How we got in this mess (long)

It’s not news to anyone on this board that right now we’re the worst football program in the SEC, and down there with Rutgers for the entire Power 5 (I’m not sure we could beat Rutgers on our home field for one thing). There’s a lot of blame to go around. It didn’t start when Chad Morris was hired. It didn’t start when Bielema let Charlie Partridge and Sam Pittman get away. It didn’t start when Petrino hit the ditch, or when he decided to put his girlfriend on the payroll in an adjoining office with a secret door, or when he decided that he could treat people like crap because he was BMFP, or when Jeff Long let him got because he acted like BMFP. Lots of blame in lots of places.

I go back to the winter of 2005-2006, when Houston Nutt was told he had to do whatever it took to recruit the Springdale 5, including turning his offense over to Gus. If Frank Broyles didn’t issue the orders, he sure didn’t back up Nutt when he balked. Basically, forcing a coordinator on a head coach almost never works. JFB had a reputation as a meddler, and this was one of them.
The entire Gus Bus situation was mishandled. Reggie Herring and others on the staff were completely unprofessional. Gus’ allies (including some of the Springdale 5 parents) were more worried about his success than the program’s.

More to the point, the fan base fractured and has never fully reunited. Even when we were winning 10 straight and the SEC West title in ’06, a sizable portion of the fan base gave all the credit to Gus and none of it to Nutt, and wondered why HDN didn’t let Gus go fullbore HUNH (he’s been a head coach now for years and still hasn’t gone fullbore HUNH, you might notice). Banners flying over the stadium. Full page ads. FOI requests of cellphone records. We could use some of Nutt’s mediocrity right now, I promise you. We’d have to improve several orders of magnitude to get to mediocre in 2019. Nutt didn’t help himself in many cases (texting Donna Bragg, etc.), but much of that was just the Gus Bus looking for an excuse to get him out and get Gus in.

So John White gave HDN the golden parachute after we beat LSU in 2007 and shipped him off to Ole Miss. Petrino fell into Jeff Long’s lap. More than one national pundit predicted at the time we were eventually going to pay for that mistake, that Petrino was toxic and would eventually self-destruct. He’s proven them right three times now, with the Falcons, at UA and last year at Louisville. But he did win 21 games in two years, and was fortunate (?) enough to get himself run out of town before we found out what would have happened when he ran out of defensive talent. But some of us could see the decline coming even as we won 11 games in 2011; there wasn’t talent in the pipeline to replace people like Jay Bequette and Knile Davis. His character flaws finally forced Jeff Long to shove him out the door; a lesser coach would have been bounced long before (if you still can’t recognize that winning football games does not excuse everything BP did, you need a serious examination of your priorities). John L Smith’s interim fiasco and having to throw Brandon Allen to the wolves only accelerated the decline.

Bret Bielema came in with a Big Ten style. For a while, landing recruits like Frank Ragnow and Alex Collins, it looked like it might work; maybe not to the level of beating Bama and winning the West, but that we could be a 7-8-9 win program year after year. But the people who recruited the studs left and were not adequately replaced, either as coaches or recruiters. Even so, we spent a fair amount of the 2016 season in the top 25 and looked poised for maybe a nine-win season. Then came the implosions at Missouri and in the bowl, and the Bielema era was essentially doomed. The 2017 year sealed the deal, we got played by Gus and Jimmy Sexton, and wound up with Chad Morris, who didn’t have a lot of talent to work with due to the failures of the Bielema recruiting staff, and what he did have wasn’t suited to left lane hammer down.

As shocking as it would have been to much of the fan base in December 2017 (and still is to some people), I think we got worse at the head coach position when Julie Peoples gave BB the pink slip. Chad hasn’t found a quarterback to run his offense, which is shocking in that Hicks ran it pretty well at SMU. The defense under Chavis is horrible and Craddock is in over his head as a playcaller. I can remember Starkel torching UCLA at A&M, but right now he can’t throw a beachball in the ocean unless the ocean is wearing the wrong color jersey. Maybe we can recoup in the last four weeks with JSJ and KJ at quarterback, which might actually save Morris’ job for another year.

TL;DR A lot of people over the last 15 years got us in this mess, and IMO it’s going to take a while to fix it. And what happens in the next month can either start the recovery or doom us for a few more years.


For a guy I disagree with a lot, you got a lot right here.

