Cowboys go with Gilbert as coach

{{tncms-inline account=”dBerrySports” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">There will be a press conference on Friday at 11 am to introduce Gilbert as the new McNeese head coach. It will be in the EndZone Room in the Jack V. Doland Fieldhouse. The public is invited to attend.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GeauxPokes?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GeauxPokes</a></p>— David E. Berry (@dBerrySports) <a href="https://twitter.com/dBerrySports/status/1070495925586550784?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 6, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”1070495925586550784″ type=”twitter”}}

So McNeese finally made a decision.

On Wednesday morning, the website FootballScoop reported that the school hired South Florida offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Sterlin Gilbert as its newest head coach. On Wednesday evening, the McNeese State athletic department sent out a news release confirming the hire.

Social media took the early morning news and ran wild. Cowboys fans were intrigued with the thought of having a fresh offensive mind to reinvigorate what was an unproductive offensive unit in 2018. But if you put Gilbert’s name in a Twitter search, you’d see that USF fans aren’t broken up in the least by the potential of Gilbert leaving.

{{tncms-inline account=”eltorocaliente” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">GTFO MY CITY STERLIN GILBERT!!! The Shaun King era begins now!!! </p>— Mike♉️ ⚜️ (@eltorocaliente) <a href="https://twitter.com/eltorocaliente/status/1070457529656885253?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 5, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”1070457529656885253″ type=”twitter”}}

“(Get out of) MY CITY STERLIN GILBERT!!! The Shaun King era begins now!!!” one user tweeted.

I professed ignorance as to why Bulls fans were so happy that Gilbert would be on the move. The ones who responded to me on Twitter stated their distaste for his predictable and boring offense. When I asked what it meant that USF fans were so happy to see the 40-year-old Gilbert leave, another user tweeted to me, “It means RIP whatever offensive system you have. My sincere condolences during this awful time.”

{{tncms-inline account=”USF_HB_Dive” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It means RIP whatever offensive system you have. My sincere condolences during this awful time.</p>— USF_HB_Dive (@USF_HB_Dive) <a href="https://twitter.com/USF_HB_Dive/status/1070398450523611138?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 5, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”1070398450523611138″ type=”twitter”}}

This was definitely tweeted by someone who did not watch a single down of McNeese football this season. While USF’s offense tailed off in the second half of the season, if the Cowboys put up whole season numbers like the Bulls did (444.2 yards and 29.2 points per game) then McNeese probably makes the playoffs and wins the Southland Conference title.

It also seems as if USF fans are hell-bent on blaming Gilbert for all of the offense’s shortcomings. When I asked a Twitter user why Gilbert seemed to get most of the blame when the Bulls’ defense was ranked lower in scoring and total defense, that user referred to how young and out-of-position the defenders were. But he was quick to blame Gilbert for what the offense did, despite the fact that he had to replace an all-conference quarterback in Quinton Flowers. The same Twitter user said the 2017 offense, which averaged 513 yards and 38.3 points per game, worked in spite of Gilbert and not because of him.

Call me crazy but I think the guy deserves some credit. He’s done good work at USF, Texas, Tulsa, Bowling Green, and Eastern Illinois. He comes from the Art Briles coaching tree. Strictly from an on-field standpoint, that has been a good tree to come from. Gilbert worked under Dino Babers at Eastern Illinois. I truly believe Cowboys fans have a reason for excitement and optimism with the offense next season.

However, I do have concerns and questions. He’s worked as a college coach at five schools in seven years. To this point, he’s shown that he’s a serial school-hopper. If he has a successful year or two at McNeese, how quickly will he think of jumping to what he thinks is a better job?

Also, will Gilbert hire a solid defensive coordinator? He needs to. It can’t go from mostly defense and not much offense to the exact opposite. Besides, former McNeese head coach Lance Guidry left the cupboard relatively full on the defensive side of the ball, particularly on the defensive line and in the secondary.

Another concern is the lack of head coaching experience. It’s a lot different dealing with your side of the ball than having to deal with decisions that affect the whole team. Fans aren’t looking at the defensive coordinator if the defense makes a mistake. They’re looking at the head coach. Guidry did not acknowledge that quite enough when the offense struggled last season. It’s just different when you’re the man in charge, especially when you leave an FBS school for an FCS school.

When I received the applicant list, I Googled every name to see where they came from. The candidates who caught my eye the most were Ferris State head coach Tony Annese, Southern University head coach Dawson Odums, and West Alabama head coach Brett Gilliland among others. They all have head coaching experience. Odums has experience in the state of Louisiana without having a McNeese connection. Annese has been a consistent winner and could win a Division II national championship this season.

I don’t know what type of hire Gilbert will be. McNeese fans are more excited than I am. And USF fans are excited that he’s gone.

Only time will tell.


David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at dberry@americanpress.com””Sterlin Gilbert headshot