Good read and I like the analogy. Well written.
Hector B. Tressel's luck with QBs runs out
There was an episode of The Twilight Zone in 1961. At the outset, we are introduced to a Mr. Hector B. Poole — played by the original Durwood from Bewitched — who is on his way in to work when he tosses a coin into a newsie's cashbox. The coin stands on its end, and stays that way. Instantly, Mr. Hector B. Poole can hear everyone's unspoken thoughts. A loan manager at a bank, Poole that day saves the outlet from a disastrous loan default when he 'hears' a respected businessman tell himself he's going to take the ostensible business loan and go gambling with it. By workday's end, Poole 'hears' his boss's plans to meet up with his young squeeze on the side, and Poole shrewdly blackmails him into giving him a big promotion. After leaving the office triumphantly, Poole tosses another coin into the same newsie's cashbox — and knocks over the coin that had been on its edge all day. Hector B. Poole can no longer read minds.
"One time in a million, a coin will land on its edge," series creator and narrator Rod Serling says in the epilogue. "But all it takes to knock it over is a vagrant breeze, a vibration or a slight blow. Hector B. Poole — a human coin, on edge for a brief time ... in The Twilight Zone."
This classic episode came to mind at some point near the end of the Troy Smith years of the Jim Tressel era at Ohio State. Maybe it was during the first half of the 2006 showdown, when Smith was as by-god good as any college quarterback I'd ever seen. Again. For the third time. I think that was when it first occurred that Tressel's two best quarterbacks to that point — Craig Krenzel and Smith — were flukes. Neither got his big chance because Tressel figured he was the best quarterback at the start of his breakthrough season. Or, in Krenzel's case, even the second best.
But this incredible string of luck for Tressel didn't end there. Right up until the past couple of months, when it came to his quarterbacks, Tressel was Hector B. Poole. He threw a coin into the quarterback cashbox in November 2001, and it stood on its side for the next 10 years. To wit:
In Tressel's first year, 2001, all Buckeye fans were over-the-moon ecstatic after the autumn press conference at which the then most-heralded HS QB in Ohio history, Justin Zwick, announced he was Columbus bound. All Tressel and OSU had to do was get through the rest of the miserable 2001 season with inconsistent, mistake-prone senior Steve Bellisari at QB, then Zwick would take over in 2002 — because, the belief went, the cupboard was empty at QB after Bellisari. And this kid Zwick was as can't-miss as they come.
Some 10 days before the 2001 Michigan game, Bellisari was caught DUI on campus and suspended for the next two games. Scott McMullen, the backup, started the penultimate regular-season game against Illinois and was terrible. Clipboard-holidng 3rd stringer, Craig Krenzel, was given a chance as Illinois was blowing out the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium. He fared a bit better. With Bellisari still suspended, Krenzel got the start the next week in Ann Arbor. We all know what happened then. Krenzel does his thing, is surprisingly efficient and accurate and avoids the big mistakes — ie, Tressel-ball — and a star is born. If Bellisari never had driven drunk, odds are Krenzel never does anything but hold a clipboard or motion in signals for the rest of his Ohio State football career.
Yet come fall 2002, many OSU fans still want the phenom Zwick to start right out of the gate, but Tressel finally goes with the junior Krenzel. We all know what happened in 2002. Krenzel plays solidly if not ever spectacularly, but is amazingly clutch at the right times, and the Bucks go 14-0 and win the national title.
Krenzel of course is QB for his senior year too in 2003, but gets outplayed by John Navarre in the big 100th Big One showdown in Ann Arbor.
Come fall 2004, Buckeye Nation anxiously awaits for the Zwick era to, at last, gloriously begin. One problem. He's terrible. He's big, lumbersome (6-4, 225), not very accurate and surprisingly weak-armed. Tressel, though, still thinks Zwick gives OSU the best chance to win in 2004. Zwick gets OSU off to a stumbling 3-3 start, including losses at Northwestern and an absolute blowout loss at night at Iowa. Buckeye Nation wolves are out, in force. Was 2002 just a one-season fluke? Is Tressel over his head? The Great God Tressel panics. With Zwick dinged up, Tressel decides to bench him come November, and installs a completely new offense late in the season, behind a new QB — a desperate gamble to do such a thing late in the year, as observers of Michigan's defense the past three seasons can attest. Tressel replaces Zwick with little-known backup QB Troy Smith, who had been only an after-thought 3-star 'athlete' recruit in Zwick's 2002 class. Smith was so much an after-thought all through 2002 and 2003 that, with no chance of playing, he would admit later he was seldom focusing on football and was always getting into trouble, and indeed was out partying with Santonio Holmes in the night-club incident the week of the 2003 Michigan game, which compelled The Great Punisher Tressel to bench Holmes, his best offensive player, for an entire series (!) in Ann Arbor.
Back to Nov 2004. In his first start, Troy Smith looks good vs MSU (what QB didn't that year), but looks terrible in a loss at Purdue the next week. Now Michigan, undefeated in conference play and 9-1 overall behind its over-achieving true-frosh QB Chad Henne, comes to Ohio State. We all know what happened next. Smith does the Denard Notre Dame 2010 thing in 2004, in 2005 and in 2006. Tressel and Ohio State grab the M-OSU series, Ohio recruiting and the entire Big Ten all by the jugular.
The coin was still on its side when, with Troy Smith finally gone, Todd Boeckman led Ohio State to the 2007 Big Ten showdown game in Ann Arbor, Carr's last game as head coach in Michigan Stadium. Boeckman plays so awfully in the first half, Tressel is scared to throw at all in the second half. But because Michigan is so inept on offense, Tressel decides he can afford to play it as conservatively as Bo or Woody with a 4-point lead in 1973 and thus sits on a 7-3 lead with nothing but conservative running plays. It works. 14-3 final.
