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Hot Take Tuesday: Edsall, UConn See Losing as Virtuous

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The Huskies’ coaching staff doesn’t seem too concerned about the losses piling up.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Author’s disclaimer: This column is called Hot Take Tuesday. The opinions and predictions contained in this column will not all be accurate. In keeping with the hot take tradition of sports (particularly football) media, you’re probably better off taking in the spirit of the take rather than the words themselves. Don’t worry, at the end I’ll tell you how seriously to take it.

Losing is bad. Losing is, in fact, the worst result you can have in a contest where one team wins and the other loses. Players hate losing, fans hate losing and the schools themselves hate losing.

Apparently though, Randy Edsall and his coaching staff don’t seem to mind losing if they lose with loyalty.

What’s losing with loyalty? It’s running the same play over and over. It’s watching a cornerback get burned for touchdowns on two straight drives—neither time did he know the ball was coming in his direction—and continuing to play him on nearly every snap anyway.

It’s allowing a failed defensive strategy continue to exist unfettered, completely destroying any chance the team had at success, resulting in the worst defense in college football, and still meeting any attempt to say that something’s wrong on the defense with indignation.

Losing with loyalty is the new UConn way.

In losing with loyalty, it doesn’t matter that the defense is terrible, because the same players are getting so many opportunities, and that’s all that matters. You’re not supposed to think of the backups who see players ahead of them on the depth chart fail over and over without seeing any change in playing time. The message it sends is that the coaching staff is loyal to its favorites, so we’re supposed to ignore that it results in a lack of experience to backups who could become very important, either down the road or with injury.

Of course, it also means the team is now susceptible to the coaching error of a worse player playing over a more talented one, but it’s hard to notice that if the potentially more talented players never actually play.

In losing with loyalty, the same play is run over and over again, no matter how long ago it stopped working. UConn has perhaps its most talented offense ever, with a dynamic quarterback the Huskies have never had before in David Pindell, a talented running back in Kevin Mensah, and a solid, versatile group of wide receivers—all with a healthy and skilled offensive line blocking for them. But then halftime rolls around and the offense stagnates, the playbook becomes simplified, and the defense—having adjusted to what the UConn offense was doing—predicts the play more often. Losing with loyalty isn’t just loyalty to the players, it’s also loyal to strategies.

Those would include such strategies as the decision to give every opposing receiver 109 yards of cushion, even as it has resulted in the most yards allowed per passing attempt in the nation. Or the lack of blitzes that would force quarterbacks into pressure, even as opposing quarterbacks complete 73 percent of their passes. Or the continued insistence—and indignation at people who suggest the opposite—that the defensive coordinator overseeing a squad giving up more points per game than any other team has in the history of FBS/Division I-A football is actually doing just fine.

That’s losing with loyalty. It doesn’t matter how many times their plane crashes, we’re keeping the same flight crew. It’s been the credo of UConn football for far too long, and this absolute disaster of a season—again, one in which UConn has their most talented offense in quite some some—is the result of valuing virtue over winning. Loyalty has resulted in the absolute, repeated, historic failure that has befallen UConn football in 2018.

And if they continue down this path, there’s another part of UConn football they’ll remain loyal to—empty stadiums.

Hotness of take: I will preface this by saying I’m really starting to enjoy finding out just how melodramatic I can make certain opinions sound. I think I’m getting into a groove in this column. Anyway.

It is a fact that UConn football is having a historically bad season—I do not make up stats for this column—and it feels wasteful that it’s coinciding with the final season of the most dynamic quarterback the Huskies have ever had (again, I do not make things up for this column).

But it has been especially concerning how little has changed even as the house collapses. Problems range from rigid on-field strategies to lopsided snap counts to Edsall seemingly failing to hold coaches accountable for their mistakes. Edsall doesn’t seem to have many ethical problems, thankfully, and it’s not as if he’s demanding loyalty from the players. At the same time, it’s hard not to see him walking out of a press conference when asked about the defensive coordinator’s future with the program (during a season when he is overseeing the worst defense in FBS history!) as being part of a larger problem.

I’ve said before that I don’t think Edsall should be fired, and even though the UMass game really tested my beliefs, I still don’t see how a different coach would have made a difference in the standings this season. At the same time, in his public statements, Edsall seems to be underselling how difficult it is to turn around a defense performing this badly. UConn absolutely cannot start next season with the same system that led them to (so far) the worst result in FBS history. Something has to change, and I can’t come up with a potential explanation as to why they wouldn’t start trying some potential solutions now.

Even with some spices applied for the melodrama and hyperbole, this is a cold take.