Yes, we always hear that it's more about the "Jimmys and the Joes than the X's and O's" when it comes to sports, but rarely will you find a team that is so talented that it can overcome bad coaching to win a championship.
Take the 2001 Miami Hurricanes football team. That was, in my opinion, the best college football team of all-time, apologies to LSU fans. The collection of talent on that team still astounds me, and the players mostly policed themselves, and the coaches knew they had a strong locker room and didn't need to be coach overcoach.
Sometimes knowing that you don't have to coach as much is the best coaching you can do.
That won't so much be the case this season for a number of college football teams throughout the country. With COVID-19 wrecking the most carefully laid out plans for spring practice and other offseason workouts, nobody knows how this season will go. Honestly, we don't even know if the season will start on time. I certainly hope it does, but what I hope for is immaterial.
Imagine the schools that have brand-new coaching staffs that weren't able to sneak even one spring practice in before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down everything. McNeese State is not the only one by a long shot, but it's the one that most of our readers care about.
First-year head coach Frank Wilson and his staff will have what I think is the most challenging season of their coaching careers. Because of that, they will need to produce the best coaching jobs of their collective careers if McNeese is going to have anything close to a satisfactory season.
We already know that the Cowboys are not eligible for the 2020 postseason due to substandard NCAA Academic Progress Rate scores over the course of multiple seasons, so the playoffs as a goal vanished into thin air before Wilson put pen to paper to lead McNeese. And even if the Cowboys finish Southland Conference play a perfect 9-0 record, they won't be acknowledged as conference champions because of the sanction.
McNeese can hope to go undefeated, but starting the season on the road against a tough Louisiana-Lafayette team could put those hopes on the ropes early. A winning record is also a good goal to reach for, and certainly possible.
But Wilson and his staff will have to do their absolute best job of coaching.
To be fair, I think they've already done a great job of keeping players who could have transferred and been immediately eligible elsewhere. I looked forward to asking some of the players — Trevor Begue, Colby Burton and Cyron Sutton — why they chose to stay at McNeese instead of going somewhere else to play their final season.
Spring practice was set to start on March 17, but it got pushed back once. Then it got pushed back indefinitely.
At this point, I do not expect any college football teams that didn't start spring practice before the pandemic to be able to get any practices in for the foreseeable future. Best-case scenario, assuming things get better with handling the virus, is that teams will be allowed extra time in the summer — maybe an extra week or two of training camp — to get ready for the season. Or maybe they push the season back a bit. Who knows?
All I know is that it stinks for all those college players who busted their tails in the offseason getting in shape just to be forced inside for a long time. Yes, they can run and do sit-ups and pushups, but it doesn't replace the workouts that take place inside the weight room and on the field with coaches and teammates.
It will be a tough and weird season of football, really for all sports, whenever play resumes. But, when it does resume, hopefully life as a whole has resumed. Even if it's not totally normal, it's closer to normal than it is now.
As far as Wilson and his staff: welcome to Lake Charles. The normal pressures of taking over a program that craves greatness were already there. Now you have to do it with no spring practice, possibly no summer workouts, and virtual meetings for the time being replacing in-person meetings. Not to mention the possibility of a quarterback competition between two players — Cody Orgeron and Kentucky transfer Walker Wood — who have the same amount of experience with new offensive coordinator Ronnie Letson's playbook.
No problem, just your run-of-the-mill first year at a new school.
This will be interesting.
David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org