Bill Walsh on USC, Pete Carroll, Oklahoma and Stoops

After USC pasted Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl to win the National Title, Bill Walsh had a little column in the Los Angeles Times. I only remembered this because I happened to be in L.A. that week, and happened to buy a copy (I know, no one buys newspapers anymore). If you want to refresh your memory about what happened in the game, see the video below, but many of Walsh’s comments still resonate years later — and further, all of us are fans on some level.

So much for all the rhetoric that Oklahoma and that part of the country has the best football. . . . The Sooners looked good on their opening drive. But after that, it became obvious that USC was clearly a better football team in every facet of the game — from the coaching to the play-calling to the talent on the field and the confidence that they had.

The Southern Cal players just played smarter, more mature football. Oklahoma came unraveled after about 20 minutes, to the point where it wasn’t really the Oklahoma team we were looking at. The Sooners were a shadow of the team we saw this season.

I give a lot of credit to USC’s coaching staff for that. Pete Carroll is the most dynamic coach in all of football right now. He’s able to motivate men and bring them together, assemble a top coaching staff, and he has so much enthusiasm and energy. He also has incredible knowledge of the game. He’s been one of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL, and he’s got a great football mind.

When you combine Pete with what Norm Chow does as USC’s offensive coordinator, it forms the heart of the best coaching staff in college football — and probably the best in all of football.

The best coaches take care of the smallest details. For instance, the slipping and sliding of some of the Oklahoma players was probably due to the wrong cleats on that surface. That’s how the details can kill you. Oklahoma gave away points because their receivers slipped. . . .

Pete is the ultimate in a new wave of American football coaches who are actively involved with their players and heavily contribute to the strategies and tactics of the game. You can see that in his defense. The tackling of the USC defensive players collectively was a clinic for everyone in football, including the NFL. They did an incredible job. You don’t see that in the NFL. It’s just because they’re so intense, they believe and they’re willing to sacrifice. . . .

It helps a coach to have a talented quarterback, and Matt Leinart is clearly one of those. He has beautiful touch. He just throws a nice, soft, catchable ball. That’s why these guys are making such excellent catches. Joe Montana used to do that. He threw such a catchable ball that it allowed great receivers to make a play on it. . . .

I can see [Leinert] making the transition to the NFL. Make no mistake, it will be a transition. NFL defensive players are so much faster and they cover so much better. So I don’t know how tough the transition will be, but if he goes to a program with a solid, established system he’ll do fine.

He’s benefited greatly from working with Norm Chow. I was particularly impressed with the call Norm made on an early touchdown pass to Steve Smith. On the play before, the Oklahoma corner was beat and then clearly injured his shoulder. Norm saw that, and immediately called the next play right over his head for a touchdown.

We’re witnessing the evolution of offensive football. Anyone who says you have to establish the run before you can do anything is fooling themselves. They’re living in the deep dark past. It’s just not the way the game’s played now. Just look at the way the Trojans tore apart Oklahoma, with Leinart hitting receivers all over the field.

We’re never going to see that Woody Hayes-, Bo Schembechler- style of football again, that run-first mentality. The game has totally changed in a matter of eight to 10 years, and especially in the last three or four. People are playing out of the shotgun, they have mobile quarterbacks, multiple receivers, and they’re throwing the ball like crazy.

There will be at least 10 quarterbacks out of college this year who will make an NFL team. For the NFL ever to say again that they aren’t producing quarterbacks in college is just ridiculous. . . .

  • How does an East Coast guy become a West Coast USC fan?
    J/K, while I agree that the cat is out of the bag in terms of how the passing / spread game has unfolded in the last decade, but doesn’t history’s trends show us that the pendulum will once again swing back in the other direction?

    What is to be made of the dominance Alabama showed last season with their successful run game (it wasn’t JPW) and/or the emergence of contracted offenses, such as the double wing?

    I guess the (counter) point I’m trying to bring about is the rise of ‘bad spread’ teams, where everyone spreads it out, “that once was old is now new”, where the teams who revert to the classic schemes of the past (bone, power-I, veer) now become the niche offense where coordinators who don’t see these looks often enough, struggle to cope with the (uncommon) threat they pose?

  • Tom

    10 QBs in the NFL out of the ’05 draft? Let’s see how good a prediction that was.
    Projected starters (4): A. Rodgers (GB), J. Campbell (WAS), K. Orton (DEN), M. Cassel (KC)
    Projected backups (4): A. Smith (SF), D. Orlovsky (HOU), D. Anderson (CLE), R. Fitzpatrick (BUF)
    Current camp bodies, possible cuts (2): C. Frye (OAK), A. Walter (NE)
    Out of NFL (3): D. Greene (UGA, SEA), S. LeFors (UofL, CAR), A. McPherson (“FSU”, NO)
    Obviously, you need a longitudinal comparison to intelligently evaluate whether or not “10 QBs in the draft” is something true more often than not, and I don’t have time to do that right now, but I see 10 guys on that list who started at least a little. Bravo, Coach Walsh, bravo.

  • whoops – sorry, I see this is an excerpt (?) of analysis is written by Walsh for the Times

  • That was a poor matchup from the start. OU was known for having a poor secondary to defend against the pass and they were burned heavily in that game. After watching that game I’d put USC, AU, and VT as the top three teams for the season as I believe VT would have thumped OU as well.

  • James

    While USC looked great, I think it was pretty clear that they were one of the most talented college teams of all time. Great players always make coaches look good. The USC passing offense, if I recall, was very simple during that specific game. Just from looking at the highlights, USC 7-man protected for most of the big passing plays. It almost seemed like they knew they were so much better going in that they decided to reduce risk by playing it simple.

  • Matt

    Yeah, SC seemed to keep the fullback in to protect for most of the game. But there were a couple of matchups in the passing game that OU had no answer for. One was Steve Smith who got to his spots at will and made some spectacular catches and Dominique Byrd who spent most of that night running past OU’s helpless linebackers with ease and watching the ball sail over his head into the arms of the even more wide open Smith and Dwayne Jarrett

  • Charles

    I’m a west coast guy (a Cal grad, and the fact that our only loss in ’04 was to that USC team by 6 at the Colosseum and we still didn’t go to the Rose Bowl still tortures me) and see USC play frequently. I find it hard to believe that they’ve ever lost a game during the Pete Carroll era.

    They are so deep with talent (especially on defense) and get their pick of recruits. Last year, Cal was considered to have an excellent linebacking corps and their best linebacker, Zach Follett, was All Pac 10 and a Butkus semi-finalist. In the NFL draft, FOUR USC linebackers were selected before Follett. Last year, SC essentially had a pro defense. It doesn’t help that they are, in effect, LA’s pro team and have remarkable support from locals who didn’t go to USC.

    Besides the talent, it’s tough to win in the Colosseum too (I can’t believe Stanford did it two years ago). Last year, Cal lost 17-3 and had their only touchdown called back on a play where the officials didn’t even throw a flag. When you’re Pete Carroll, you can talk the officials into calling back touchdowns.

  • AERose

    “In the NFL draft, FOUR USC linebackers were selected before Follett.”

    To be fair, Follett is undersized and carries some neck injuries with him, among other reasons why he could be so fantastic at Cal but be drafted so late.

  • Charles

    To AERose:

    I agree. I’m not doubting Folletts’ draft position. I was just trying to point out USC’s depth.