And they won. In contrast, Mike Riley talked about how great it was to be a part of the CW tradtion; it’s a difference of “I believe we can win” vs. “I’m happy to be here.” When it came down to key plays, rushing Canfield, making key 3rd down gains (James) or running through a safety (Masoli), the Ducks got it done. Months later, Riley was still talking about a WR being wide open in the end zone when his QB got sacked…

    Riley doesn’t need to be arrogant, or brash, he needs to be confident. His players need to know that he trusts in them, that he expects to win IF THE COACHES GAME PLAN IS EXECUTED, not HOPE to win if the stars align.

    The Beavs have a bunch of offensive talent, one of the best d-tackles in college football; go after the PAC-10 championship explicitly. To do otherwise is a clear indication you’re just happy to be in the conference.

  • MCKALK MCKALK says:
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    I responded to a warm and fuzzy Riley article from Ted Miller last year,asking when he and others in the media were going to actually do their jobs and challenge Riley about the chronic slow starts and poor performances in non-con road games. Miller blasted me with the be grateful for what the Beavers have achieved compared to the previous 30 years cliched response. Maybe I am out to lunch here, but I get annoyed at how this trend is treated almost lightly. It is an aw shucks this is just how those wacky Beavers are attitude.

  • AntiAngry says:
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    Hey, let’s fire Riley because at OSU 10-4, 9-4, 9-4, and 8-5 just aren’t good enough.

    Let’s do what Arizona did in 1999 and fire a quality coach, in hopes that we’ll find someone better. Remind me how that worked out at UA again? Oh yeah…the were HORRIBLE for 10 years.

    The early season loses are mind boggling, but it has NOTHING to do with Riley not being able to motivate his team or his team respecting him. Let’s not forget, he’s also the same coach with the same style who has guided OSU to some pretty damn impressive wins and late season runs.

    Oh wait sorry, this site isn’t about logical thinking…just pure-hate!

    • angry angry says:
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      1. Notice it took at 14 game season (Hawaii) to reach 10 wins.

      2. Note the declining yearly win totals.

      3. Nobody said to fire him.

      “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.”

    • MCKALK MCKALK says:
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      What are you talking about? Nobody said anything about firing, but either you are moving forward, stagnanting or falling back. I think this may be a crossroads type season.

      • angry angry says:
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        For some reason anti-angry believes this site is firemikeriley.com. It’s not. I never even saw that site.

        I do think it was dumb to give Riley what is essentially a lifetime contract.

  • CastorNation says:
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    I have been out of town, so a little late here. I agree that the comments are timid. But I can’t imagine the team gets the same comments. Riley is always so complimentary of the upcoming opponent. Even WSU he talked about what a great team they had and talented players. I think if OSU goes 3-0, you will still hear Riley talking about improving and character. It would be interesting to hear the other side from the players. My son will be rooming with a walk on defensive tackle who might have better insight as to Riley’s motivational approach.
    This season might be painful, it might be exhilarating, but it will be fun.

  • JoeBeav says:
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    WAY too many people agreeing with each other here,

    1) I think most of you are looking at this in far too simple of terms. In high-school, I played for one of the better coaches to probably ever coach at the 2A (now 3A) level. Not once was there a time that what he told the press, and what was said at practice was even close to congruent with one another. To the press he would routinely – sell us short, expand on the bad, diminish the good, or simply flat out lie and make sh*t up. If we knew we were solid on D, he would tell them “we need to make big strides with our run defense”, etc, etc, etc. In the 6 years he was the HC, our school went to the playoff each year, made the state title game 4 times, and won it twice. Since then, my HS has disappeared to never be heard from again. That was 20 years ago.

    2) Don’t agree with you at all about depth, Angry. Yes, what you say about depth has been true in Corvallis for most of the last decade. The last couple years, though? This team has turned that corner. Which, I am guessing, is why (in an effort to change our early season fortunes) Riley has said that they will scrimmage a lot more than in the past. Unless I’m mistaken, I do believe you are getting precisely what you are asking for in your OP, this year.

    • angry angry says:
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      So Riley’s not going to coddle the DTs or DEs because of the great depth behind those guys?

      Or the running back?

      Or the corners?

      Okaaay.

      Regarding your first point: I already said he might sing a different tune behind closed doors. If he does, it’s not getting through because the players play without swagger or confidence versus good opponents. They’ve almost become bullies, beating the bad to average teams and shrinking versus anyone willing to fight back.

      • JoeBeav says:
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        Not saying we are USC, but wouldn’t you agree that the talent and quality of depth has significantly improved over recent years? Go back more than a few years, and I wholly agree that if a starter went down generally his replacement was a BIG step down.

        Total coincidence, but I went to practice today. I think the team looks MUCH further along than I’ve ever seen at 3 practices in. Riley is right, Katz is going to be good. But what impressed me was how good all the QB’s looked. Vaz, Lomax, Mannion, all have real, Pac-10 level talent. That is a big departure from times in the past when, say, Matt Moore was our starter. If he had gone down, we would have been throwing some kid out there that was not on the same level as those three.

        I’d suggest you take in a practice Angry, if you haven’t. I think you might sing a slightly different tune.

        • angry angry says:
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          Canfield relieved Moore several times. Most would agree he’s at the same level as those three.

          I named a handful of positions with zero depth and you didn’t really address it.

          Man, I wish I could catch a practice this year. I’m down in Cali and won’t be up there until October at the earliest.

  • JoeBeav says:
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    Sure, ok.

    DT, DE – maybe the toughest position for any team to fill out, I was pleasantly surprised with our depth here. Everyone is bigger, Henry, Seamalo Jr, Frahm, Miller, Olander, and yes even Paea (if you can believe that). Glover looks like a nice addition, and there is still 3 or 4 young guys that look the part. Moving John Braun to DT seems like a very good move.

    RB – Not that I think it matters, because Quizz is pretty good at not taking the big hit, but Jenkins really has made big strides. Stephenson is out a couple weeks with a bad shoulder, but he will contribute this year. The sky is the limit for McCants if the light ever comes on for him. Malcom Marable also looks good, and fast. Remember when ALL we had was Bernard, and Matt Stevenson? Of course you do, it was three seasons ago.

    CB – Dockery, Hardin, Poyer, Keynan Parker, and Rashaad Reynolds gives us more collective speed at this position than we’ve ever had. Hard to say how this group will do, but the depth IS improving.

    As far as coddling goes – You should have seen the O and D line drills today. They are holding nothing back. Good God they were intense! And both coach Cav and Seamalo were reading their guys the riot act.

  • JoeBeav says:
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    Matt Stevenson = brain fart. Sieverson, of course.

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