For the second year in a row, Iowa State was thoroughly dismantled and embarrassed by an FCS school in their opener. To be frank; it just doesn't get any more discouraging and deflating. There's no excuse, no rationalization and sadly, no do-over button.
It's easy to overreact to week one action. It's all we have to go off of and good or bad, we all manage to find ways to blow things out of proportion. I thought long and hard about publishing this for that very reason. Do I sleep on it? Should I cool off first?
Ultimately, I came to the realization that this piece was going to be published one way or the other at some point in the next week, so why sit on it?
Last Monday, I talked about the must-win scenario this game represented and the urgency this coaching staff is going to feel should things not go well. Well, if Rhoads was on the hot seat entering the 2014 season, he's now firmly secured and fastened in the guillotine.
I'm not going to beat around the bush; I think a change has to be made and it has to be made right at the top. Much like Dan McCarney, Paul Rhoads gave us plenty of fond memories, but he simply can't continue to lead this program any longer.
Things aren't going to get better this year. There's not a shred of talent on the defensive side of the ball and even if the offense gradually improves, it won't matter. There will be no bowl game this year. There won't be a signature upset. There will be no cheer in Jack Trice Stadium.
There are five questions that stand out to me that have to be asked at this point. Some of these questions need to be asked inside the walls of the Jacobson Building, but a few of them need to be asked by us as fans.
Question 1: Why Doesn't This Program Have A Strength?
In the five plus seasons of the Rhoads tenure, this program has never truly had an identity. Early on, it looked as if Rhoads and offensive coordinator, Tom Herman, were going to be physical at the point of attack and control the tempo of the game by running the football. With Alexander Robinson in the back field and a developing tackle named Kelechi Osemele anchoring the left side of the line, you didn't exactly have to be Bill Walsh to figure out what was going to make the offense go.
It worked well enough, but could you ever really call it an identity? Before Courtney Messingham was doing whatever the hell it was he did offensively, let's not forget that there were plenty of rumblings in the blogosphere about the effectiveness of Herman as a coordinator. Iowa State was never an offensive powerhouse in Herman's three years in Ames (far from it actually) and when he took the Buckeyes' job, many were happy to see him go.
When you look around the conference, there at least appears to be a clearly defined goal that each coach has stamped on his program. At Baylor, it's tempo and speed and a constant onslaught on the opposing defense vertically. At Kansas State, it's ball control and methodical ground-game execution. Hell, even Kansas manages to rank among the best rushing teams in the conference every year despite their abysmal record.
As for Iowa State? Uhh...don't turn it over and hope for the best?
Early on in Saturday's game, Mark Mangino had Sam Richardson come out firing, testing the Bison defense in the short and intermediate areas of the passing game. It worked pretty damn well as Iowa State got out to a 14-0 lead, but then, it just stopped. The offensive line fell apart after Tom Farniok's injury, there were no openings in the running game and Iowa State struggled to gain anything in the second half.
I want to give Mangino a pass considering he lost his starting center and top wide out in the first 10 minutes of the game and also because it was the first time in years that he had to dial up the plays, but really? This is what we all were so excited to see? I saw the exact same offense that I saw in 2012 and 2013 out on the field on Saturday.
Iowa State doesn't need to run a gimmick like the triple-option or try to go toe-to-toe with Baylor, but it has to hang its hat on something. Iowa State is on its third offensive coordinator in Rhoads' sixth season. Still waiting on that offensive identity.
Question 2: Why Do We Keep Creating Scape Goats?
It's a natural thing to do and I'm as guilty as anyone else. See a problem, identify the nearest and most likely source. For the last two years, Courtney Messingham served as the whipping boy for just about everything. The defense couldn't stop the run? Well, if Mess could keep the offense on the field for more than three plays, maybe they could get a breather. Can't run the ball? Clearly Mess has no idea how to attack the defense on the ground.
Mess took a lot of heat and justifiably so. He was in over his head as an offensive coordinator at this level and a change had to be made. But you know what? You show me an aspect of this football team and I'm sure a team of football forensic specialists will find the finger prints of its head coach.
It only makes sense. You don't get to where Paul Rhoads and his colleagues alike have gotten unless you have a little control freak in you. Any coach who says he's "hands off" with this or that area of the team is lying. Head coaches have daily meetings with the position coaches and help formulate the game plan with the coordinators. They have veto power on everything and beyond that, the head coach is the guy who put the staff together in the first place.
At some point, you just have to stop making excuses and stop looking for scape goats and go straight to the top. This program has reached that point.
Question 3: Why Are We Expanding the Stadium Again?
Alright, I know why the stadium is being expanded. The Reiman family stepped up with an enormous donation, fan support has been great and it's been a goal of Jamie Pollard's since he arrived at Iowa State to bowl in the south end zone. I understand all of that. But shouldn't the product on the field warrant that type of financial commitment?
It almost feels as if the cart is being put before the horse. Baylor moves into a brand new stadium this year, but then again, they had the Heisman winner a few years ago and went to the Fiesta Bowl last year. Kansas State is undergoing a pretty substantial stadium renovation as well, but they also won the Big 12 in 2012. TCU expanded, but again, did so coming off a Rose Bowl. If you want to get technical, Oklahoma State completed their stadium renovation prior to their recent string of success, but T. Boone Pickens knows a good investment when he sees one..
The point I'm trying to make is that all of those programs were on solid footing from a football stand point prior to bringing in the construction crews. I guess we can say that through 2012, Iowa State was in a solid enough position, but that's a matter of perspective.
I was just as excited as everyone else when I heard that the stadium was finally going to be renovated, but now I wonder if it's really a smart way to spend the money. With the renovation, Jack Trice will have the third highest capacity in the conference behind Texas and Oklahoma. Let that sink in for a moment.
Here's where my main concern lies. The stadium renovation feels like a gift to the fans and believe me Mr. Pollard, we really appreciate the gesture, but after last year and especially after Saturday, I'm not so sure I want to accept the gift anymore. Sitting in the stands in the 4th quarter on Saturday afternoon, I wondered if there was a way those funds could be better allocated toward a contract buyout and/or a lucrative deal for Iowa State's next head coach.
Now, I know these donors usually attach specific instructions with their donations and I know the Reiman family wanted their donation to exclusively go toward the south end zone project and the adjacent surrounding area of the stadium, but one has to wonder if their minds could be changed.
Question 4: Which Game Will Be Rhoads' Last?
I'm not a fan of firing college coaches mid-season, so I'll say December 6th at TCU.Now, will that really be his last game? I have no idea, but it should be.
Need more convincing? This program is 9-20 since the Oklahoma State upset in 2011 and just 4-10 at home.
Question 5: What Does the Future Hold?
I really don't know, but I'm optimistic. I feel like I've hammered this point home recently, but with the upgrades to the Bergstrom complex and now the stadium renovation, Iowa State will have facilities on par or better than most of its peers in the conference. Combine that with the money the athletics department is making with the revamped television contracts and those old standbys just don't really apply anymore.
Attracting a head coach won't be quite as challenging as it may have been in 1995 or 2007 or 2009 when Dan McCarney, Gene Chizik and Paul Rhoads respectively, all accepted their offers. Iowa State actually has something to sell now.
If history has shown us anything, program saviors surface in various locations all over the country all the time. There's a guy out there that can turn this program into a winner. I don't know who that individual is and I don't know where we'll find him, but he can be found.
How do we as fans cope until basketball season?
Here's a start: