Stickin'

The State offers a pretty standard but useful profile of Ellis Johnson. Some of the stuff that should please you (ignore for a moment that one of the messengers used to coach in the Upstate):

Johnson, whose base defense is a 4-3, is not big on using nickel and dime packages in the secondary, preferring to keep seven players near the line of scrimmage.

"He's going to set it up to stop the run," West said. "That's why he's talking about seven-man fronts. Always has."

Johnson's Mississippi State defenses made gradual progress in his four seasons, finishing fifth in the SEC in rushing defense in 2006. In the Liberty Bowl in Johnson's final game with the Bulldogs, Mississippi State smothered Central Florida tailback Kevin Smith, holding the nation's leading rusher 69 yards below his average. ["Smothered" is a bit generous; Smith still did pretty well on the day.--cocknfire As well as McFadden vs. Gamecocks 2007?--ed Touche.--cocknfire] ...

But he understands his homecoming will be short-lived if the Gamecocks give up too many third-and-longs.

"It'll be a last stop only if we're successful."


Meanwhile, Ron Morris' column on the VanGorder/Ellis Johnson/TBA Arkansas DC mess has some valid points, but is also off-base in a few ways.

First, the callers trashed Brian VanGorder for showing no loyalty to South Carolina by returning to the Atlanta Falcons after 17 days in Columbia. Then they sang the praises of Ellis Johnson for leaving Arkansas to return to his home state.

There was mention of VanGorder being a vagabond coach. My goodness, the man now has held six jobs in four years! There was little note of Johnson having accepted his third job in less than one month. That is because he is so loyal to the state of South Carolina!


First of all, this is a completely unfair comparison for Ellis Johnson. VanGorder, let the record, reflect has also accepted his third job in less than one month -- from Falcons position coach to South Carolina DC to Falcons DC.

But there is a difference between Johnson and VanGorder: One has made a habit of these kinds of changes of heart, the other has not.

You cannot have it both ways, folks. One is not a traitor and the other a saint. My assertion is both made sound family and business decisions to jump to a new job. Good for both of them.


Again, this only gets you so far. A guy who breaks up with one girlfriend to go to another woman he's interested in can be given a pass. A guy who keeps breaking up with girlfriend after girlfriend for the next best thing to come along is a creep.

Go back to the beginning of 2001. Ellis Johnson was coach at The Citadel, VanGorder was DC at Georgia. Since then, Johnson finished a three-year stint as head coach at The Citadel and was DC at Mississippi State when the musical chairs began. VanGorder had gone through jobs with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Georgia Southern and the Falcons before the offseason merry-go-round got started.

I'm not saying Johnson is "a saint." But to put what he did on equal footing with what VanGorder did is to willfully ignore the fact that it appears Johnson was honestly doing something unique -- returning to his home state -- while VanGorder was doing something he has done for years -- leap at whatever job looked good to him at the time, with no real loyalty to the position or the employer.

Spurrier did recognize that the one unhappy party in Thursday’s coaching shuffle was Arkansas, which lost Johnson and is without a defensive coordinator at a crucial time of the year in recruiting. Shed no tears for Arkansas, though. ...

Petrino made the decision to leave the Atlanta Falcons for Arkansas with three games remaining this past season. His decision was made because he saw a better opportunity to return to the college ranks. ...

There are no bad guys in these moves.


This borders on the absurd. While things are a bit out of order here, I believe that "these moves" is supposed to include Petrino's. And I'm sorry, but leaving a team before the season is over is an act of cowardice, spinelessness and breathtaking arrogance. At least Nick Saban waited until the season was over to bolt the Dolphins. There's really no comparison. If a non-injury-inducing action in sports could be categorized as "evil," what Petrino did would more than fit the bill.

Shed tears for Arkansas? Hardly.


Don't cry for me Louisville Atlanta Arkan-tina.


The thing about this tawdry affair that makes me happiest is that Petrino was the only one who ended up jilted and without a ready-made replacement.

That is where we are in college football, where finding stability and loyalty is like trying to find a presidential campaign promise that will actually come to fruition.

It is interesting that none of the parties involved in Thursday’s carousel ride was complaining. That is because they all understand how the coaching profession works. Here today. Gone tomorrow. Be cautious in the purchase of a house.


Oh, so we should accept it because that's what happens? That's life, move on, nothing to see here. It might look bad, but it happens all the time, so it's okay? I'm not even sure this is moral relativism. I think it's a step or two beyond that. Whatever is common and expected is therefore acceptable.

No. It's wrong. It doesn't matter how many times it happens. It's wrong.

Understand, VanGorder still owned the home there, where his wife and five children still lived. Understand also that the Atlanta offer was more than twice the amount of his unsigned contract with USC.


This is where Morris' column has some good points. Yes, we're all pissed at VanGorder, and frankly I believe we have reason to be. And I don't really care about the money -- that's basically conceding that loyalty is only worth so much money, and that's a premise I completely reject.

But the family angle is exculpatory. Give VanGorder a bit of a break for making a decision that is in his family's best interests. When kids get involved, all bets are off -- and maybe they should be. Again, this doesn't wipe out VanGorder's record for doing this sort of thing.

The difference between college coaches and us working stiffs is that we get to hide behind a cloak of anonymity. Unlike coaches, our salaries and our job changes are not posted on the Internet and splashed in headlines on newsprint.


But there's a flipside to that. "Our job changes" don't carry with them the hopes of hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans. "Our job changes" don't cheer the hearts of people who believe their favorite team will see a winning record or a decent defense or an explosive offense because of those job changes.

And these men chose this line of work. Just like I shouldn't publicly whine about the dozens of complaints that come from the readers who deride me in my day job for being part of a liberal cabal bent on destroying Christmas or a conservative crony pushing the agenda of the fascist right, these guys can't complain about the criticism from the public. It comes with the territory.

Then, as any good South Carolina beat writer would do, Morris discusses Cremins:

Those changes of heart were stunning at the time because they had mostly to do with broken loyalty. As soon as 15 years ago, when a coach gave a school his word, he usually kept it.


Again, should we excuse coaches from that responsibility because it's more common now, or because there's more money involved? Does that make it right? Aren't we lowering our standards because the coaches are lowering theirs?

Are fans expecting more than we should from the coaches?

Or are we just asking for someone to restore some moral sanity to this whole process?

And if it's the latter, why is that such an unreasonable request?

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