I’d go back a little further. When Nutt turned down Nebraska he said he was committing to the program if he was given a two year pass. He got it and then promptly tried very hard to get the LSU job the next offseason - a divisional rival- and in the end it cost him a lot of support as Frank told him it would. This opened the door to some of his enemies to force Gus on him after another bad season in 2005.

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Great post! That’s a pretty good picture that brings us to where our hogs are!
Maybe someone above my pay grade knows the answers to dig the hogs out of this miserable hole.


Swine I think you nailed all of our issues in one big post.

Now the problem is time to dig out of the whole vs fan unrest.

I think most would agree that this team has some young talent and to get better we have to continue to add better talent. However as you play lesser and/or inexperienced players against better talent you are going to lose way more than you win, however many thought we would win 7-8 games this year.

If Morris is fires and the new coach goes 2-10 again then what? Change again? At some point we are just going to have to set a course and see it through several years regardless of the outcome.

The transfer portal may loom huge this offseason, especially if Morris is retained.

I thought about that, but the reality is that if you have a decent coach, he’s going to attract interest from other schools. I also question how much real interest he was showing in those jobs (even knowing that he got on the plane to go to Nebraska) and how much was just kicking the tires. HDN would have been better suited to have his agent handle everything and deny everything until he was ready to fly to Lincoln for the announcement, but maybe they didn’t quite realize that you couldn’t keep a secret like that in the internet age. You’re right that it did turn a portion of the fan base against him which played into Gus’ hands. But then again some of the fan base started turning on HDN in 1999 when they got beat at Kentucky and he put Stoerner back into a game that was already decided and got him injured.

You brought up a good point about nutt in 99. It just seems that a certain segment of fan base simply wants to fire the coach and loves to say we can find someone better.

no matter the history, it would help matters greatly if the current staff could coach them up some and occasionally overachieve. I have seen coaches do it before time and time again, not this bunch.Everyone of these teams we are playing is not a top ten team.

That was a good analysis, Jeff.

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Swine, that was excellent, you nailed it

You’re right. Things started going downhill from there. Jackson is also right about the earlier problems Nutt brought on himself. Perhaps we could go back even further & discuss whether we’d have been better off hiring Tommy Tuberville in 1998. Regardless of when problems started, though, we’ve had lots of opportunities to fix the problem & we’ve blown every one of them. I don’t actually blame anyone for hiring then firing BP, hiring CBB, or hiring CCM. All looked like good decisions at the time–although we were warned about BP. However, we now know they weren’t good decisions.

The question now before us is whether we’ll blow our next chance which looks to me like will be before then end of this month.

An awful lot is made out of the Springdale 5. By and large, the negatives are related not to the players and their families. Instead, the negatives are related to the idiots who empowered the Gus Cult in the first place.

One of the things that I always joke about with friends - too many fans have a fantasy draft or video game mindset, that great players and great coaches can just be named and you get them. There is no guarantee any coach will succeed at their next stop, regardless of previous success. Just a truism. It is not as easy as saying, “go get Pete Carroll.”

That looks good if doing a 12-player snake draft, but it doesn’t jive with reality.

Great post Swine! I hope something good comes out of all this mess in the end. I think as Razorback fans we all have to get back to the real world when it comes to football.

Until Saban takes his ball and goes home its going to be almost impossible to beat him. Yes they are cheating but they are never going to get punished because they have become very good at it. Right now he can get about any kid he wants without much effort. LSU is always going to have not good but great talent instate. I kind of think Auburn may hit a bad patch sooner than later. Texas A&M, who knows but we really should have beat them many times. In my opinion we have to win all the non conference games and beat the Mississippi schools. Whatever we do after that is just a bonus.

We are going to have to be ok with a new coach getting us to that point, whoever he may be. We can’t want to fire the new guy for only getting us to 6 or so wins for a while. Just my boring opinion.

Good analysis from SwineFusion.

No one is perfect.

IMO, the Gus Cult is the worse thing to ever happen to Hog Football. (Remember folks, without Gus’s flirtation on our last hire, we might have had more interest from a longer list of established coaches.

Not sure he’s the worst, but I agree he’s been bad for us. Part of that, of course, is the cult that surrounded him. I thought by the time he got to Auburn as the HC all that was behind us. But, yeah, the same cultists showed up two years ago just “knowing” he’d come if we just put together the right package.

