A Candid Gary Pinkel Discusses The Fake Punt, The Snap Count, And DGB
Before getting into the interview we did on TheITDRoll.com Morning After on 590 The Fan KFNS, I want to provide a little “inside baseball,” as it’s called.
If you’re not interested in it and just want to read or listen to the interview, I completely understand and don’t blame you. However, I think it’ll help to provide some context on what Gary Pinkel had to say on our show.
In my 10 years of doing radio…and going back to 1998 with television…I’ve learned that there are some coaches/managers who you know what you’re going to get before you even begin the interview. Hell…before you even show up to do the interview or get on the phone.
For example, if the Cardinals won, you could ask Tony La Russa questions you could never ask if they lost. If it were a press conference setting, La Russa wouldn’t be nearly as relaxed as he would be one-on-one or in the offseason. If you got him in a one-on-one in the offseason, it could be gold. After a loss at a press conference, you were fucked.
No grey area.
Since many Missouri fans are likely reading this, I can take you back to the Quin Snyder days. You knew going in---even in a one-on-one setting---that Quin would talk…and he would give you long answers…but he’d rarely, if ever, say anything…if you know what I mean. Like a political speech.
Gary Pinkel is a different breed of cat.
And, apparently, the chance of him being even more of a different breed of cat increases when he appears on our show in St. Louis…as opposed to addressing the media in Columbia following a game or on Monday’s.
Having been one of the guys in Columbia covering Larry Smith, Norm Stewart, and Quin Snyder, I know that since those guys basically ran the town, they could get away with being a little more brief with mid-Missouri media than with the guys from Kansas City or St. Louis. I remember being jealous of that when I was a reporter at KOMU in Columbia.
But, it’s the game, and I understand how and why it’s played. A college coach not being as cordial with the local reporters in his fiefdom isn’t unique. And, the same college coach turning it on for the bigger city people or ESPN/CBS/Fox is also par for the course.
But, Pinkel can be just as rough with us as he is with the media after a game in Columbia.
The point is…we never know what we’re going to get.
I’ll be able to pick up a tell about 15 seconds into his interview, and if he’s not in the mood, we know it, and we know it’s going to be a quick segment.
But, if he is up to talking, it can be a fascinating discussion where we---as the people asking the questions---just sit back and get out of the way…but also know that when we ask questions that may have gotten us smacked around on Saturday night or Monday in Columbia…we’re going to get the actual answers today.
For the stupid career I’ve chosen, that’s the best. The only thing I miss about TV is doing those one-on-one interviews where you’re really getting some good stuff…having a conversation…not a press conference style of Q & A.
One of those interviews with Pinkel took place in the week leading up to Armageddon at Arrowhead. He had to record it after the show, and so both The Cat and Doug had bolted for television responsibilities. I didn’t know if I was going to get tight Coach Pinkel or relaxed Coach Pinkel. Either way…it was going to be one-on-one…just over the phone.
As it turned out, he was outstanding that day. Relaxed Coach Pinkel. But, also aware and appreciative of the once-in-a-lifetime event of Missouri playing Kansas for a title---somehow in football---and the actual National Championship implications.
That was a great time in the Missouri program, and as it turned out, Pinkel and I wound up b-s-ing about it in an interview that was more conversation than it was Q & A. Like I said above…that’s when, in my opinion, you get the best “stuff.”
However, to his credit, we also got great “stuff” yesterday, and it’s by no means a good time in the program.
Considering it was coming off of a really disappointing loss in one of the most anticipated games of the last 30 years, I expected Pinkel to want to do this interview, much less talk about the fake punt, the offensive line, Jarvis Jones picking up the snap count, and DGB targets about as much as he’d like to talk about the Big 12 TV contract.
But, he was on…and he was open. And, if you’re a Missouri fan, as I am and my guess is you are if you’re still reading my rambling, you will appreciate the answers. You may disagree…as I still do on some points…but at least you got the answers.
Trust me…we didn’t do anything differently than the people in Columbia Saturday night did. We just got Coach Pinkel on a day when he was ready to talk, and I think if you’re curious about some of the stuff that happened Saturday night and some of the stuff going on with the team at this point, you’ll enjoy either listening to the interview by clicking HERE…or by reading the transcript as written out by Zac Brune.
