J.R. and Henry: More off-the-field nonsense | Rock Candy

Monday, December 11, 2006

J.R. and Henry: More off-the-field nonsense

Posted on Mon, Dec 11, 2006 at 1:54 PM

What’s it going to take?

Not one week removed from a heartbreaking loss to the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship game and we’re already reading about grumblings back up on the Hill. Seems like for about the fifth consecutive year.    

Last year, after his second consecutive losing season, Nutt was summoned and told that he needed to cede offensive responsibilities to someone else. Weeks came and went and nothing happened. Message boards talked about Nutt being removed from the job permanently if a change wasn’t made. Eventually, he hired Gus Malzahn and with him came four of the best recruits in Nutt’s tenure and certainly four of the best from Arkansas, including Mitch Mustain, the best player in America.

The year before, Nutt danced around the issue of whether he was interested in the LSU job until, presumably, Frank Broyles and prominent members of the Board of Trustees told him to shut up. Nutt issued a statement soon thereafter that he wasn’t going anywhere. (It should be noted that LSU never considered Nutt a candidate.) 

Two years before, on the eve of an announced “we’re going to lose” for at least two years campaign, Nutt was allegedly boarding a plane for Nebraska when Broyles compelled him to stay.

So here we go again, but this time the off-the-field chaos centers around the upcoming release of “Year of the Dog,” a book written by Kurt Voigt which chronicles the 2005 Springdale Bulldogs football season. 

In the book (and we must disclose that we have not read a manuscript) there are supposedly some seedy comments made by young Mustain, then a high school senior. These comments have generated attention all across the State and have many people, including several journalists, speculating about its repercussions.
It appears that the comment that is getting the most attention is one that Mustain made after the Arkansas-Ole Miss game last season in Oxford. 
After a strong comeback by the Hogs and some good play by Casey Dick under center, Arkansas won the game. This win was only the third of the season. A losing season was still guaranteed. 
Yet, after beating Ole Miss, Houston Nutt went bananas. He held a damn pep rally in the Rebels’ stadium parading around singing the fight song and leading cheers. Chuck Barrett, on the sidelines for his post game interview, asked Nutt if Casey Dick checked into the play that resulted in a late-game touchdown. Nutt responded, “That was a called play, and I called it, Chuck.”
Let’s stop right there for a moment. Nutt’s comments, whether you’re Mitch Mustain, JR and Henry, or the guy on the street, were preposterous. After several weeks of concern over his mediocre and unproductive offense (and more specifically the play-calling), Nutt took the first opportunity to shine the light on himself. This was a low point for Razorback football.
Now, back to Mustain. Upon hearing said comments, Mustain responds, "Oh my God, did you hear that? Old 'H' has lost it. He has absolutely lost it. How can they let him get away with that? They ought to fire him on the spot. Of course, they'd have a better chance of getting me if they did."
A few weeks later, Mustain de-commits from Arkansas and the rest, as you know, is history.
This week, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette interviewed Nutt about the book. Nutt commented, "I've got all my focus and energy on recruiting and on Wisconsin," Nutt said. "Those [Springdale] guys did fine here. They are here in the program. I'm focused on next year's class. I'm focused on Wisconsin. I'm not worrying about that [book]"
That’s about all Nutt has said about this book. It’s a shame because if Nutt were smart he would diffuse this situation before it gets worse. Arkansas fans need to know what the future beholds.
 So Coach Nutt, if you’ll allow, here’s some PR advice from JR and Henry:
Call a press conference. Stand front and center along with Malzahn, Mustain, Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. Drape your arms around as many as you can and talk about how this is nucleus of the offense that is going to lead you back to the SEC title game in 2007. Applaud Malzahn for his sophistication; McFadden and Jones for putting the team on their back time and again; and Mustain for guiding the Hogs early, when they needed it most. Tell the media that Malzahn charts the game plan and calls the plays. Accept responsibility for the ineffective offense against LSU and Florida and for the special teams that cost the fans a real shot at the BCS. Name Mustain the starter for the Capital One Bowl and tell everyone that the march to the BCS begins in Orlando. Applaud Kurt Voigt for writing a good book about high school recruiting and put to rest any concerns that fans might have that you care what Mustain said 18 months ago. You don’t.
You need to get control of your team, Coach. Arkansas football is about much more than you or Mustain or anyone else. Remember that. Be humble, always.
And if you can’t, then perhaps its time to step aside for the good of the program. 
                                                                * * *
Darren McFadden won the Doak Walker Award last week as the nation’s best running back. He was second in the Heisman balloting, the highest finish ever for an Arkansas Razorback. Kudos to you. McFadden truly is big time.
JR and  Henry blog their sports column on Little Rocking twice a week.

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