The Huskies and Ducks remain on top of Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline power rankings, Stanford takes a tumble after its loss at Utah. Also: he takes a look at the Herm Edwards' eccentric tenure at Arizona State and passes on passing judgement — for now.
Tracing the Herm Edwards narrative …
Hired by Arizona State in late 2017: Wait, what?
The long offseason: Could this actually work?
After two games: He’s making us look like fools!
Today: Perhaps the Sun Devils are exactly what we thought they’d be, maybe Edwards doesn’t have all the answers and, oh-by-the-way, why didn’t he take the three points?
We all thought this was coming, right? It was only a matter of time … a few weeks … a month … before Edwards’ game-management tactics would come under scrutiny.
In the current case: His repeated eschewing of field goals.
Edwards opted against three easy points late in the first half at San Diego State that would have put ASU ahead by 10, and he got burned: The fourth-down attempt in the red zone failed, and SDSU responded with a touchdown.
His decision to pass on a field goal Saturday in Boulder was utterly baffling, not just now but in real time, and it had a clear impact on the flow of the game.
Trailing by a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, ASU got stuffed on fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line. The Buffaloes took possession, drove 40 yards, ate up five minutes, switched field position and regained momentum.
That said, those decisions represent just a sliver of the overall picture — a fraction of the Edwards composite to this point in his tenure.
Because the hire was so unusual (longtime pal of the athletic director returns to coaching after a decade on TV) …
Because ASU’s self-proclaimed New Leadership Model was custom made for mockery …
Because Edwards is as loquacious as he is likable (hundreds of interviews in the offseason) …
Because of all that, the reaction to his every move is intensified: The criticism, the kudos and all that lies in between.
Thus far, we’ll give Edwards solid marks:
• He made several shrewd staff hires, Antonio Pierce (as linebackers coach and recruiting lead) first and foremost.
• His philosophy is smart: a commitment to the running game.
• He avoided an embarrassing offseason incident that would draw attention to his unfamiliarity with the college game.
• His team looked prepared in September, when all eyes were on this wacky desert experiment.
Overall, we’ve seen enough to make us think Edwards might not fail. Whether he succeeds depends completely on the framing.
If success is controlling the South on a regular basis, winning conference championships and frequenting the top 10 … “to reach unprecedented heights” (ASU’s phrase) … that still seems like a reach.
But if success is averaging seven or eight wins per year — the bar ASU has hit during specific stretches of the past three decades — Edwards could very well hit the mark.
In other words: A tick better than Todd Graham but less than the reincarnation of Frank Kush.
What we know for sure is this:
Tempting as it might be to pass judgment on the Edwards tenure on a weekly or monthly basis, full clarity won’t be available until the end of next season, at the earliest, and more likely not until the following year.
That view isn’t limited to Edwards, either. It applies to every new coach in the conference.
One could accelerate the time frame for Mario Cristobal because of the talent he inherited in Eugene and slow-play the situation for Jonathan Smith because of the mighty rebuild in Corvallis.
But for Edwards, Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin and UCLA’s Chip Kelly, let’s circle November 2020 as judgment month.
To the power rankings …