by Kent Sterling
Someone had to pay for a defense that had no chance to stop Navy – or anyone else, and defensive coordinator Doug Mallory and defensive line coach Jon Fabris became those people this morning.
The leader of a defense that ranked last in the Big Ten the last three seasons, and 120th out of 123 teams in the FBS for total defense couldn’t survive, despite being dealt a tough hand by the circumstances in Bloomington as the football program is being rebuilt.
Head coach Kevin Wilson made the decision to attack the offense first, and craft a brand for IU Football that begins and has ended with an explosive uptempo offense. Resources were devoted toward the construction of that offense, and the pace of play exposed a young defense that was undermanned (to be kind) in the Big Ten.
Indiana has made positive steps in three years under Wilson, and came within one win of bowl eligibility in 2012. The game against Navy stands out as a defensive failure because the Hoosiers did not record a defensive stop during the game, and because Wilson admitted during the post game press conference that he told the team at halftime that they would win by scoring every time they touched the ball and recover an onside kick.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the defensive personnel or scheme.
“Doug and Jon are solid coaches and good men,” Wilson said. “We appreciate everything they have done for IU Football and wish them both the very best moving forward. We are excited about the future as we continue to build our program in a positive way.”
This is part of the evolution of a rebuilding program. The hope that was crushed by a 1-11 record in 2011 followed in 2012 by 4-8 and 5-7 in 2013 needs to be re-engaged, and regardless of whether it was circumstances or Mallory that caused failure, a new coat of paint is needed to give fans the feeling that defensive improvement is imminent. That’s business.
If Mallory had been retained and the defense failed for a fourth straight year, it would no longer have been a Doug Mallory problem. It would have been a Kevin Wilson problem, and good head coaches know when to make this moves to shine a light away from themselves to buy some time.
That’s not to say that this was solely a political move that bought Wilson a measure of cover. It very well could have been caused by an examination of defensive lapses that resulted in poor results, and the new coordinator, whomever he might be, might be the answer to make progress in trying to build a winner.
And I would imagine that is the case. After listening to Wilson talk in post game pressers, Monday postmortems, and interviewing him a couple of times on 1070 the Fan, one thing that is clear is that Wilson is not much for excuses or obfuscation.
He’s one of the few guys If come across in a very political business who I could see walking into an athletic director’s office to fight for an embattled assistant, and on November 18th when Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz called for Mallory to be fired, Mallory officially became embattled.
Show me a manager who retains everyone, and I’ll show you a poor leader afraid to make the tough choices. Show me a manager who fires everyone, and I’ll show you someone who blames all around him for failure. Turning away from a personal relationship to do what is right for the collective is difficult, and represents strong leadership. I believe that’s what happened this morning in Bloomington.