"Play-calling" has been a buzz word, not only this week, but ever since the Huskies limped off a wet field at Notre Dame Stadium in the first week of October with a 37-30 overtime loss.
Coach Steve Sarkisian took some heat for his approach in the game, going for it on fourth-and-goal on a Jake Locker run. And since then, Husky Nation has had him under a bit of a microscope, fairly criticizing some of his play calls from games against Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA in crucial situations.
Has it gotten to the point where we start asking, "Should Sarkisian be the offensive play-caller AND the coach at the same time?"
Of course, when asked Monday at the Pacific-10 Conference coaches teleconference with reporters, his response was an adamant "Yes!"
"All in all, I think it's gone extremely well," Sarkisian said.
Here is a little bit of a roll call on the other Pac-10 coaches, who were all once coordinators, and the evolution of how their personnel controls the game plan:
• ARIZONA: Coach Mike Stoops called the defensive plays in his first couple seasons, and now has surrendered that duty to his younger brother, Mark, who is the defensive coordinator.
• ARIZONA STATE: In his early years at Idaho, Washington State and Miami of Florida, coach Dennis Erickson called the offensive plays. At Oregon State, or in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, he didn't. Today with the Sun Devils, most of the time, he is the chief play-caller, but shares it on occasion with Rich Olson.
• CALIFORNIA: Like many coaches, Jeff Tedford has gone back and forth. In his first three seasons with the Bears, he called the offensive plays. In the past two years, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has taken over.
• OREGON: In his first season ever as a head coach, Chip Kelly assumes full play-calling duties on offense.
• OREGON STATE: After calling the entire offense for his first seven seasons, coach Mike Riley has given way to offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf.
• STANFORD: Hard to figure out. Coach Jim Harbaugh says a brain trust of he and a couple assistants signal in the offensive plays, but it's been known around "The Farm" that the third-year coach is fully in charge of it.
• UCLA: Late in his Colorado tenure – the fourth season – coach Rick Neuheisel surrendered offensive play-calling power to Karl Dorrell, who later became the coach with the Bruins. Since at the UW, and now at UCLA, Neuheisel says he "shepherds" the duties to his coordinator.
• USC: This is who Sarkisian learned from. Coach Pete Carroll allows his coordinator a big hand in game-planning, but when it comes to calling the defense, it's all on Carroll. Has been for eight-plus seasons.
• WASHINGTON STATE: Coach Paul Wulff has never been a play-caller, at Eastern Washington or now with the Cougars.
Why do I bring attention to this? A common thread runs through the Pac-10 – and I would assume, in most BCS conferences – that when a coordinator takes over his own program, early on, he calls all the shots. Only Wulff is the exception among his league peers.
Sarkisian should be no exception, and should be given a pretty long leash in his first season or two.
I guess what I'm saying, it's more than play-calling. It's laying the foundation for a program. Schooled in a very strict way, by a man who has been extremely successful, Sarkisian thinks he has a handle on how to handle all the chores of being the head honcho of the program.
"It's not pulling me away from my football preparation," Sarkisian said.
And considering who the former coach was – a man who not only didn't embrace the public spotlight, he despised it – isn't it important for Sarkisian, good and bad, to quickly become the new face of the UW program? Shouldn't he be fully praised – and accepted – as doing all the stuff Tyrone Willingham was reluctant to do?
I'm not here to opine whether or not Sarkisian is a good or bad play-caller. What I do think is the sample size at the UW is small. What I will say is that I think in the early stages, if he wants to be the boss in every capacity with the program, the university is paying him $1.8 million to make that decision.
From what the other Pac-10 coaches discussed today, once the groundwork was laid out, once the ball was rolling, that was when they were more willing to examine their "head coach role" in a clearer frame of mind, but also at a better time in their tenure. They were willing to give up something in order to shift their attention in other areas of the program.
Maybe someday, the 35-year-old Sarkisian will reach that point, too – if he wants.
Some quick hit stuff from practice Tuesday:
• Again, defensive tackle Cameron Elisara (neck stinger) and linebacker E.J. Savannah (broken left wrist) are likely out against Oregon State on Saturday. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt said Elisara's neck and shoulder region are "not responding very well," and the junior will miss his third consecutive game, replaced by De'Shon Matthews with Everrette Thompson rotating in. … Free safety Jason Wells (right foot) also sat out of practice Tuesday, but coaches are hopeful he'll start. Nathan Fellner took all the snaps with the No. 1 defense in his stead. … Cornerback Matt Mosley has left the program. He is the third cornerback this season to no longer be with the team, along with junior-college transfers David Batts and Dominique Gaisie. … Also from the Pac-10 media call, because the UW is an "aggressive recruiting staff," coach Sarkisian said he'd be in favor of an early-signing period for football. "We're a little ways away," Sarkisian said.