Coach Talks Coaches

At Pete Carroll’s weekly press conference, I asked about young offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian [partial clip above]. Later on, I followed up with some of the questions that readers from this blog have had in comments and emails. Carroll made it clear that he’s confident in his staff. In his assessment, the real issues have been injuries, inexperience, and even himself. At the same time, he doesn’t like the simplicity of the blame game and thinks it’s often more complicated. We’ll have more on that coming up. For now, here’s some perspective on his staff …

Steve Sarkisian is in his first year as offensive coordinator. John
Morton has never coached college kids before [editorial note: he coaches wide
receivers, a unit that has struggled this year]. Do you worry about the
experience level of some of your coaches?

No. I’ve been around young guys and old guys. Some guys just have a knack of communicating with people and they’re almost seamless in the way they deal with it because they communicate so well. These are both terrific guys. They’re great communicators. That’s why Sark has always been the guy, since Norm left, that talked to the team and set the plan in motion. Even when [Lane Kiffin] was the coordinator, Sark was always the guy who was in front of them all the time. There are certainly some first time things happening, though. You can’t avoid that.

Any that really concern you?

These guys are great at what they do. You guys [the media] don’t
realize how involved everybody’s been all along and how much these guys
have done. All through our planning, for the years that we were here —
when Norm was here, and Lane, and Sark — those guys all mixed
together. They all did everything. Norm did a great job of raising
those guys up … and when he left we had the biggest year in the
history of the school. They’ve been so intricately involved, there
hasn’t been a transition … Except for when Sark was with the Raiders, he sent every play in to the field. Every single one, in every big game and situation, he was the last word that put the play into motion. He
continues to do that now, so it isn’t a big change. I know everybody thinks it is, but it’s not that.

So Sark’s a communicator. What about a tough guy, a bad guy out there?

[Sark’s] real tough. He’s very hard on these guys. He’s a hard-line, competitive guy. He’s been a great competitor in his career (when he
played) and he’s carried it over to his coaching, and it comes across
quite clearly. These guys respect him. They do everything he asks them
to do. He has a good sense for how to mix all of it — sometimes
you’re teaching, sometimes you’re motivating, sometimes you’re
disciplining. He’s just a natural at it.

A lot of people have been grumbling about the lack of a dedicated special teams coach. Does that bother you?

an area for us to improve, yeah. All the years in the NFL, we always
had somebody. It’s more focused than you might think. Dave Watson does
a ton of the stuff. He does like 80% of the stuff. He’s the one who’s
most focused [on it]. T-Mac [Todd McNair] is the one that talks to him
and delivers the message to him. So it’s more so than you think. David
is doing it for his first time, that’s new for us. He still relies on
Nick [Holt] to do his aspects of it and Pat [Ruel] to do his aspects of
it …. But the organization of it, the handling of the stuff on the
sidelines, the game plan, the actual in-game communication is really
handled by Dave Watson.

That’s an area we’ve known for years we can improve at. I had
a guy in here a year ago and it didn’t work out. We haven’t been
committed to that.

If you had one more coaching position allowed under NCAA rules, what would be your first hire?

I would definitely hire a special teams guy. We’re raising Dave
to be that. He’s in the process of becoming that, so I think it’s
working out. This is the best we’ve been on special teams, I think,
since we’ve been here. I think we’ve been really good. Returns are
solid. Our coverage is good. We’re kicking the ball well, punting the
ball well, handling it, creating turnovers. This is the best we’ve been
all around — and we should be. We should be good. We’ve got a lot of
good players to choose from. But you can always get better. If you
realize the scope and the depth that long-term NFL coaches have in
special teams, they’re incredibly gifted in what they bring. There is
value there.

You’ve lost a lot of talent over the years … Chow …
Orgeron … of the guys you’ve lost in coaching, who do you miss the

I think we miss Lane the most. He’s been here since the
first day. The fact was that he was on offense, and I’m on the other side
of the ball. He’s an extraordinary coach.

Kyle Bunch

Partnerships for R/GA Ventures. Raised in California, adopted by Texas. Opinions expressed here are mine and they are fantastic.

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