Dear South Carolina Gamecocks fans,
I hope this letter finds you well today.
I imagine that you are quite upset over the events of this weekend. Truth be told, I wouldn't blame you. You entered the game against the Georgia Bulldogs a 17-point underdog and left with only a shred of dignity intact, an injured starter and more questions at quarterback. Losing 52-20 never feels good, no matter who you are.
Now I know what a few of you are saying. I've seen it. "I'm a Gamecocks fan for life!" is what I've heard from some. "Win or lose, I support the team!" is what others of you are saying. "There's still a long way to go this season!" is what I've heard from still others.
Yes, yes and yes.
I'm glad that you are supporting this team during thick and thin. It's great that you have grown up watching this team, through its ups (the three straight 11-2 seasons) and the downs (1-10? 0-11?). That's admirable. I'm impressed by your loyalty. Keep it up. You've shown your true fanhood and have remained strongly behind this program regardless of what happens.
But here's what bothers me. I fear that some of you (not all of you) have been spoiled by success and have become blindly loyal to this program.
I'll give you an example. We here at this site, and other sites, have been honest in our assessment of the team. When they've been good, we've applauded them. When they've been bad, we've examined what went wrong - without pulling punches. Why? Because we want this team to be good, just like you. But some of you - not all of you - feel that this team is excused from any criticism whatsoever: "We just need to believe in them!" "You must be Clemson fans!" "Stop being so negative!" "They don't have guys like (insert high-level Carolina recruit here)."
The truth of the matter is, this is not a good team right now, and they haven't shown me any evidence that they will be at any point this year barring a major change. Let me say this: I believe Steve Spurrier is a great coach. He is a legend in this game who has had an incredible amount of success. But at this point in time, he's clearly at the twilight of his career. Yes, he's had three straight 11-win seasons, but please don't pretend that he'll magically work up another two or three in a row, and please don't act like 33 wins in three years excuses him from responsibility. That's not being negative. That's being realistic. (If I were in charge of a major division at a company, and I regressed after three straight years of success while seeing one of my rivals continue to profit, you'd best believe my CEO would be at least checking up to see what was going on.) You'd be hard pressed to find any reason as of today to think that he can turn things around; however, if he does, I'll happily accept being wrong.
To the point that the team doesn't have players like Jadeveon Clowney, Connor Shaw, and Dylan Thompson anymore: I agree. No, they don't. But what has this coaching staff done to recruit at a high level to replace those players? If you're the head coach, saying that you might not stick around for a lot longer doesn't help. If you'll recall, Clowney, Shaw and Thompson (add your player of choice here) didn't just fall into this program's lap. This staff (and Spurrier is first in line in this) had to do some things on their end to get those players. Instead, right now, they're being out-recruited by much of the SEC, and - dare I say it? - the team in the Upstate, who, by the way, has a lot better look at the College Football Playoff than this Carolina program does right now. Again, not negativity. This is a 100% true statement. (I will say that I'm very high on Bryan Edwards, Brandon McIlwain and Marlon Character. Perhaps they will be stars for this program, but that speaks in part to development. That's a different piece for a different day.)
What about the fans that "believe in the Gamecocks"? Look, you can conjure up all the positive feelings you want. That's 100% fine. It's perfectly OK to believe in this team and that things will turn around. But, when you strip it all away, no amount of good vibes - or positive thinking - will change the on-field product, no matter how hard you try. The nuts and bolts of it is simple: You need talented players and talented coaching in order to win. Period. Right now, this team is missing one of those things. Some might say they're missing both.
So Gamecocks fans, continue to support the team. Cheer them on. Root for them to do well. You've done a tremendous job of that so far. But be honest with yourselves: things aren't OK right now. And until something changes, whether it's the coaching staff or something else, it might stay that way for a little bit.
And that's not being negative. That's being truthful. And sometimes, well, the truth hurts.
Thanks for reading.