Mike Leach in victory is the best Mike Leach.
Mike Leach in victory is the best Mike Leach.
This Mike Leach interview is something else. How something else? Well, in it, you’ll go from learning about hunting ducks with gourds to the time Leach compared himself to Luther Campbell. If you get a little dizzy following it, don’t feel bad. I did, too.
That being said, this is my favorite quote from the article:
“See where we are again? Focus. Focus on what’s right here. Get a first down. Then we can score. Then we can win games. Then we can worry about winning championships.”
Forget one game at a time. It’s one play at a time.
This bit’s a close second, though.
It is now Monday (or is it Tuesday?) night, and practice is taking place inside Martin Stadium. Students are strolling down Stadium Way, stopping by the locked gates to take in the clear view of the drills being run on the field below. The real show is a literal cloud of moths that has enveloped the light towers above the stadium’s northwest corner, nearly blacking out one section of lights. It looks like something Moses might have conjured up to convince Rameses to let his people go.
“I’ve been trying to figure that one out,” Leach later says of the swarm. “I’ve studied a lot about this region, and I guess that’s a seasonal thing. They have a ton of these little yellow jackets here, but the moth thing is new to me. You said you got some pictures and video of that? Make sure you tweet that. I want USC to be worried about it.”
Maybe they will.
At least not when it comes to recruiting tight ends.
“Tight ends are a blast if you have them,” Leach said. “If you have a true tight end — and I mean a true tight end — then life is good. God didn’t make very many true tight ends. Just go to the mall and the big long-armed guys you see at the mall — you’ll see a couple, but most of them can’t run fast and those that can probably can’t catch. So there’s not very many of them.”
You know, that’s gotta suck. You make time go to the mall, fight the traffic, hunt for a parking spot, bop into Macy’s and — boom! — they’re all out of tight ends.
That’s why so many coaches do their recruiting on Amazon these days. You can find anything on the Internet.
If you want to know why I have a soft spot in my heart for Mike Leach, one reason is because you never know what he’ll say next.
That immediately brought this to mind.
And that’s the thing. There aren’t that many coaches that can get me to Gram Parsons in one shot like that.
The dodge ball comment on the end is just a bonus.
Say what you will about Leach, he’s good for quote material.
Leach coaches in the Pac-12 now but coached in the Big 12 and SEC previously. He said he faced the most skepticism when he coached in the Southeast.
“First, it becomes it won’t work,” Leach said. “Second, they basically say, ‘oh it’s a system,’ suggesting that people who don’t do it that way — who just run it up the middle, stick all your asses together so one hand grenade can kill everybody — that’s the right way to do it. Since they do it the right way, they’re OK with the fact they lost.
“This is a great time to be in the SEC; everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”
“… who just run it up the middle, stick all your asses together so one hand grenade can kill everybody” — hey, when did he have the time to watch tape on Georgia’s offenses the last two seasons?
In defense of the SEC, I would suggest that any conference would perform better offensively, regardless of scheme, if it deployed better quarterbacks than what we saw last season. Let’s not forget we’re not that far removed from two teams with their asses stuck together finishing in the top five in yards per play.
Even so, before you dismiss Leach as a blowhard when it comes to belittling SEC offenses, remember that he had a big hand in this:
Just to give you an idea of what Mumme pulled off with his newfangled attack, compare Kentucky’s offensive stats from 1996, Bill Curry’s last season there, with the 1999 stats. Notice a bit of an improvement there? Kentucky’s 1999 yards per game average would have ranked the Wildcats fourth in last season’s SEC (and is about 115 ypg more than last year’s UK team averaged).
One more thing about that ’99 team of Mumme’s. The quarterback that season was the immortal Dusty Bonner, who succeeded some guy named Tim Couch. Couch, in his last season at UK, threw for 4,611 yards in 12 games. That total would have led the SEC last season by more than 700 yards (and Arkansas played one more game). That 1998 Kentucky team wound up playing in the Outback Bowl and Couch was a Heisman finalist. How many other seasons can UK claim like that? Maybe I’m missing something, but that strikes me as a pretty good indication that a pass-based spread attack could function just fine in the SEC.
I see no reason lightning can’t strike again. (Hell, for that matter, look at what Missouri did last season.)
The problem, of course, is that you can’t play Air Raid on defense, and that was Kentucky’s Achilles heel when Leach coached there. Will this year’s Ole Miss prove to be different? Hard to say, but don’t forget that Freeze has changed his coordinator on that side of the ball, too. In any event, Ole Miss ought to be entertaining to watch this season, if nothing else.
Really, this is awesome.
“I thought, ‘What is this captain stuff?’ Everybody around here can be their own captain. I’ve got assistant coaches to be their captain. The coach tells them what to do anyway,” Leach said.
“My experience with team captains, as far as really taking the team on their shoulders, hasn’t been incredibly great. It’s typically good kids where nothing happens. They’re out there just trying to do their job and play the best they can, but the notion of a bunch of captains inspiring everybody is difficult to do and unrealistic. It doesn’t really happen very often.”
“So then I thought, all the guy really does is the coin toss. And then I decided one of the most screwed up things about this country is in order to do anything, to cross the street, we have a committee. So I figured screw the committee, we really only need one guy. And he’s gotta be smart enough to either call ‘heads’ or ‘tails.’ That’s it,” Leach said.
“So then I thought, ‘Should I get the biggest guy on the team or the littlest guy on the team?’ And then I thought, ‘Jamal Morrow was on The Price Is Right and was fairly lucky and went to the final round and almost won the sucker.’ He was closest to the price but he was over by like three dollars. The other person’s under by like 60 dollars, but since he’s over he loses. So I figured Jamal Morrow’s a lucky guy, plus he’s got pretty good energy to him, so why not Jamal Morrow?
“And then Jamal Morrow goes out and did have an amazing knack for winning the (coin) toss. He wins it almost all the time. I’m serious about this. I don’t know what his record is, but it’s something incredible. But I don’t even really care about that because one way or the other you get the ball one half or the other, except one time when I played Nebraska. Morrow had a funny tendency to win, and then I’m thinking, ‘I don’t want to sit here of and think out a new guy to do it.’ So Jamal Morrow has gone out there for the coin toss for about two-and-a-half years and quite honestly done a tremendous job in my opinion. And then we got on a roll and I liked it even better.”
The Nebraska reference is to a game when Leach decided to kick off to start both halves. ‘Cause that’s how a pirate rolls sometimes.
I take it Todd Graham and Mike Leach won’t be exchanging Christmas cards this year.