I’d like to think that finally ended the fascination for Gus & the yearning some have to make him our coach. It’s not happening. Period. If he gets canned at AU, he’ll probably get a job as a TV analyst & live the good life with no responsibility.

Swine’s analysis of our 20 year state of the Razorback football program is probably an accurate summary of all its ups and downs. I have different thoughts about some of the major players. Houston Nutt was a divisive coach who managed to fracture our fan base with about as many supporters as critics. Nutt was blessed with the greatest collection of skill players to ever play as Razorbacks. I thought and still do think that the McFadden teams were talented enough to win a National Championship. I put the blame for the underperforming team on Nutt’s shoulders.

The Petrino era started with only a few high level holdovers from Nutt’s last team. Petrino’s initial recruiting class was exceptional. ESPN re-evaluation of recruiting classes after 3 years showed that class was a top 10 class. Petrino teams won more games each year and his final team was #5 in the final AP poll. The 2012 team was pre season ranked #10 even with John L Smith as interim coach. All the talk about Petrino being a total ass to everyone was undoubtedly true. That however did not diminish his team’s performance and its gaudy won-loss record. It is pure speculation about how long his teams would compete at the high level of years 3 and 4. It certainly would have been much better than JLS and year 1 and 2 of the Bielema era. If Petrino stopped winning, his replacement would not have had faced a decimated football team that never won and had already fallen to the cellar of the SEC. It is always hard to redirect a losing football team to a winning one.

The Morris disaster needs to end ASAP. I think that the fan base will support Yurachek on his new coach. I do think that we need an innovative coach because we will probably never have a top 5 recruiting class and we will have to out coach and motivate our players to win some games we shouldn’t win.

One other point I will make is that warm fuzzy coaches seldom win at a high level. Outside of Broyles, the only other Razorback coaches to win 11 games are
Lou Holtz and Bobby Petrino. Both were hard ass coaches that demanded respect and coached perfection and attention to detail. The best professional coach (Belichick) and the best college coach (Saban) are hard ass perfectionists. I think that trait should be evident in our new coach.

I hope that we get a good coach. I will continue to buy tickets and donate to the Foundation. WPS


Yup. The fan fragmentation I wrote about can be laid at HDN’s feet as much as anyone. And it started while the Gus Bus was still parked at Shiloh Christian. We had a lot of playmakers (who Nutt recruited) but he couldn’t get or develop a top quarterback, and the defense was never at NC level, whether you blame that on Nutt or his parade of coordinators. However, we’ll never know what would have happened if Reggie Fish leaves that punt alone or we stop that ridiculous fake punt Urban Blight called. We weren’t gonna win the NC in 2006 with two losses, but we would have stopped Florida from winning it. (Same goes with if Julian Horton scoops and scores on the blocked punt in New Orleans).

Dabo Swinney seems to be pretty warm and fuzzy and he’s doing just fine, so there’s more than one way to skin that cat.

Do you remember what life in the SEC was like for UA before Nutt was hired?

About like it is right now.

HDN did not do himself any favors with the fan base when he was texting his girlfriend during the FL game when he should have been preparing the team, or when he flirted with NE plane on the NWA runway for days in search of a pay raise, or after telling fans he was Razorback for life only to quietly apply for the LSU job soon after - all a series of events leaving mud on the face of Razorback fans.

Have always read that a good AD is always networked for replacement coaches & with a list in his back pocket. Seems that was one of Jeff Long’s shortcomings in having no plan or options to replace Nutt or Petrino. BOT had to fire JL to fire CBB so again we had no preparation or plan other than Gus. Assume HY is at least prepared & networked & with feelers out if & when the BOT lets him pull that trigger.

No way. As bad as things got under Danny Ford, they weren’t this bad. I remember the '97 Homecoming game against Auburn where Stoerner was running for his life and we couldn’t run block to save our lives, but it was still better than this (we lost 26-21; Auburn was ranked #11 that week). We rushed for 10 yards total and threw for 325. Attendance was about the same though. Plenty of empty aluminum in the west stands at RRS. Announced crowd was 41,277 (this was when capacity was still about 50K); there might have been 25,000 there. That team’s two SEC wins were both over ranked teams (@ Bama and Moo U at RRS).

Danny Ford did win the West and then got destroyed in the Championship game. I will never forgive or forget Ford putting an obviously injured Madre Hill back into to the game. Madre had an ACL tear. That was a low mark for me.