Tim: Lot of anticipation for Saturday night’s game against Georgia, Coach. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the way Tiger fans hoped or may have expected. When you think back on Saturday night, what were the things that stood out to you Coach?
Pinkel: Well, first off we played a good football team, so let’s give Georgia some credit. Just a lot of mistakes, we played very well at times. Defense overall we gave up some big plays, but overall I think we played good defense against a great offensive football team. At times offensively we looked really good, but the mistakes like the center snapping it over the quarterback’s head, bad exchange between quarterback and running back, that’s basic fundamentals, that’s coaching. Those things can’t happen, we had the ball three times inside the 30 yard line and got three points, first and 10 inside the 30 yard line and only got three points. And at the end of the game, it’s a seven point game, we can drive down and tie it up and James unfortunately threw an interception. And, the next play in your next series we go out and get the ball knocked out, you can’t beat anyone like that, the way we finished it was obviously not the right way. So, we learned these lessons and we have a big game against Arizona State this week.
Doug: You lost your left tackle early in the game too, and shuffling your offensive line is never an easy thing. How do you deal with that going forward?
Pinkel: Well, that is kind of an understatement. We’ve been shuffling for three or four weeks. Five of our top 10 offensive lineman are out right now, three of the returning starters we have are out right now, two of which we probably won’t get back. We may get Elvis back in four or five weeks. But, we adjusted in the game, we moved our center out to right tackle, moved our right tackle to left tackle, brought a red-shirt freshman center in, so we were playing with a lot of young players on that field at one time. But, for the most part they battled through and we are still going to do that, it’s difficult but we have to battle through it.
Charlie: People use the term trap game, and obviously there was so much emotion going into the game against Georgia, first SEC game at home, as a coach, do you have to guard against an emotional letdown, even though you lost and have a big game coming up, but the players were all amped up for that game and have to play another one this week?
Pinkel: Yeah I think you do and actually I think we did a good job especially with our young players in that game of trying to kick down the intensity level a bit. You want to be in an optimal level to play your best, everybody knows that, and if you are too high or too low, you don’t play well. I think we have some players that were way too high early and made a lot of mistakes and settled down after awhile. I should have done a better job of handling the football team there. In that same way, we kind of have caught a hangover effect a little bit, you have this remarkably emotional build up game and whether you win or lose it, either way you’re concerned the next week, and you need to get it up there when you need to get it up. In the league we play in, you got to do that every week, so that is one thing we have to understand, that’s just the way it is. But, is there a concern of that? Yeah. Are we talking about it here in our offices with the players? Yes we are.
Tim: A couple of follow up questions, First off, how could you have tempered or harnessed that enthusiasm with the young guys, what could you do in that capacity?
Pinkel: I think you do it through education, through discussion, through talking all week. I talk to them every day after practice, so I have a big team meeting on Thursday. I could have done more. We always evaluate ourselves, we don’t sit there point and say that it is all their fault, you have to look at yourself sometimes, and I do all the time. I could’ve done more, I could’ve talked more about not getting overly excited and more about that and to alert them to be very cautious, don’t let that happen. I touched on it, but obviously, I should’ve done more.
Tim: My other follow up, from a historical perspective, when you talk about the hangover effect from that huge week and looking ahead to next week, there are a couple of recent Missouri football historical perspectives that we can utilize and compare. I would cite Kansas in 2007, the Big 12 Championship when Missouri played so well for a month and a half, and then you didn’t play, in my opinion, the game you had been playing for those six weeks against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship…and then two years ago with the outstanding game against Oklahoma and the next week losing at Nebraska.
Pinkel: And then Texas Tech after that, we had two in a row that we didn’t get out of it. And you’re right, I’ve got to do a better job addressing that.
Doug: The media really seemed to latch on to the Sheldon Richardson comments that became a talking point all throughout the SEC, how do you deal with that kind of thing in the future? You want your kids to be able to talk and have a good time and somebody makes a comment being fun and it really blew up on him.
Pinkel: Well, you can’t talk like that. We are a first class program. Did he make a mistake? Yeah. We handled that internally with him. He went up to Mark (Richt) after the game, I had no idea he was going to do this, and apologized to him afterwards. So I think there are some lessons learned there. But we just don’t do that, and around here we kind of shut it down, but there is no question about it that people ran with it, but that is self-inflicted. And that rarely happens in our program, but if it does, we turn that into an education experience and that is a great example of one.
