It’s easy to do, pondering what could have been. We do it all the time, in every walk of life. You often don’t realize the most significant decisions in your life at the time you make them. Like the line in Field Of Dreams, you realize them later on in life. You think “ah, there’ll be other days” but what if that was the only day?
So when you think about Gary Rogers and Alex Brink, it’s easy to think “what if”. What if Rogers would have been given more chances against Auburn in that 2006 opener? We remember that great drive that seemed to lift the entire team. Here’s your obligatory YouTube of that glimpse at the upside of Gary Rogers.
So young back then, a mere sophomore with so much playing time ahead of him. Anyway, Jim Moore asks the question in a very good article today, and it does make you wonder. Jack Thompson didn’t exactly hold back in his assessment of the, uh, situation:
“That could go down as the most mysterious choice ever made,” said Jack Thompson, a WSU quarterbacking great who has mentored Rogers. “God forbid if he’d stayed in and led us to a couple more scores and we had a full-blown quarterback controversy.”
Good point Jack. But not just saying the decision was a mystery. But through the throwin-Samoan’s sarcasm, you get an idea of what he’s saying in the “God forbid” part of the answer. And therein lies the problem.
I remember listening to Doba’s weekly radio show during the 2006 season, and so many times the QB question would arise, one way or another. Is Gary going to play? Why or why not? And much to the chagrin of the old man, he would quickly dismiss the idea, saying “Alex is our QB” and gives us a better chance to win, etc. Fair enough. But he would also go out of his way, several times, to point out that he really hated the idea of a QB controversy. He didn’t want to rock the boat, didn’t want to see the team divided, didn’t want to deal with it.
Why? Why should the QB position be exempt from a younger challenger who shows more upside? What if a wide receiver or an offensive tackle was doing on OK job, but another younger prospect had a much bigger upside and seemed to elevate his play and provide a major spark when he got into games? Why shy away from controversy, in lieu of taking a chance on making the team better at the end of the day?
Who knows why it turned out like it did. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Some tagged Rosey as a “Brink Lover” and point out the whole Brink-Swogger controversy as proof. And the same controversy was probably on Doba’s mind when the whole Rogers question came up. How could he, in his mind, abandon Brink when they chased Swogger off the team to begin with in favor of Brink? Doba’s of the generation where you don’t flip-flop, so to speak. You make a decision and you take it with you, you see it through all the way. Even if those around you can see the faults, you are dug in on your own belief that you are doing the right thing. And you can’t blame Alex for all those yards, TD’s, and of course, losses that kept us out of the post-season. It wasn’t his decision to make. He just did his job, the best that he could, and that was it.
One more element to the story, and then we’ll move on. Remember the Cal game in 2006? It was a warm afternoon in Pullman, and the 10th ranked Berkeley Bears were in control in the first half. We couldn’t do anything right offensively, and it looked like we might get run out of the building. But in the second half, on comes none other than Gary Rogers. Of course, a few series in, he dislocates his left shoulder and he’s done. Brink is put back into the game and we go on to lose 21-3.
But what happened after the game is the most interesting part of the story. When asked why they went with Rogers, Rosey was very coy in his response. It wasn’t the usual “we just were looking for a spark” but there was more to it, more like “we were looking to make a change and give Gary his chance”. In this story from Glenn Kasses in 2006, it’s clear that there was something else going on.
“He wasn’t playing poorly at all. But we had three points,” quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach said. “So the bottom line is, we’ve got to get in the end zone.”
Rogers didn’t do much in his two possessions and threw an interception on the second. But, in a dramatic shift from past instances in which Rogers has played briefly this season in a planned midgame switch, this time Rosenbach indicated that Rogers might have had a chance to stay on the field longer.
The sophomore backup had on his helmet on the sidelines after the interception while Brink remained in a baseball cap, usually a sign that Rogers would be going back in.
But, on Rogers’ third-to-last play, he separated his non-throwing shoulder and after warming up with Brink on the sidelines, the two suddenly switched headgear and Brink returned for the rest of the game.
Rosenbach said no decision was made, but talked about the possibility of giving the younger quarterback another chance.
“It never got to that point,” Rosenbach said. “We can be full of speculation and look at it every different way. Maybe we would have let him try to fight his way out of it a little bit.”
In other words, this wasn’t just a one-or-two series deal, ala Auburn. Rogers was most likely going to be given a true shot at this thing. It gets lost in the shuffle now, of course, as Rogers going down with the shoulder injury makes it a moot point. Besides, Brink responded with two of his best performances ever the following two games, dominating Oregon and UCLA that seemingly had us back in a bowl game, and the controversy was avoided. What could have been…
Moving on, we are officially in the “dog days” of practice. Guys are tired, beat up, worn down. The energy and newness of the situation has worn off a little bit, and practicing in 90+ degrees can sap the strength of anyone. This isn’t just a WSU-exclusive type thing. Mike Holmgren talks about it all the time with the Hawks, where tempers start to flare and things get a little chippy about halfway into camp. It’s like being at the 3-mile mark of a 6-mile run. You feel good about the first 3 miles, but you are starting to feel at least a little fatigued. And you know you still have several miles to go before you reach your goal (in this case, the Okie State game roughly two weeks away). But even coach Wulff sounds a little miffed at where things are, with the injuries in particular. Wulff’s quotes came after the second practice on Sunday, and he was probably feeling a little frustrated by seeing so many guys on the sidelines. Sometimes you need to get away from things for a day, and then come back recharged and ready to roll.
Hopefully things look better after the team had Monday off.
That said, one thing we can take from the first few weeks of the official fall practices in the Wulff era? This is a WHOLE NEW DEAL. Gone are the days of “Club Doba”. Heck, with the heat and the injury situation, Dobes might have given the kids a day off from a regularly scheduled practice, or sent the kids to the Snake for some R & R. But not this coach, not this year. These guys are learning now what it takes to get to another level. It’s a whole different approach to the commitment required to try and inch up the ladder. This is big boy football now, not a glorified high school or a JC extension program. Get on board, or they’ll find someone who will take your place.
Finally, recruiting took another step forward by landing a commit from WR Gino Simone of Skyline. Decent size at 6-0, 175, and a Largent-like 4.6 40-time. But the kid makes a ton of plays, soft hands, and gets open. Physical, can break tackles in the secondary and makes people miss. You can’t argue with the numbers either, per Scout.com:
Gino Simone led the Spartans to a perfect 14-0 record and the state 3A championship. He finished the year with 70 receptions for 1,420 yards and 20 touchdowns and was named to the Seattle Times All-Area First Team as a junior in 2007; he benches 225-pounds and squats 345.
Check out the highlights and see for yourself:
Looks good to me. And Simone’s commitment caused a bit of a stir when two other recruits, WR Kirby Moore of Prosser and safety Jamal Atofau of Bellevue visiting for the weekend, were mentioned in a premium story that they were about to commit as well…..however it appears Scout might have jumped the gun on that one. Still no official word that they have cast their lot with Wulff. But Simone is an excellent addition to the class, a top-10 in-state talent and in the top-59 WR’s in the country.
And, uh, not to take anything away from Simone, but checking out the highlights…..look at some of those throws! Not only was Simone open, but some of those balls were just right in the bread basket. QB Jake Heaps was only a sophomore last year but holy cow, what a prospect. Those are some big-time throws. You can understand the hype on that kid. And maybe you can understand why UW hired away his head coach from Skyline, Steve Gervais? Hmm. For what it’s worth, no, Heaps doesn’t have WSU listed in his favorites, listing seven other schools who all, by the way, have offered already. Oh well.
Happy Tuesday, and GO COUGS!