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WWJD: Inconvenient Truth – UNLV Football Coach Tony Sanchez and Raiders Trade Rumors

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We live in a sports hyperbole. Every week, every day, every game, and every play is the end all to be all. “Every game matters” in sports that have 162 and 82 game regular-season schedules. We live in a world of “hot takes” and “if you’re first, you’re right” is all that matters to fans.

Instant success has ruined us. The expectation now is to be successful right away, no matter how the journey starts or how long it needs to take to reach the final destination.

So in this edition of “WWJD,” I am going to dive into some sports subjects, try to avoid the sports hyperbole, and tell you precisely what each situation needs and how the decision-makers should handle it.

 

UNLV Football:

At the end of last season, UNLV Athletic Director Desiree Reed-Francois stated that she would re-evaluate the football program if head coach Tony Sanchez didn’t lead the Rebels to a Bowl Game this season. As UNLV heads into this week’s game against San Diego State, the Rebels record stands at 2-5 (0-3 in conference). The Rebels are dealing with injuries, depth issues, and have to go 4-1 the rest of the way to finish 6-6 and be bowl eligible.

Photo credit- LVSportsNetwork

 

It doesn’t look promising for coach Sanchez, but it also isn’t impossible that the Rebels go 4-1 and finish 6-6 to put themselves in a position to make a bowl game.

So, since my Twitter feed blows up after every UNLV football game, win or loss, with The Rebellion telling me what UNLV is going to do with coach Sanchez’s job status, I figured it’s time for me not only to tell you what I would do but ask you what you would do?

WWJD with coach Sanchez at the end of the year?

Before I answer this question, I ask you to tell me what you would do (email answers to info@franchisesportsmedia.com)!  But I ask that you give your answers with the following stipulations if you say fire him:

  1.  Have a REALISTIC replacement in mind and consider the UNLV athletic budget.
  2.  Include how much he and his staff will make, and again consider the UNLV athletic budget.

I feel for Desiree Reed-Francois. I feel as if she is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. Should she decide to fire Sanchez, people will say she was wrong because he should be able to open Allegiant Stadium and recruit using the Fertitta Football Complex, a facility he designed. If she keeps coach Sanchez, then some will say she is going back on what some in the media interpreted as a “bowl or bust” mandate after the 2018 season. Reed-Francois released this statement on November 29th, 2018:

 

“After evaluating the UNLV football program with Acting President Marta Meana, Coach Tony Sanchez will return for a fifth year to lead the Rebels. We are looking forward to a successful 2019 football season, including bowl eligibility, continued improvement in the classroom, and as always, a positive student-athlete experience. We have invested more resources than ever into the Rebel football program and will continue exploring every avenue to enable it to be competitive.”

 

Photo Credit UNLV Athletics

What I do know to be a fact is that Reed-Francois is proud of the work coach Sanchez has done in the classroom. UNLV’s football GPA prior to coach Sanchez taking over flirted with not making the minimum apr score for bowl eligibility. In year one, it was 2.2 overall, but every year Sanchez has raised the GPA, and it’s currently at 2.8. The highest in UNLV football history.

Sanchez also raised over 30 million dollars himself for the newly opened Fertitta Football Complex; something Reed-Francois is also impressed with.

Coach Sanchez is also recruiting the “right way” and has added more athletic, dynamic, and explosive players to the Rebels football team. He did this selling them on his vision and pictures of the Fertitta Football Complex and Allegiant Stadium. Now he can show the recruits and their families that UNLV and the City of Las Vegas have invested into UNLV football and want to see a winner.

Reed-Francois also wants to see that plan executed on the field.

While UNLV football hasn’t had the type of success that a lot of schools have had on the field, the success that some fans think the team has had in the past, UNLV football is trending upward in recruits’ eyes. Those I spoke to personally believe UNLV is the type of program that is close to being very good. They are excited about the Fertitta Football Complex and playing in Allegiant Stadium. They also love the staffs’ honesty and communication with them.