Charlie: Has the media attention since joining the SEC been more than you expected? How does it match up against what you were doing in the Big 12? Is it that much more? Every day? Every week? And the constant obligation to talk?
Pinkel: No, not really. I think in the season right now, they are parallel, they are about the same. If you’re in the spotlight with ESPN, you’re going to have more interviews, they are going to be coming to do features, we were featured on Gameday last week, so we had cameras in here all week. Other years we’ve had the same thing, the Oklahoma game when we were both undefeated a couple of years ago, it was the same thing. I think it is about the same. For me, the transition has been a lot more speech engagements, a lot of things transition wise for me going to the SEC. For the players, it has probably been the least adjustment, we do what we do and nothing has changed, and the good news is that most of the transition has been with the administration, with me and with our coaching staff.
Tim: I have an obligation to ask this, but with the fake punt, I heard you say after the game that if it works it is a great play, if not the coach gets criticized for it, and you’ve been around long enough to know that that is how it works. Was there anything that you saw that you can give us some perspective from what Georgia was doing that you thought you felt like that was a play that you thought would work?
Pinkel: You have to trust me that we would not run a play if we don’t think it won’t work. We work for fake field goals, fake punts every week and in fact, it was very similar to the one we had against Iowa State two years ago, almost exact same field position, exact same down and distance, and we converted it. We look for if have an advantage angle –wise, number-wise and we do not call it unless we feel very good that it will work. I’ve been a head coach for 22 years, and I bet that I’ve called about 20 of them and probably only 15 or 16 of them worked. We decided on Thursday, exactly where we do it, exactly the down and distance that we could cover in it, and exactly what part of the game we might consider doing it. And we felt very good that it would work, and we just didn’t execute it properly. If I did it all over again, we probably should’ve had the ball in the middle of the field. We were on the left hash, in front of their bench, and that certainly didn’t help. My job is to do what I think is the best thing to do, you’re rolling dice a little bit there, we understand that, and I take the responsibility for it if it doesn’t work.
Doug: What do you think about this rule if the helmet comes off, a guy has to sit out a play? I think it happened to Franklin twice
Pinkel: Yeah, isn’t that unbelievable, one was a third down call. We are making sure the helmet is fit, most of the time the snaps came undone. But, obviously someone is grabbing his helmet. He was in a melee, a scrum of players, and he gets up and his helmets off. So, somebody pulled it off, he didn’t take it off. So they have to see who took it off, but bottom line is he has to go out. Now, if they throw a foul because somebody pulled it off, the played is allowed to stay on the field. So, we turned that into the officials, they thought that someone pulled it off, but they don’t know and you couldn’t figure out who it was.
Tim: That is brutal.
Pinkel: It is brutal. NFL has the same rule though.
Doug: I guess there is nothing else you can do, you can’t get tighter fitting helmet? More chin straps? That is going to affect a game at some point where your key player has to come out.
Pinkel: We are addressing it right now. So, what we are going to do is put different kind of snaps on his helmet. So, the head might come off before the helmet…..You’re supposed to laugh at that. You’re exactly right though, in a critical game, he runs the ball and his helmet is off, we’re in trouble.
Tim: Jarvis Jones was saying he started timing out the snap count and that played a role in his ability to bust through so many times. What was your reaction to that?
Pinkel: Well, he is a great player number one, and we have a red-shirt freshman in there at center. And, with a young center, you can see his head and you could probably figure out when he is going to snap the football. We just wanted to get the ball back, there is nothing magical that we could do about that when you have a kid in there that has never played in a game like this before in his life, in that environment, and that is unfortunate that that happened, but that was not a concern of ours.
Tim: Final question for you, Dorial Green-Beckham, obviously came in with huge expectations but through two games has four catches. Of course he is a true freshman. But, I think many Missouri fans were thinking that they would see him getting more touches at this point. Your thoughts on where he is and any explanation for fans who would be concerned about that.
Pinkel: First of all, I think that is an expectation of everyone out there and that is OK. And, that is why I made it very clear to Dorial that there is no expectation level except ours. And ours is that every day you work to become a better football player. And that is all your focus is. You’re not focused on anything else. I think that we have proven that we as a player matures that we can get a ball, majority of the time, not all the time, to Jeremy Maclin, Danario Alexander, Chase Coffman, All-American receivers. And our fans will trust that we can do that as everything plays itself out.
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