The Morning Report
Get the news and information you need to take on the day.
Thursday, December 15, 2005 | The Kettner Boulevard College of Turkey Surgeons and Airport Relocation Committee has two words for San Diego this week: Mike Leach.
Leach is the football coach at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. He is the only football coach I know of to become the subject of a cover story in The New York Times Magazine. The story was two weeks ago and it detailed Leach’s innovations that are reshaping the geometry, both in space and time, of a football game. If you want a sample, Tech is in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2.
Get on the phone or e-mail and tell the San Diego football leaders they need to figure out how to bring Leach to our city. A vacancy already exists, at San Diego State. And a vacancy could be made to exist, with the San Diego Chargers.
Members of the College favor the second option, for two basic reasons. First, the Chargers’ coaching staff too often, in our opinion, chooses a strategy of playing not to lose, whether for part of a game or sometimes a whole game. This was evident in the Chargers’ 23-21 loss last Sunday to a measurably inferior Miami Dolphins team.
The head coach, Marty Schottenheimer – a distinguished coach with long tenure in the NFL – stated flatly that his team came out to play, but just didn’t play as well as it had been playing.
The College begs to suggest the team always reflects the coach. It came out to play the game it had been coached to play, which was not to lose, a recurring theme in Schottenheimer’s history, which more than once this season has increased the odds against his team winning.
This is in contrast to Mike Leach, who coaches his team to score on every play it runs, even late in the game with his team ahead 56-14. His intention is not to embarrass the other team. His abiding interest, as The Times discovered, is systems efficiency, and the system happens to be football. If you run a play, Leach believes, the play should score.
They are very interesting plays, with as much as 3-foot splits between the offensive linemen, and five receivers spread sideline-to-sideline. Leach told The Times that his idea of offensive balance is to have all five receivers finish the season with 1,000 yards of receptions. Leach said he spreads out his offense because it is counterproductive to concentrate action into tight areas, which wastes most of the 53-yard-wide field.
Spreading the game out means his players must run and run and run, which he conditions them to do, and which the opposing team is not conditioned to do. “Make their fat guys run,” is his credo. When, in the second quarter, you see them bending over with their hands on their hips, you know you’ve got them.
In essence, Leach coaches his team to do three things: score on every play it runs, run the defense ragged, and hit the other guys as hard as you can.
What the College would give to see such a coach on a Chargers sideline.
If that is not possible, then the Aztecs are looking for a new man. Why would Leach leave Texas Tech, which plays in the big-time Big 12 Conference, for San Diego State and the Mountain West Conference? Well, for one thing, the pleasure of beating teams 70-21 with regularity, unbeaten seasons, and a ticket into a BCS bowl game, prizes much harder, if not impossible, to come by at Texas Tech, which must play Texas and Oklahoma every fall.
Mike Leach could put San Diego State on the map the way the University of Miami got on the map in the 1980s and sell out Qualcomm six times a season.
He’s a free thinker and a surfer type, too, apparently, and it is a geographic fact that the nearest free thinking and surf to Lubbock, Texas, is San Diego. He is also an innovator first and a football coach second, and a welcome addition to our city’s intellectual base.
The College would not hesitate to invite him to speak, and ask him where he thought the airport should go.
Journalist, author and educator Michael Grant has been putting his spin on San Diego, and the city putting its spin on him, since 1972. His Web site is at www.michaelgrant.com.