Maryland fans are unquestionably already tired of hearing about the debacle that transpired last Saturday, as the Terrapins were manhandled by Bowling Green.
The Falcons were assumed to be one of Maryland’s less-challenging opponents in 2015, and a loss as crushing and perplexing as this is rather difficult to put into words. Personally, after experiencing the five stages of grief following the loss – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – I have finally come to terms with it.
Instead of harping on what changes the team should have made earlier at quarterback, or how the team should scrap their offensive playbook entirely and start from scratch, I propose to offer a unique, big-picture perspective on the situation. Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things and considering the long-term outlook for the program, the humiliating loss was in fact a step in the right direction.
Just hear me out.
Quarterback Perry Hills has looked overwhelmed in his two starts this season. While his final statistical lines are shy of abysmal, his on-field performance has been lackluster to say the least. He simply was not the quarterback to lead this team, and coach Randy Edsall himself has admitted as much by burying Hills in the depth chart under Caleb Rowe and Daxx Garman for this weekend’s matchup against South Florida. But any blame for the team’s poor performance on Saturday should not be placed solely on Hills’ shoulders. And frankly, in hearing fan reaction following the loss to Bowing Green, it seems most have already come to this conclusion, the correct conclusion, on their own: Edsall deserves the blame.
I propose that the best thing that could happen for this program, in terms of potential long-term success, is for the team to entirely implode this season and for Edsall and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley to be shown the door. A final record of, let’s say 3-9 or 2-10, would be ideal. I’m not saying they should intentionally tank this year; just that a real dumpster fire-type of season would be the best thing.
Losses like this simply should not happen in a coach’s fifth year with a team. It is entirely inexcusable. Bowling Green is not a bad team by any means, and they deserve credit for coming into College Park and mopping the floor with the Terps. However, Maryland has supposedly “improved” each year under Edsall, as Athletic Director Kevin Anderson put it when discussing the three-year contract extension the university reached this offseason with Edsall.
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While on paper this may be the case, there is more to the story. In Edsall’s first season (2011), the Terps went 2-10. It would be quite difficult to not improve upon that record in subsequent years. In 2012, Maryland finished 4-8, and were only 4-4 before linebacker Shawn Petty took over under center for the remaining four games. Maryland went 7-6 overall the last two years, making it to bowl games in each, but losing to Marshall and Stanford. Some level of progress? Sure. But it has become obvious the Terps cannot take that next step to becoming more than an average team as long as Edsall is on their sideline.
We will see occasional flashes of breakthroughs prompting hopefulness, such as taking down Big Ten foes Penn State and Iowa last season, or even defeating Miami in Edsall’s first game as Maryland’s head coach in 2011. However, the Terps always seem to fall back down to earth shortly thereafter, reminding fans that the future success assured by the university’s athletic department and coaching staff is not here just yet.
After defeating Miami in 2011, the Terps won just one game the rest of the season, finishing 2-10. After each encouraging win last season, the Terps suffered a lopsided loss in the very next game: Maryland beat Indiana in their first game as members of the Big Ten, then got destroyed by Ohio State the following week at home; the Terps defeated the Iowa, then got waxed by Wisconsin on the road; Maryland took down Penn State in dramatic fashion in Happy Valley, then lost handedly at home to Michigan State. Sure, these losses came at the hands of some of the Big Ten’s elite. But isn’t that the status Maryland aspires to achieve themselves sooner rather than later? Under Edsall, this feat seems to have become entirely unattainable.
Edsall has proven himself an effective recruiter, as the Terps nabbed four-star commits this offseason like quarterback Dwayne Haskins and receiver Tino Ellis. While these are unquestionably fantastic additions for Maryland in 2016, these kids cannot be viewed as the saviors to a withering football program gasping for air. It starts and ends with the head coach. Maryland has had talent before under Edsall. Maryland currently has talent, and a good amount of it. However, what transpires between the sidelines on Saturdays is what matters.
Of course, an implosion of this sort could have potential negative residual effects, such as Haskins and/or Ellis deciding to avoid a sinking ship and decommitting. Personally, I do not believe this scenario would in fact play out, as I think their desire to stay close to home and to play together outweighs their devotion to Edsall and his coaching staff.
Continued mediocrity is unacceptable for a program that should be taking significant strides to progress each year. Excuses and a proposed façade of “improvement” will only prolong the mediocrity. Maryland is an unsatisfactory 21-31 overall under Edsall, and Maryland has yet to defeat a top-25 opponent (0-10) when faced with the challenge since his hiring. The Terps will continue to be nothing more than mediocre under Randy Edsall.
A crushing non-conference loss to an opponent from the Mid-American Conference would appear to be a step in the wrong direction. But it is quite possibly a step in the right one.