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Gobbler Country Playbook: the Wrap and Next Steps

Closing out the GC Playbook with some conclusions, and some other issues that came up over the course of the discussion. Sometimes sticking to the plan isn’t necessarily the effective thing to do.

The Willis to Keene Connection. Look for it more in 2019
John Schneider - SB Nation

This has been an interesting series to write. The intent was always to look at the decision making functions within the playbook. Some would call that game planning, and that’s true. Planning is a part of life, but plans formed in a vacuum tend to fall apart under the forces of reality. What we looked at over the series was the scope of strategic and tactical planning at a ‘mid-altitude’ range.

The old project management adage of; “first write the plan, execute the plan, know when to stop” fits here. There are variations out there, but essentially we arrive at a spot in this discussion where the unpredictable variable that always trips up folks is that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. Carl von Clausewitz was a bit more complex about the situation (von Moltke’s approach was more 20th century) that ‘friction’ in the operation of the pieces of the plan caused it to bog down and often grind and operation to a halt. Those ‘frictions’ could be major or minor. Sometimes the accumulation of many minor frictional events was worse than any single major difficulty.

That’s where we pick up American Rules Football instead of war. The same elements apply, and we saw how major and minor frictional events ground a football season to a halt. We also examined the strategic and tactical responses to those sorts of problems. Finally, in the last article asked the big question about the effectiveness of the program managers in dealing with the short term consequences of those events.

In the last article, we posed the following question:

What would you have done? (Simple choice, totally binary, here.)

  • 16% - Just maintained the program’s design and playbook, made the most of the situation but stuck to the plan. Always stick to the plan.
  • 84% - Taken stock, admitted the situation, burned the old playbook, and stood on the accelerator until the engine burned up or you won.

The overwhelming choice was not what the program actually did. The coaching staff continually came to the podium with “reasons” for continuing on with the same program angle, the same methods, and the same game plans.

It’s obvious that even if they were risking a real ‘crash and burn’, that Hokie Nation (or at least our voluntary sample of dedicated GC fans) would have greatly preferred the program refocus its tactical vision, scrap its old strategic thinking, and innovate with what it had.

To many of us, the disappointment of a 6-6 regular season followed by a Bowl game that we should have, and could have won, was not bitter it was more like blah… It was like going to an amusement park only to find out that the food is below average, and the rides are pedestrian, then the facility is worn and smells of garbage water.

The program just did not seem to make any real effort to talk to and engage the fan base in what was going on. It’s a different Public Relations world in the second decade of the 21st century. People expect more and BETTER communication. The ‘old’ way of stoically taking ‘it’ and saying ‘nothing’ doesn’t work anymore. This is on the coaching staff, not the PR guys. It’s the coaches who drive the bus, and public relations folks are handed whatever plate of ‘stuff’ to sell. Last season, selling the ‘stuff’ was brutal. Ticket sales (or lack thereof) have really taken a hit. It’s going to take a serious turn around on several fronts for those numbers to reverse themselves.

The 2018 season, the coaches needed to make much better tactical adjustments, but it also needed to be more open an honest with the fan base (its customers… its audience… its revenue stream – to be mercenary about it).

Taking stock of good things

The team is in much better physical, mental, and emotional condition this year. The training program picked up and kept some emotional flow that opened the door to some fan interest in it. Some of the more open personalities on the team were encouraged to say something and be up front. We saw Dax Hollifield on a tour of Blacksburg, Dalton Keene and Reggie Floyd motoring down to Charlotte for the ACC Kickoff.

Two frustrating Things having Zero to do with the Team

  1. UVA is not winning the Coastal. Okay? Does everyone in the media world understand that? Their team is limited, and their offense is entirely loaded on to the shoulders of Bryce Perkins. Miami has a brand new Head Coach, serious systemic program issues, and no quarterback at all. That’s not a guarantee of anything other than it should be a bold enough warning in pushing their button to heavily. Fanboys gotta fanboy I guess.
  2. There are at least three, if not four Virginia Tech players who deserved recognition for ACC preseason team honors. Oscar Bradburn received a nomination to the Ray Guy Award watch list, Ryan Willis is on the Maxwell watch list, and Rayshard Ashby is on the Nagurski watch list. Christian Darrisaw and Silas Dzansi are skilled and experienced offensive linemen who are both now more experienced and in even better condition. Reggie Floyd is going to get next level attention. The upshot is that the fanboys were out again, and Clemson has essentially swamped the ACC. So, I have one thing to say... Live it up, Tigers, what goes around comes around.

As the bulk of the poll just said: Time for the Hokies to go out and win it all.

Marshall

There were some strategic events that the program reacted to, well. The ECU cancellation was a critical bust in just about everything. It pulled the pin on the carefully constructed plan that caused all of the festering wounds to open up. It also presented us with the difficult challenge of finding an opponent to balance the season out.

The Marshall game was a master stroke. For those people who are of the impression that we “bought” a win, there is only one thing to say… WRONGO!

Marshall and ECU are both G5 level teams. Getting the Herd to Blacksburg for a 12th game wasn’t just a bowl thing, it was a pride thing. The UVA game proved that this young team could actually win. It didn’t do a ton for the offensive coaching staff, but it did prove that the offense was capable of opening it up and sustaining the momentum. It also proved that the defense was still not there; but was finally starting to gel. (On a personal note, I had to cover that game from the Press Box since there was no one else to cover it with me. I just really wanted to get some pictures. The Hokies finally looked like I think that they will this season.)

We have some serious thanks to dish out to Whit Babcock for that opportunity, and maybe… Marshall decides that we make the Tech/Marshall series a regular thing. Maybe build a Loria Trophy of some sort and share our common links. Maybe...

Personnel

This team was over-matched in 2018 because, as we have repeated, ad nauseum. The defense was eviscerated and largely made up of #2’s and 3’s on the depth chart; some of those threes had burned redshirts. The program is in so much better shape for 2019. Now, the bulk of the players have some serious game reps under their belts. They’ve had eight months of training, nutrition, and learning. What’s more is that this is the last season of the remnants of the transition period of the 2015/2016 recruiting classes. All of the remaining players have signed on to the program. They are fully committed to the way this coaching staff does things, and they are more than a bit sore at what happened last season.

We are going to start looking at the Roster components starting Next week. AND YES they will be Pod Casts! Bryan, Kathryn, and I are working it. Josh S. (Blue Lone Wolf) is expected to be back to talk it up and that series will be our launch pad.

The Best and the Worst Thing to Ever Happen to the Hokies

We aren’t the only folks to think about this nugget. The National Championship Game was both the absolute BEST thing to happen to the Hokies, and nearly the WORST.

We know the good things. Lane Stadium upgrades, Frank Beamer’s Hall of Fame Career, Virginia Tech on the Map, the Hokie Bird gets national attention, Enter Sandman… you name it. BUT!!! The reality of that team and that short era, now 20 years in the past, set some wildly optimistic expectations that blue collar, civil servant, working stiff Hokie Nation simply did not have the spare big money to support.

That team was magic. Like all fantasy canons though, magic has its downside. There is always a price to be paid when it’s employed.

Maybe it’s time for Hokie Nation, itself, to take some stock, make some adjustments and stop expecting National Championships. Maybe we should just do our absolute best to be supportive and exuberant fans. It’s sure fun if you just let these kids go out and play as hard as they can and cheer them on with all the wonderful traditions to support them.

What we should expect; however is that absolute best effort from everyone.

GO HOKIES!!!!