There will always be the pressure on whomever the elite programs hire for their head coach. In addition, the staff that the head coach chooses is probably even more critical. Every head coach has a ceiling. Some took the path of working under the top minds and strategist while building their resume. They typically are out there as an OC or DC but the elite are in the eye of the media all the time. Clay may or may not have found his elite OC but he chose to stay with two of his trusted staff in very key positions. Clancy Pendergast and John Baxter were retained as we all know. I was not as critical on the Pendergast keep but Baxter didn’t make any sense at all. I felt that the offense in 2018 under Tee Martin/Helton’s was a key challenge for our defense in that they were always coming back in too fast (no real rest) and defending short fields most of the time.
All of that is interesting but when it comes to your job as a head coach you and only you are to blame for the good the bad and the ugly. We are all watching a very popular former interim HC in Ed Orgeron developing a powerhouse program at LSU. He too was at a crossroads when Haden as the then Athletic Director fired him as interim when all he did in short order was turn chaos in to focus. He had the team in a much better line of sight than when he took over. He knew how to own the locker room and he also knew that practicing with the physicality of a game was paramount to building a tough team that every week’s game was easier than the very practices that got them there. It’s easy to look in the mirror and wonder what USC would look like today under Coach O but that i not going to do anyone any good and we all know this.
Coach Helton is losing runway to turn this around. He may as well cancel his Pressers as they are creating more harm than good. He still has the team that was clear in the Notre Dame loss. They didn’t fold they kept fighting and were within one break of making an amazing comeback. But like most of the games on the road for Helton it didn’t happen and we have a remake of every Sundays press conference. This is no way to build an elite program. Is that what the school wants? Is there going to be an Athletic Director hire prior to the early signing and thus try to salvage what is not looking good for recruiting and USC.
This crossroad will be far-reaching. To continue as-is is insane. The program is losing its luster and the California kids have nowhere to call home as both UCLA and USC are struggling and the media is loving it. ESPN continues to pump the Helton era as that makes it easier for the SEC to dominate while it keeps an eye on the Big 12 and one team in the ACC. There is a lot of money riding with ESPN and the SEC. Never underestimate the powers to be and their desire to USC struggle to protect their beloved SEC. That’s an ATM when it comes to ad revenue.
Landing an elite athletic director on a diminishing runway based on timing is tremendous pressure. At this point, the administration and what ever this committee is doing along with the search firm are probably teeing up the combination. Joint discussions as a great hire at AD will also need to work well with a super ego at head coach. The law of attraction finding it’s way to USC is still there but the beacon is fading and high school seniors and juniors (sadly) are making decision in the next few weeks on what their plans will be. This is a can’t miss for USC and the right hires can spin this around and turn this program back in to a forward looking re-developing elite football program.