12.Sep.2011 Is Mike Riley Depressed?
I explored this option in Sunday's comment area, but I think it warrants its own post.
There have been mutterings that the program's collapse is due to talent deficiency. I find this argument hard to accept for two reasons:
- Oregon State has never had good talent. And I actually think the talent has improved at every position except running back.
- The current decline began after the 2009 Civil War. The Beavers had the same talent in the Las Vegas Bowl (as the CW), but looked like a completely different team, confirming the problem was mental.
I believe the bigger issue is a string of difficult games that have subconsciously deflated and defeated Mike Riley. Follow this time line with me:
- In 2009, Mike Riley believed he could take OSU to the Rose Bowl.
- Riley lost a close, emotional game to his rival, who he then watched play in the Rose Bowl.
- The Beavers missed out on a respectable bowl, and wound up in the Las Vegas desert wind.
- During the Vegas Bowl, Riley's countenance was that of malaise, depression, disinterest. The players were also disinterested and unprepared. This was the start of a trend.
- Riley had a chance to make amends for that loss the next year in a big time game versus TCU. Again the Beavers suffered a difficult loss that took it's emotional tole on Riley.
- Rinse and repeat versus Boise State.
- After the team grinds out a few 3 point wins, the Beavers have more heartbreak in Washington. The Beavs' emotions leg down for the rest of the season.
- Beavs suffer three more humiliating losses in Washington State, UCLA, and Stanford.
- Riley loses a 3rd straight Civil War. Ducks go on to the National Title game; the chasm between the two programs has never been larger.
- The Beavs opens the 2011 season by losing at home to Sacramento State. The team looks clueless and mentally unprepared.
- Riley gets embarrassed on the national state as Urban Meyer and Chris Speilman question his coaching and suggest the Beavs aren't in the same stratosphere as Wisconsin.
Since the 2009 Civil War, the Beavers are 5-11 for a 31% winning percentage. More alarming and telling is the malaise since that game. Before then, they were able to emotionally engage and give maximum effort. It made loses more bearable. But since that game, the Beavers have "checked out", with their only inspired victory coming against USC, a team they always play well (for some reason).
So what is going on?
If you have access to the 2009 Civil War and Las Vegas Bowl, go back and watch them. Note Mike Riley's body language, countenance, and emotional involvement. What you will see is a sad, defeated man with glassy eyes. We even saw Riley's defeatest attitude last week when, as time was expiring, he let the clock bleed rather than trying for a touchdown; a touchdown that would stave some embarrassment and give his team confidence to build upon.
Riley seemed briefly inspired this spring after hiring Coach Brennen. That waned during fall camp and now it's gone entirely.
In the comment area of my last post I wrote this response to a commenter:
I don’t know if Riley even realizes that he’s not preparing as hard. Could be a subconscious thing where he knows how much effort (and luck) it took to get to that point (i.e. cusp of a Rose Bowl). I think he is depressed/defeated and more unprepared than ever. I think it’s subconscious. The guy has never had fire, but he at least needs to find the tinder bundle within.
I think this sums it up. I don't think Riley has consciously checked out. I think he thinks he is still trying, but the thing about depression is it's hard to be objective. That's why depressed people ultimately seek outside help. They cannot see the forest from the trees and untangle the subconscious web of emotions on their own.
I actually find Riley's plight to be sad, and I find myself more empathetic than angry this morning. Maybe people are right. Maybe we do need to rally around the guy and support the team rather than criticize? Nah. But I can definitely sympathize better now that I realize what is going on.
The guy needs to admit there's a problem, seek help, soul search, and dig out of this. If he can't do that, then he needs to resign. Our head coach is a defeated man.