Column: Taking a look at the O'Brien Era
Published: Thursday, September 14, 2006
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
I apologize in advance for being the catalyst of any fighting that this may cause, but the issue warrants discussion.
There's no better time than the present, considering that Boston College head coach Tom O'Brien could win his 69th game and surpass the school record of Joe Yukica (1968-1977) as soon as Saturday.
TOB. Stoic or disinterested, depending on whom you ask. He is the solution to some, the problem to others.
Debates over head football coaches go on at every major college in the country.
A lot of people in Texas wanted Mack Brown out before he won a national title last year. Coach haters are not just a BC problem.
I shouldn't even give them the glory of a plug, but, in fairness to both sides of this issue, there exists a Web site called firetob.com.
The folks that run the site make plenty of good points about the coach.
Statistics about O'Brien's record against stalwarts Miami, Florida State, and Virginia Tech (1-15) and teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 (now 6-20) are not exactly awe-inspiring.
It's easy to see where their argument is coming from. Fans want their team to win. BC fans want to be on a level of national prominence, but let's not kid ourselves. The team isn't there.
A simple "Tom O'Brien has done a great job up in Boston, but …" comment during predictions on College Gameday - one such remark prefaced the experts taking Clemson last week - should prove that.
The site duly acknowledges that BC has progressed under O'Brien, but not enough for their liking. In other words, another 8-4 season and Christmas in Idaho will not appease them.
They think the program is in danger of stagnating in a not-quite-mediocre but not-quite-really-good-either state. They see a moribund program that needs a spark and thus want someone who can provide it to step in.
BC is not stagnating. Let's be clear on this. The program is in better shape than it was 10 years ago when O'Brien took over. Hell, the program is in better shape than it was three years ago.
Anyone who believes a 5-3 campaign in the ACC a year ago was not lightyears better than years of 3-4, 3-4, and 4-2 in the Big East probably needs his or her head examined.
The best thing you can say about a program is that it was better than it was yesterday.
O'Brien's teams are still improving, though, admittedly, the growth is less pronounced than it was in his early years.
And - not to already look ahead to next year - BC is probably not going to lose any more than six starters from this season's team.
If you're scoring at home, the O'Brien Era looks like the wake of a gambling scandal to back-to-back 4-7 years to seven straight bowls and a pair of conference/division co-championships.
Great? No. Good enough? Probably not. But a keen eye sees this: The program is much, much better than it was in 2003.
BC didn't win games like Clemson in the past. In fact, they lost three of them at Alumni in 2003 alone. Get close, have a chance, let fate intervene, lose.
Now there is a relatively small but growing populace out there who - God forbid - expect the Eagles to win these games.
What's the difference? The old Casey Stengel adage was that it was great players who made a great coach.
We'll chalk it up to better players for now, and assume that the coaching acumen and discipline have always been there.
For the firetob.com folks and other detractors, keep on detracting. Please don't let up. No one deserves a free pass.
But let's give the coach a little credit.
Dan Schwartz is the sports editor of The Heights. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.