I spoke to 10 former NFL and college coaches, as well as every Mountain West Conference head coach at Moutain West Media Day this summer. I asked them about the job coach Sanchez has done, and they all said the same thing: UNLV was a rebuild that would take between 5-7 years to get competitive and close to 10 years for them to be a “championship-level program.” They said that the school needs to be patient and thought that UNLV should allow him to see the rebuild through.

I will use Virginia Tech when Frank Beamer took the program over for Bill Dooly, the winningest coach in school history (at that point) in 1986, as a reference point. However, the circumstances were a little different.

Dooly had been forced to resign due to numerous NCAA violations. Beamer took over a Virginia Tech football program that had reached six bowl games to that point with Dooly leading them to three of those bowls. Due to Dooly’s violations, the NCAA punished the Hokies by limiting Virginia Tech to 85 total scholarships in 1988 and 1989, and 17 initial scholarships in 1989. The Hokies, under Beamer, went a combined 5-17 in 1987 and 1988.

Beamer’s record in his first six seasons was 24-40-2, a win percentage of .385 (conversely Sanchez’s was .333 entering 2019). After the team went 2-8-1 in 1992, athletic director Dave Braine believed in Beamer and thought he deserved more time, which was a wise decision in the grand scheme of things as Beamer eventually turned the Hokies into a national power.

When I think about the situation at UNLV as it currently stands, I also think about the financial ramifications for UNLV and the athletic department.

I was told the UNLV basketball team makes up 30% of the athletic budget, and with the lack of success in recent years, it screams that they aren’t making the type of money a lot of other division 1 schools are. It also potentially hinders other moves. Not only does Sanchez and his staffs’ salary come out of the athletic department budget, but so does new UNLV men’s basketball coach TJ Otzelberger and his staff.

You have to ask yourself this question, with no boosters helping pay any of those staff’s salaries can UNLV afford to buy out or eat the salaries of coach Sanchez and his staff for a year or two while paying a new head coach and his staff substantially more than the current staff?

I don’t think so, especially since the department’s financial situation has been very public.

Could it be possible that Reed-Francois could potentially tell Sanchez that he has to “prove it on the field in 2020,” which also is the next to the final year on him and his staff’s contracts? That would save the athletic department a lot of money and give her a year to find “her guy” to lead the Rebels in the future.

Speaking of potential head coaching candidates that fans are throwing their names out there, let’s be real, if the name doesn’t move the needle, UNLV shouldn’t hire him. No disrespect to Jay Hill, the head coach of Weber St. who has had great success in the Big Sky Conference, but he won’t get fans excited to go to Allegiant Stadium on Saturdays.

Since the fans want a name that they can get excited about, let’s talk about a few I have seen them thrown out there and see if there is a legitimate chance of it happening.

 

 

Photo Credit footballscoop.com

Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic University head coach

Desiree has a connection with Kiffin; she recommended that the Vols hire Lane for the head coaching job at the University of Tennessee after the Oakland Raiders fired him.

Kiffin would bring a big name, flair, excitement, and an excellent recruiting background to Las Vegas, but how long would he be here? There are always rumors about Kiffin looking for “the next big gig,” and he could use UNLV as his next stepping stone.

There is also the buyout UNLV would have to come up with. Kiffin signed a 10-year extension with FAU after his first season. The buyout clause is $1.5 million after the 2019 season and $1 million after the 2020 season, dropping $250,000 after each season.

While I doubt Lane leaves a comfortable situation in Boca Raton, one where he has job security, the backing of the school, and access to one of the deepest talent pools in the country, Florida, I could see him being interested in UNLV should the job come open. No school can offer the following to recruits, over 2 billion dollars invested into the football program with the Fertitta Football Complex and Allegiant Stadium opening up. Lane would use that as a recruiting tool, just like coach Sanchez is.

But I also had a very hard time seeing UNLV paying the buyout unless some boosters get involved or Lane leaving a situation where he has so much control and power.

 

Justin Fuentes, Virginia Tech head coach

Photo credit: forthewin.com

Much like Kiffin, Reed-Francois was instrumental in Justin Fuentes landing the Virginia Tech job. She was the Deputy Athletics Director to Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock and had been instrumental in helping Babcock run the department. Reed-Francois held a pivotal role during the search for former Hokie’s head football coach Frank Beamer’s replacement in 2015, where she recommended and eventually hired Fuentes.

