For fans upset with the direction of the Arkansas football program, Jeff Long made it clear Monday at the Little Rock Touchdown Club that winning games isn’t the only goal.
Oh, he would like to win and he said repeatedly “it’s important,” but he made it clear that wasn’t all.
“Yes, winning is important,” he said. “Now contrast that if you’re a win-at-all-cost program which we’re not and I’ve said many, many times we’re not, then you don’t worry about the academics, you don’t worry about the conduct, you just win.
“And you know what? When I arrived here 10 years ago, that’s not what the leaders wanted at the time and certainly that’s certainly not what we’ve delivered.
“Yes, we want to win. Yes, it’s a priority. Yes, it eats us up from the inside that we don’t win more.”
So, apparently, for those fans that want to win the way the Razorbacks used to win, the problem starts at the top. Even above Long.
Based on what Long said Monday, the upper echelon wants Arkansas to be more like Vanderbilt than Alabama.
That’s not a knock on anybody. But apparently winning and losing football games is not as important as Long says it is. If it was, there wouldn’t be comments about not being a win-at-all-cost program.
There’s no way of knowing what Long’s expectations to the coaches are.
Is there a number of wins or is it, “do your best to get a few wins, keep ’em out of jail and make sure they go to class?”
We don’t know the answer to those questions. That’s between Long and the coaches and probably should be.
One thing is becoming clear, though: The rank-and-file fan base is not happy. Whether Long or the powers that be really care about that remains to be seen.
Naturally they’ll say they care, but those inside the athletic department and foundation have said privately for a few years the only things that really matter are “selling premium seats and ESPN.”
For Long, a former football coach, I’m sure the lack of wins and the way this program has fallen is not what he wants. He said it eats them up inside by not winning which means he and others may be in danger of an ulcer soon.
It’s only two games into the season. Like a lot of others I really, really want Bret Bielema to be wildly successful.
But I don’t think it’s going to happen. To make it really simple, Bielema’s offensive philosophy is playing 10 guys against 11 while most teams the Hogs play has 11 on 11. When your quarterback isn’t at least a threat to run, you’re handicapping yourself these days.
Pro style power offenses work when you have pro style offensive linemen and running backs, which Arkansas doesn’t appear to have many of. There have been a few guys drafted low by NFL teams, but not many are making it past a season or two.
The trend isn’t looking good and appears to be getting worse. The best Bielema team running the ball was his first one. Yes, the 2013 team that was 3-8 accounted for 58.4 percent of the offense by running.
It’s gone downhill since, falling to 53.7 percent in 2014, 42.4 percent in his best season of 2015 and to 38.3 percent in 2016.
By comparison, Bobby Petrino’s 11-win team of 2011 had 31.4 percent of the offensive yardage by running the ball. They TRIED to run the ball 46.6 percent of the time, but just weren’t that good at it.
Bielema’s teams have TRIED to run the ball progressively more and more. In 2013, it was just 56 percent of the time increasing each year to 61.2 percent.
It’s just flat not working for whatever reason. The running game has actually gotten worse each year if you look at the metrics.
There are still 10 games for it to improve.
But don’t look for any midseason firing. That’s not Long’s style. He does an “evaluation” at the end of every season.
It was the evaluation after the “almost orgasmic” win over Texas in the Texas Bowl that got him in the financial pickle he finds himself in now. The guess here is the excitement of beating a bad Longhorns team on the edge of chaos got everybody a little too pumped.
Long rolled the dice in January 2015. How they come up won’t be known for a bit longer.
But right now it looks more like snake-eyes than 7’s.