I didn't get to watch the Baylor game, thanks to Dish Network, but the consensus I heard from most Jayhawk fans was that the team quit when they got down.
Fortunately Unfortunately, I was at the game Thursday, so I got to witness it firsthand this time around. I saw our defense stop trying to fight off blocks. Players who were taking Daniel Thomas down for minimal gains in the first two drives began simply trying to wrap him up, as though it put them in better position to politely ask him to fall down. There was no emotion on offense. No visible disappointment when plays fell apart, no visible frustration after turnovers and penalties. Except for a few players like Oguntodu, Patterson and Beshears, nobody even seemed to care about the curb-stomping they were receiving. In short, they had quit.
Kinda reminds you of last year, doesn't it?
For me, that raises an interesting question. Namely, whose fault is it? I'm not necessarily trying to defend Gill here (I'm getting tired of that). But it does seem as though he's getting blamed wholeheartedly for the problem. True, it's his team and he has to shoulder some of the blame here, but these same guys did the same thing to Mangino last year.
Yeah, we've all heard the Mangino stories. We've all heard about how the players didn't respect him and just weren't motivated to play for him (though I don't remember any motivation issues in the two years prior). So what if (gasp) we can't just blame it all on Mangino?
I didn't love my high school coach. He got fired a while after my class graduated for some undisclosed reason. Rumor had it he was just as much of a prick to his bosses as he was to everyone else. A handful of players on the team hated him, most of us just kind of tolerated him. But you know what? We all still played hard. Not for the coach, because it didn't matter who the coach was or what he acted like. For most guys, when you're on the field, you play the game. That's just how it works. Granted that was just high school, but that's the mindset most players seem to have.
My point here is that this team, which by and large is the same team last year (just without the really good players), seems to have a strange "quitting" characteristic. After the loss to Colorado last year, I don't know that I saw a shred of emotion on the field from the Jayhawks the rest of the season. I remember plays that went for touchdowns where everyone just kind of jogged to the sideline with almost no jubilation. This was a team that went 20-6 in the previous two years. Most of the players had Orange Bowl rings. And the second things started to go wrong, they just seemed to say "screw it." I'm starting to question whether the negative mindset this team appears to have isn't simply an intrinsic trait, irrespective of the coaching staff.
No matter who is coaching, most teams don't quit. Obviously, it's hard to keep a high level of intensity when you're down by 40, but typically that doesn't translate to being lazy on the field. Whether the coach is an asshole who degrades them in practice, or a warm, caring guy making them into fine, upstanding members of society, most players don't lose interest in a game in the second quarter. Ours seem to.
The questions I'm posing are: Is this Turner Gill's fault? Do some teams just have a certain psychological identities, and is this team's identity simply so fragile that they can't handle losing, and they shut down? If we were losing 45-0 with a different coach on Thursday, would the effort level have been any different from these same players? Can my fanposts possibly get any more long-winded? I don't necessarily know the answers to these, but the general feeling seems to be that Gill just can't motivate these kids to play football. I guess I'm just wondering if anybody can.