Bye Bye Bye
This is not a good time for a bye week. The team has a bad taste in its mouth after the embarrassing homecoming loss to Ball State. The head coach is one or two more losses away from dusting off his resume and scouring the ranks for open coordinator positions. The fans are outraged and angry, rightfully so. Another disappointing season is laid out before them.
How did we get here?
When Ron English was hired, regardless of one’s feelings about the University down the road, for the most part he was welcomed here. Michigan fans were already deep into their whiskey thanks to Rich Rod, and many were grumbling that English should have been hired at Michigan instead of Rodriguez. Meanwhile, Eastern fans felt pretty good about the hire, English had success in Ann Arbor, and was without a doubt a competent and well-qualified hire.
Problems were evident early, however, and there is no need to rehash the change in offensive philosophy that meant a spread team was running a pro-style offense. It went about as bad as one could have expected, maybe even worse. 2-22 to start the English era might have been enough to scrap the whole experiment after two years. But this is Eastern Michigan.
The logic was that you couldn’t get rid of English at that point. Yes, 2-22 is terrible. But since Eastern has had minimal success as a football program, firing a coach two years into a contract wasn’t feasible. Who would take over? English never would have had a chance to utilize his own players.
When those players finally stared to mature, Eastern showed signs of life. A 6-6 record was a breath of fresh air, but actually a disappointment — EMU could have won 1-2 more games that year. They didn’t, and the warning signs for the future were still there. The truth is that Ron English is not a very good in game tactician. This fact has cost the team several games over his tenure.
Want an example? How about the play last week where Ryan Brumfield was sent up the gut on a fourth and short. Could have worked with Bronson Hill if he wasn’t hurt, or maybe even Darius Jackson if he could have held on to the football. But Brumfield was all there was on that play. So, rather than run a play suited to Brumfield’s talents, and he has developed into a decent back, English sends Brumfield, all 5-10, 188 pounds of him, straight up the middle like he was a big punishing back, and not a 3rd down scat back type. Misuse of talent. Paging Alex Gillett.
Last season, many fans believed the promise of the previous year would come to fruition. With another 2-10 finish, and believe me it was a bad 2-10 with numerous blowouts against Eastern — remember last year’s homecoming versus Kent? This was the last straw for many, and in retrospect English should have been shown the door then. But, this is Eastern, and the buyout was too expensive, as well as the collateral damage from firing a coach who had just won MAC Coach of the Year in 2011. The fear was that a coach of substance would shy away from the job unless we saw the contract through to the bitter end.
We are now at that bitter end. Make no mistake about it, this team is destined for a difficult ride the rest of the way. Sure, I could be wrong. Maybe the team will win a couple in New York, and then come back home and knock off Ohio. While were at it, maybe the water tower will turn into a rocket and blast off to the moon. Seems almost as likely as Eastern winning the next three.
I’ve always believed that when something isn’t working, you cut your losses and move on, however painful the cut may be. This bye week was a good opportunity to do just that, but alas, bold action is not one of EMU’s strong suits. If English comes back from New York 1-5, there will be a different tone coming from the editorial board here at Eagle Totem. The calls to end it now will become very, very intense.
For another week, we will stew in this bitter marinade, aware of what has gone wrong, hoping for the best, expecting the worst. Ron English is a decent man, and he has tried his best. Calling for a coach to get fired is one of the more unseemly aspects of sports writing. But it will have to be done, and sooner as opposed to later.