Mailbag: Playoffs and UW coaching moves

March, 22, 2013
3/22/13
6:00
PM ET
Happy Friday. Hope your brackets are beautiful.

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This mailbag is a salute to the state of ... Texas. Yeah, I have no idea why so many folks from Texas wrote in this week.

To the notes!

rtXC1 from Denison, Texas writes: I have a couple questions regarding the new playoff system and its committee. Do you think the criteria for selecting the 4 playoff teams will be more specified than it is now or just as vague? My biggest complaint of the current system is how the voters contradict themselves. In 2011, Alabama got the nod over OSU because it was the "better team," although OSU clearly had the better resume; in 2012, had Ohio State been eligible, the National Championship would've been ND vs Ohio State (the 2 best resumes, AKA the only 2 undefeated teams), which is a joke considering A&M, Bama, Stanford, and Oregon were clearly the 4 best teams. Will we see more clarity on the rules of choosing these teams or continue on with some on the committee voting for the 4 best resumes while others vote for the "4 best teams?" Since it is so difficult to judge which teams are better than others without them playing, it makes more sense that only resumes should be looked at (and most fans outside of the southeast would probably agree).

Ted Miller: The bad news is the process will continue to have a strong subjective element, which is unavoidable without a pure playoff, and that means you will be able to find inconsistency if you look for it.

What the new playoff will become is a 4-team version -- at least for now, as most think it will expand -- of the NCAA basketball tournament. You'll have a committee of knowledgable folks who, nonetheless, will be easy to be suspicious of. They will have inherit regional affiliations, and that will cause outsiders to believe, not unreasonably, they will advocate for "their" teams.

And the job would be brutal even without fretting potential biases.

Think of all the challenging complications:
  • How do you compare teams with the same record that play comparable schedules? It's difficult to not believe that "reputation" will then play a big role. In other words, tag always goes to the SEC. Or Texas. Or USC.
  • Is head-to-head the be-all, end-all, or does body of work matter? Say Boise State beats Oregon by seven in the season-opener and goes undefeated against a schedule that features no other ranked teams. And the Ducks then beat five ranked teams and finish 12-1. Who gets pick for a final four?
  • How do you compare teams that play eight conference games in the SEC with four weak nonconference foes versus teams that play nine conference games in the Big 12 and tough nonconference foes?
  • What role does the "sight test" play? Let's face it, there are plenty of years when there's an interloper in the national title race that does not look to be in the same class of the other teams, no matter the record.
One thing a lot of us in the media hope the folk in charge will do is have a transparent system of advanced statistical metrics that the committee uses, which then can be used to support decisions after the selection process is over.

Kyle from Austin, Texas writes: Theodore,You say Tuiasosopo's new role as Huskies QB coach '"will allow Sarkisian to be more big-picture with the offense." First, I'm wondering--what do you mean by big-picture? Are you saying that by having Tuiasosopo helping out with the nitty-gritty details of the offense, Sarkisian can focus on broader aspects of the offense? Or are you saying that having Tui around will influence Sark to be more open with the offense in general?Second, I'm wondering: the statement I quoted seems to imply that Sark has been very closely involved with the details of the offense--maybe too much so. Do you think Sark has possibly been too intimately engaged in planning and calling the offense the past few years, which might diminish time spent on the more overarching jobs of a head coach? If so, how do we know and what does this mean? Lavish me with your insight, good sir.

Ted Miller: It's more a matter of fit.

Last year, Eric Kiesau was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, replacing Doug Nussmeier, who did a great job at Alabama last year. While Kiesau played QB at Portland State, most of his coaching chops are with receivers. Tuiasosopo played quarterback at Washington and in the NFL and he's a young coach who will be able to communicate well with his QBs.

I think this is a stronger configuration for the Huskies staff.

I think Tuiasosopo is capable of getting Keith Price to be more his 2011 self than his 2012 disappointment. That would allow Sarkisian, who calls the offensive plays, to worry less about Price's psyche and more about the Xs and Os.

To your second question, head coaches who call their own plays -- on either side of the ball, but most particularly on offense -- have more on their plates than coaches who don't. When the play calling is productive -- see Chip Kelly at Oregon or Pete Carroll calling the defense during his USC tenure -- then things are great. Media sorts leave it alone.

But when things are bad -- see Lane Kiffin calling offensive plays at USC -- then media sorts and fans wonder of the head coach is stretched too thin.

Sarkisian and Kiffin have had success calling their own plays, but they both had down offensive years in 2012. So, launch the criticism rockets! The difference there, of course, is Kiffin was calling plays for a fabulously talented unit, while Sarkisian was dealing with a depleted line, banged-up QB and a new array of skill players.

My personal opinion as a media sort who has never coached college football is it's better for a head coach to act as a CEO and let his coordinators call plays. One simple and practical reason for this is you get better coordinators because the best guys in those roles often want to call their own plays. Not always, see Mark Helfrich at Oregon, who I believe is an outstanding offensive coach. But let's put it this way: Justin Wilcox wouldn't have left Tennessee if Sark were calling the defensive plays.

Sarkisian has done a nice job rebuilding the Washington program, but fans are impatient for the proverbial next step. The good news is the talent is on hand for that next step to be taken this fall. So it feels like this season will be a good measure of Sarkisian as a head coach.

My impression, developed in large part from a lot of smart football folks telling me, "Sark is a good football coach," is that Sarkisian is a good football coach. I suspect the Huskies are going to have a breakthrough this fall, potentially winning nine or 10 games and climbing into the Top 25.

Howard from Richardson, Texas writes: When you made your comment regarding OU in your Cal article, were you trying to be funny or are you just ignorant of anything that is not deep South or East coast? Yes I know you are from Atlanta and went to school at Richmond.

Ted Miller: Howard I wasn't trying to be funny. I was being funny. Ask anyone.

I'm ignorant about a lot of things. For example, my ice maker isn't working well and I have no idea why. I wish I were more handy around the house in general. And had a better understanding of insurance. And jazz.

My ignorance list also would include what the second part of your question means. If you are implying that I am fairly knowledgable about things from the South, East and, by implication, West, because that's where I've lived since 1999, then thanks.

Ted Miller | email

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