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.