I was a little glib yesterday in the comments concerning Dezman Moses’ injury. I’m not so sanguine this morning- although reports are conflicted as to whether the key DE can go.
I don’t know if fistfights and brawls are part of the practice culture Coach Toledo cultivates. I’m doubtful. I mean the guy has been here four years and that is the first time fisticuffs have made the lead. I am even accepting of the notion that some roughhousing is unavoidable. But all of this is a slippery slope for Toledo. He is in a perilous place.
Let's start here: I am really unsure fighting is indicative of a good practice(s) or culture. If unsupervised aggression during practice is anecdotally a good thing, why isn’t emotional display, lack of concentration and disregard for consequences also predictive of game-time fumbles and illegal kicking tees and “practice fighting injuries”? Since Coach Toledo got here, there has been more than a little Personal Foul Tulane is how we roll attitude. Add in this injury.
I used the word anecdotally above deliberately. Moses’ injury and Tulane’s propensity to undisciplined penalties are facts. Perceived benefits to an anarchic practice are, again, largely anecdotal. The same people pounding the team the hardest for penalties and turnovers are probably the same lot praising a culture of indiscipline at practice. It is like the endless happy yammering a few years ago about the importance of Toledo’s complaints about summer weight training- as if Tulane’s talent problems were about a dozen unsupervised summer workouts. Anecdotal frequently equals illusionary.
Football has a culture hundreds of years old. Don’t try to re-invent the success factors. And mind you, fighting is part and parcel of general sporting culture. Rage does happen. In the NHL, fighting has a definite tactical role. In baseball, it is part of self-policing the dangers of a pitched baseball. Football has no such culture. Sure, fighting happens- but if it was advantageous, you would see it as part of the fabric of the game. It is hard to fool a hundred years of culture.
Back to the slippery slope. If it is not illusionary, most of Tulane’s improvement this year centers on the introduction of two "good for C-USA" players to the defense (Mackey and Moses) to go with Shakiel Smith- plus a serviceable quarterback prospect.
That is four key guys. Four. That is all you need in C-USA to have a pulse- to not get ripped by Tulsa and Houston 50-7 every week. The reason I opine that an average coach doing an average job at Tulane can win eight games is that is doesn’t take much- just a dozen plus C-USA players and a quarterback. Look at Rice two years ago, or SMU last year.
But it can slip away quick too- the cast of three key characters on defense might have been reduced by one for nonsense. In C-USA, there is no suggestion of quality depth (if Tulane has another “quality” DE he’d be starting on the other side or forced into playing out of position to get on the field). If three good defensive players equals “decent”, trust me that the Tulane fan doesn’t want to know what one good player equals.
And that is the “perilous place”- is Coach really sure he can survive six weeks of bad beatings this far into his tenure? Scelfo had past successes (for Tulane), his 2006 team had moved forward from the Katrina disaster and would whip any of Toledo’s iterations, there were obvious stars on the roster (Forte, Williams)- but it went bad quick. A stupid decision on a punt, some losing- and he had to go.
So, if you are going to allow brawling in practice (even once in awhile or inadvertantly), it cannot be unsupervised. Tulane has a dozen plus assistant coaches; they have to know who can fight and who cannot. Tulane is allowed to have players who are important to the program too.
These guys aren’t fodder. The manager who let Jose Canseco pitch and throw out his arm was fired. If an NFL coach exposed his $8M/year end to needless injury, he could expect to answer for it. Moses is as important to Tulane football as those two examples- so protect the asset. Plus, you know, he is a kid with further football aspirations- there is an obligation as a coach and mentor to protect him from a bad, emotional moment.
Anyway, hopefully Moses is safe and plays. But there has to be a better job done here.