Fuentes won 10 games in 2016, his first season as Hokies’ head coach. He signed another extension after winning nine games in 2017. He currently is on the hot seat according to various reports after a slow start this year and a disappointing 2018 season.

He also isn’t cheap. He is reportedly making $4 million a year in 2019 with an increase to $4.25million in 2020 and another increase in 2022 to $4.50 million with his salary topping off at $5 million in 2025. There is a buyout that is also quite expensive to the tune of 2019: $15 million, 2020: $12.5 million, 2021: $10 million, 2022: $7.5 million, 2023: $5 million, and finally 2024: $2 million.

Unless the Hokies decide to fire Fuentes, I don’t see any way he is even close to being on the radar for UNLV. So fans can stop throwing his name around as a potential replacement for coach Sanchez.   

“Okay, Joe, we know that it’s unrealistic to get Kiffin, Fuentes, or any other big-name coach; that’s why we like either a current FCS head coach or an FBS coordinator who is looked upon as an up-and-coming head coach.”

My response would be, “why would you want to go back to the type of coach you replaced with current head coach Tony Sanchez? How did that work out for you in the past?”

“But he didn’t have the facilities and new stadium!”

So you’re saying is Sanchez wouldn’t do just as good job or even better using those same tools, ones that he helped create?

I will entertain a couple of FBS coordinators that look to have a bright future as possible head coaches and fit what UNLV would be looking for if they went this route.

 

Photo Credit- mavinsports

Marcus Arroyo, University of Oregon offensive coordinator

The 39-year-old Arroyo is currently the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and tight ends coach at the University of Oregon. He was the former quarterback’s coach and interim play-caller during Jeff Tedford’s absence for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014 under then-head coach Lovie Smith. 

Arroyo has had coaching stints at Pierre View A&M, San Jose St., Wyoming, Cal, Southern Mississippi, and Oklahoma St.  and he played quarterback at San Jose State University from 1998 to 2001.

So far under Arroyo, through 7 games, the Ducks offense ranks 26th in total offense putting up 457 yards per game, 3200 total yards, and a total of 34 touchdowns. The Ducks passing ranks 23rd in the country averaging 283.6 yards per game, 23 touchdowns, and 1985 yards with only one interception thrown. Oregon’s rushing attack is ranked 59th overall with 173.6 yards per game, 11 touchdowns with an average of 4.78 yards per carry and 1,215 rushing yards in total.

With no head coaching experience, and making more money at Oregon as the offensive coordinator than he would as head coach at UNLV, would Arroyo leave Eugene to come to Las Vegas to take over the Rebels?

Photo Credit- footballscoop.com

 

Joe Brady, LSU passing game coordinator

Joe Brady’s a rising star, no a zenith in the coaching profession. In-fact I don’t know if I have ever seen an assistant coach who has had more of an impact on a school, ever.

He is from Florida, where he was a 4-year varsity letterman where played wide receiver. Brady earned a scholarship to William and Mary, where he played and earned a degree. He starting his coaching career there as a linebacker coach before moving on to Penn St. as a graduate assistant under James Franklin and their former offensive coordinator and current Mississippi St. head coach Joe Moorhead.

He then learned even more offense from New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton when he became an offensive assistant for the Saints before taking the job at LSU as their passing game/wide receivers coach.

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron brought in and has credited Brady for helping LSU discover the passing game turning the Tigers into a more balanced offensive attack the past two seasons after years of not being able to pass the ball. Brady has established himself quickly as an excellent recruiter and has great relationships with players, staff, and parents.

Brady signed a three-year contract in 2018 that runs through the 2021 season that paid him $400,000 a year. But earlier this year, he received a one-year extension with a raise of $50,000 that runs through 2022.

Is Brady the “pie in the sky” coaching candidate to whom UNLV could turn? Possibly, but like every other person that I mentioned in this portion of WWJD, UNLV needs to pony-up and pay. So the question is, can they and will they?

