Note: This article was written earlier, but compliments StateFanNation’s summary of the N&O article on Wolfpack’s patience with TOB. This only serves as an explanation for why those skeptical of Tom O’Brien should feel more comfortable about his coaching tenure to date and is written from the perspective of a self-described Tom O’Brien critic. It goes without saying that some of the opinionated comments in this article ‘may not represent the opinions of StateFansNation, it’s advertisers, or it’s affiliates’ or whatever the Hell it is that they state before the 700 Club comes on TV.
This is a personal appeal from NCStatePride to all of his fellow Tom O’Brien skeptics entering the 2010 season.
I feel like I have been one of the biggest critics of Tom O’Brien as of late (late meaning the 2010 season, not as in the last month). After this season, he will have a 25% success rate at NC State (winning seasons as a part of entire tenure) and he has been given more excuses for his failings than Butch Davis has given for losing institutional control of his program. Most people knew that this season TOB would “likely” have a winning season simply because he had all his players on the roster, few were on the DL, and his existing stars were more veteran than ever before. He had to have a winning season. What I did not expect was a “successful” season. “Success” is not just barely making it to a bowl with a 7-5 win season, just like a 20-win season and/or 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament doesn’t mean you had a ‘successful’ basketball season. Tom O’Brien has exceeded having merely a “winning” season and moved into the ranks of having a “successful” season, especially if he beat Maryland and either wins an ACC championship, lands a big win against a respected opponent during bowl season, or both.
Why Tom O’Brien’s One Successful Season (Of Four) Is Significant…
Looking at the numbers, let’s assume Tom O’Brien wins Saturday making his 2010 regular season finish at 9-3 (6-2). It would be more than likely that NC State could end the season ranked for the first time since the 2002 season that ended in Rivers sending the Pack to a victory over Notre Dame in the Gater Bowl. If Tom O’Brien accomplishes his 9-3 season, this would put his average record at 6.75-5 each season. I understand this metric may be unconventional, but it gives a good layman’s metric for how good a coach performs in any notional future season. For reference, Amato averaged 6.43-5 and Mike O’Cain averaged 5.86-6 over their tenures at NC State. This means that after this one season, even though it is only one successful season out of four, O’Brien is already on record as more success, on average, than Amato or O’Cain. Bear in mind that all of this is ignoring the fact that a 9-3(6-2) finish would place NC State in the ACC Championship Game that could project NC State to the Orange Bowl. This would be a feat that O’Cain and Amato fell short of and would also further boost O’Brien’s averages.
The overall record is not the only indicator that elevates Tom O’Brien to higher levels than expected. Using the same “average record” metric as before, Tom O’Brien’s 9-3 season would leave his average ACC record at 4.25-3.75 each season. Compare that to Amato’s 3.57-4.43 and O’Cain’s 3.71-4.43 average seasonal records. O’Brien is proving that not only can he win the overall season, but he can beat our in-conference opponents better than any coach in the past 20 years (or since 1993, at least) which has traditionally been a huge point of contention between the Wolfpack faithful and their coaches.
Another Concern: Tom O’Brien Will Not Follow 2010 Success with More Success…
Furthermore, my other concern, and reason for not retaining my belief in Tom O’Brien has been that next year he will likely lose both R. Wilson and N. Irving. These are just two players, and NC State has other highly acclaimed players, but nothing is certain at this point. I see how many games have been won, arguably, on the shoulders of these two individuals alone and have a hard time imagining a successful NC State lacking these two offensive and defensive assets. Again, I must reconsider my previous stance. After seeing how the Pack has played the past few games around Irving, and seeing how effective our offense is when Wilson is having, arguably, a “mediocre” game (for him), I realize that the entire body of work is strong enough to compensate and flex when skill is lacking in a given area.
Looking at the Carolina Game for Proof of Projected Success…
Let’s look at our victory over Carolina (Go To Hell, Douchebags!). For NC State’s rushing game, Wilson gave NC State 10 carries for 26 yards, but our returning players, Washington and Greene, totalled for 21 carries for a total of 89 yards. In our receiving game, of our top 6 receivers, only 1 is a 5-year player (Williams). Spencer, Greene, Gentry, Bryan, and Davis will all be returning unless someone leaves for other reasons. Update: Even though all five of these players still technically have one more year of eligibility, it should be noted that both Spencer and Davis are true seniors. Thanks to JEOH2 for the correction.
For that matter, special teams, which have been plagued for the past couple of years, have seen the emergence of T.J. Graham who continues to improve on kick-off and punt returns. T.J. Graham has been a curse as much as a blessing for the Pack even since debuting with 23 yards per kick-off return and averaging 19 yards per kick-off return. Saturday, he had 4 outstanding returns (7 for the day), two of which were thwarted due to illegal blocks in the back. Despite the two early set-backs, Graham still finished with 188 yards of special team returns on the day.
Basically, Tom O’Brien is Getting Better…
My concern still lies on the future, but for the first time in a while, I can honestly say that I feel better about the future than I have in recent history. While both Amato and O’Cain saw strong starts to their first 2-3 seasons followed by gradual decline, O’Brien appears to be poised to build on his 2010 successes. At the very least, his overall averages prove that a direct comparison of O’Brien to Amato or O’Cain isn’t justified. I still insist that O’Brien’s record pre-NC State is of little importance to our program. If we hired freaking Bill Cowher to be our head coach and he went 3-8 for 5 years, he definitely wouldn’t be considered a great asset to our program simply because he has a super bowl ring. What I want to see is success while wearing a red and white polo and a headset at the sidelines of Carter-Finley. Has Tom O’Brien reached that point? He’s apparently closer than his predecessors.
Again, I was the biggest opponent of Tom O’Brien at the beginning of this season, and while I can’t say having one good season out of four rationalizes being considered a “successful NC State coach”, I can say that he has gained something he hasn’t had since taking his post at NC State: a start.