I don’t think an A.D. should ever hire somebody for 10 months," Paul Petrino said. "Players know what that means; they understand that. It hurts the power of the head coach and the assistants....They should’ve hired (Smith) for two years or hired someone else for two years, or just (expletive)-canned all of us."
Please. The players wanted this staff back. They begged Jeff Long to keep this staff in tact. They wanted you to lead them to a great season. They believed in you. The whole reason Long hired John L Smith was to keep you guys around. Players cheered and some tweeted about how happy they were when they found out John L Smith was going to be the coach and all of you were going to stay. They were ready to go.
So many starters were seniors. You think they gave a damn about how long the contract was? They're all going to be gone anyway. Hell, they were the only ones guaranteed to be gone. None of the coaches were. One of you got to keep his job.
Also, as if every interim coach leads a team to collapse. It's just a complete coincidence that two coaches on that staff, Haynes and Taver Johnson (who somehow kept his job despite working with these other guys) went through a year with an interim coach at Ohio State immediately before coming to Arkansas? And how did they do? They went 6-6 and made it to a bowl game. Oh, and they actually lost players in addition to their coach. Their Heisman candidate quarterback quit the team. Four other players were suspended for much of the beginning of the year, and they still managed to get to a freaking bowl.
Even if they had a plan to get rid of us no matter what, which I think they did, you say two years and I think the kids dig in," Haynes said. "When you give 10 months, everyone is on egg shells."
Said Smith, now the coach at Division II Fort Lewis College: "You look back and, yeah, a little more time would’ve been nice. Does that give you more teeth? Yes."
Well, okay, Smith definitely would have enjoyed a little more time. He really needed the money. Money does buy teeth.
"It was also hard for John L. with assistants," Petrino said, "maybe even with me. And I love John; outside of my brother and my dad, that’s the person in football I love the most. … I don’t necessarily know if he was ever able to be himself all the way."
There were some seniors who kind of hung it up, to be honest with you," Petrino said. "They were going to worry about their futures more than that team. A couple seniors said they were hurt and I don’t know if they really were."
If a kid’s hurt, he’s hurt. Could some of the guys that were hurt have played with those injuries and continued on? That’s up to those guys," Smith said. But I think some of the players, some of the older guys, said, ‘Why should I continue on?’ They were looking ahead to the NFL."
"I really don’t fault them, to be honest with you," Haynes said. "I don’t fault the kids for thinking that way. Again, there was no stability there. Again, it goes back to, ‘Who am I playing for?’ Once they can’t say, ‘We’re trying to save the coaches’ jobs’—if they’re just playing for the university, sometimes kids feel the university let them down."
Thank you, Paul, for excusing the players for mailing it in.
Coaches have the ability to establish narratives for a team. To create something for players to play for and play against. Nolan Richardson famously went with the "us against the world" motif and it usually worked. So let me ask you, did you really tell the players, or knowingly allow them to think they were playing to save y'alls jobs? Is that what you came up with?
If that's the case, I would have quit on y'all after the ULM game. Cause the coaches blew that. Coaches didn't put players in the right position to win. How's about admitting to that? With Tyler Wilson out and two pretty fresh All-SEC caliber senior running backs set to run the ball, how many run plays did Paul Petrino call in the second half of that game? If Jeff Long had just given the coaches 2-year contracts, I'm sure they would have coached that game more smartly. I mean, hell, who can make sound coaching decisions making six figures on a 10-month contract? These coaches certainly weren't capable of that level of abstract thought.
Sure, it's easy enough for fans to contact players directly in this day and age, and disparaging them after a bad game is horrendous, but it's not an excuse for you guys to let them think the university let them down. How did the university let them down? By keeping you guys around? That's the only mistake I can see the university leveling on the players. Bobby Petrino let them down. The coaches he left behind left them down. Jeff Long screwed up by keeping all of you around with John L Smith, but even that made some semblance of sense at the time. The fans still showed up. Maybe not quite as many at the end of the year and maybe they didn't cheer quite as loudly, but they were there. Even if they were watching on TV or listening on the radio or on twitter or a message board or one of the Expats GameThreads, fans were here.
Perhaps when Tyler Wilson infamously talked to the media after Alabama and said "we" and "people" gave up and quit and didn't do their jobs, he was talking about coaches as much if not more so than other players.
Doc Harper is the managing editor of Arkansas Expats and is a regular contributor to College Football News and Sporting Life Arkansas. You canemail him here and follow him on Twitter.