 

Now, WWJD:

Unless Reed-Francois and UNLV boosters have the money for a big-time coach, I would keep Tony Sanchez as the head coach for at least one more year. No matter how you feel about him as a coach, what he has done for the program to modernize it, give the program expectations, and put them in a position to make a huge jump in recruiting and on the field can not be overlooked, ignored or downplayed.

To expect UNLV to continue to do things as they have done for decades, which is fire a staff every 4-5 years and expect a winning program is assinine. Programs are built off of talent, a winning tradition, patience, and continuity.

Has UNLV ever had ANY of that in their football team’s history?

And I am going to be all the way real about this, Jay Hill at Weber St. or Jim McElwain at Central Michigan isn’t moving the needle, and if you think, so you must believe Clay Helton is doing an excellent job at USC. Rich Rodriguez isn’t coming (for a variety of reasons), and neither is Bob Stoops. Lane Kiffin and Justin Fuentes (MAYBE, if VaTech fires him, which is unlikely) won’t be walking the sidelines at 3333 Al Davis Way.

If you want coach Sanchez fired, tell me who do you hire?

 

Photo courtesy of KentuckyNewEra.com

Since 30% of the Athletic Department’s budget comes from the basketball program, and we all know how that has been in recent years, where is this money going to come from for a “big name” or “moving the needle” head football coach? Unless Reed-Francois has a booster or three ready to pay top-notch money for a top-notch head coach AND staff, it’s gonna be hard to grow the football program changing a coach every 3-5 years.

It’s is put up or shut up time for those who want to talk the talk, but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, are quieter than a church mouse.

Maybe sticking with coach Sanchez and showing continuity instead of every 3-5 years replacing the head coach and starting over well do the program some good, especially for a program that needs stability and is in the middle to back end of a complete rebuild.

The coaching staff needs to continue to weed out cancerous players who have a loser’s mentality and brings down the entire attitude program. This is a huge problem, and to move in the right direction, those types of people need to be gone.  

I’m not saying for fans and alum to accept a losing coach or mentality, the product on the field has to get better, and that falls squarely on coach Sanchez’s shoulders. Seeing the job he has done since taking over from the inside out gives me a unique perspective and an understanding some may not see or want to hear. The Rebels on the verge of being a very good football program and now have the tools to take that next step, and I think giving one more year to coach Sanchez is the right thing to do for the long and short term of the football program.

 

The Raiders.

With the NFL trade deadline approaching and reports coming out that the Raiders will be buyers at the trade deadline, I have a few thoughts as to what I would do if I were the general manager.

The Raiders need help at wide receiver, linebacker, and in the pass rush. This is no secret. But unless they take a chance on Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver AJ Green, there isn’t a real difference-maker at receiver that can come in right now and help. While I think Robby Anderson of the New York Jets could be a guy, the Jets need to keep weapons around Sam Darnold, so I think it’s unlikely he gets dealt.

The Atlanta Falcons are trying to move Vic Beasley and his 12.5 million dollar salary, but he hasn’t been productive all year and will be a free agent at the end of the season.

That leaves one player, who I spoke about two weeks ago on “The Q&A Raiders Podcast” as a potential guy I would deal for and sign long term. Former USC defensive tackle and current Jet Leonard Williams.

Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

While my partner on the show Your Boy Q disagreed, I think Williams would be a huge asset to the Raiders pass rush. He is a disruptive force that plays hard, fast, and violent. He also grew up a Raiders fan and has stated he wanted to be drafted by them (the team took Amari Cooper instead).

 

WWJD at the trade deadline if I were the Raiders?

I would trade a 2020 3rd, and 2021 5th round pick to the Jets for Williams and sign him to a long term deal (since he will be a free agent at the end of the year, the Raiders would be able to “franchise tag” him). You can’t always get an ascending player who is only 25 years old that has Pro Bowl potential. Williams would make the Raiders interior pass rush one of the NFL’s best when teamed with Maurice Hurst, and allow the outside rushers to be free up.

 

Joe Arrigo

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