Then the Terrelle Pryor era, come 2008. And yet three more painful Michigan losses to Ohio State.
Think of what might have happened had Bellisari not driven drunk back in Nov 2001. He'd have got the nod at QB in Ann Arbor, when Michigan was playing for the outright BIg Ten title and Sugar Bowl berth (with the Rose rented out for the BCS title game). Bellisari would have probably done what he always did — mixed good plays with terrible ones, and as likely as not UM would have won and gone to the Sugar instead of Illinois, a team UM had crushed in September. It would have been Lloyd's fourth Big Ten title in five years. And Tressel would have been lampooned for having given his unfulfilled "you'll be especially proud in Ann Arbor" speech. What's more, the pressure to start Zwick at the beginning of the 2002 season would have been immense — especially after not having ever taken the clipboard out of Craig Krenzel's hands to see what he could do in real time. And with a true-frosh at QB in 2002, let alone one as mediocre as Zwick, there's no conceivable way that OSU would have won the Big Ten in 2002, let alone gone 14-0 and won the national title.
So, was Ohio State's great run through the Troy Smith years a result of great coaching, or incredibly great fortune?
Until late last year, I'd been telling anyone who would listen for four years that Tressel had WAYYY overdrawn from the Bank of Good QB Fortune, and that a major correction just had — just had — to be around the corner soon. My friends, and I'm sure Brian, got tired of me saying it. I'd kind of forgotten about the whole thing until today. I wasn't expecting The Great Leveller to come in the form of NCAA rules-breaking shenanigans by Tressel to protect his — tada!!!!! — star QB, Terrelle Pryor. But that's how it went down. It all evens out in the end, friends.
Today, the coin finally fell over.
Hector B. Tressel — a human coin, on edge for a brief time ... in The Twilight Zone.
Great analysis. I loved watching the old Twilight Zone with Serling. Thanks for the reminder.
that this fiasco isn't the quarter on edge for Fickle. After all, they may have to go with an unproven, though highly recruited, redshirt freshman quarterback if Pryor is forced out. I hope this is the beginning of a rough stretch for the bucks.
more like highly recruited true freshman QB.....
Rod Serling was a genius. And this was very, very well done.
One more thing, I've always been able to pull an obscure scene from a movie or TV and immediately draw the parallels to a current event. Great to read that you do, too. Especially from TTZ, one of my favorites. Thanks!
...we shouldn't forget that tUOOS didn't actually win the 02 title. Miami had won, green and orange fireworks had gone off and then a flag that should never have been thrown was. Video replays have confirmed. That is all.
This, by far, has been the best. Bravo!
Ahh, The Great Leveller. I always enjoy a good To Kill A Mockingbird reference.
Rips open an old wound. I remember being especially confident before the 2001 OSU game (my last game as a senior) because Bellisari's backup was playing, and if he couldn't even beat out Bellisari, well . . . never mind.
Looked like a quarter on YouTube, but wasn't sure. Steep price for a newspaper in 1961!
Well done, I enjoyed the old TV show and this Maize redux.
As disgusting as Tressel’s off-the-field behavior was, the man could coach. Even if it was just luck that put Craig Krenzel, Troy Smith, Todd Boeckman, and Terrelle Pryor into Tressel’s path (and it was probably MORE than just luck), Tressel still molded them into elite players, and surrounded them with talent at the other positions, and called the plays that won the games.
To take the most recent history, look at Terrelle Pryor’s improvement from his freshman season to last season. Of course there is raw talent there, along with buckets full of immaturity. Coaching had something to do with it.
To give another example, you mention Michigan’s ineptitude on offense in the 2007 game, but I think the Buckeye defense had something to do with it, too. Jim’s Tresselball strategy, as annoying as it was, worked. You have to give Tressel the credit for that.
Maybe it’s true that two of his star QBs began their careers when another starter faltered, but that happens in sports all the time: Lou Gehrig, famously, started his famous iron-man streak as a pinch hitter.
Tressel will go down in history as a cheater, but I wouldn’t chalk up his whole career to the fact that Bellisari got drunk.
Tressel was so much like Lloyd it wasn't funny -- only he had better players. Rely on a sound defense and special teams as much as possible, to allow you to take as few risks as possible on offense. But on game day, Tressel almost always called the 'right' game. Knew when he didn't have to take chances, but when he figured he did -- he wasn't afraid to open it up completely. His game plan for the 06 Michigan game was truly brilliant.
His dumb luck with QBs helped get the whole thing going (eg, 01-02-03), and maintain it. It's hard for any of us to remember the dynamic that was at play in late October 2004. I remember it well, when we were headed for a second straight Big Ten title and Buckeye fans were grumbling bigtime about Tressel. The gamble to go with Troy Smith was indeed a gamble. No one, even him, could have believed how well it would turn out -- otherwise why the hell did he go exclusively witih Zwick for the first two-thirds of the season.
Anyhow, your point is bang-on. And neeed to be made. Thanks.
I don't know if it was so much better players as better assistants. There haven't been any Ron Englishes coordinating the OSU D. And while their offenses have been conservative, they've shown flexibility when needed. Carr never had a QB like Troy Smith or Pryor, unless you count Jermaine Gonzales, who quickly switched positions.
Tressel certainly was a brilliant game planner and play caller. You are dead on about the 06 Game. I'll never forget the third and short or fourth and short play where the OSU offense hustled to the line as if they were going to run the quick sneak, only to have Smith drop back and find Ted Ginn embarrassingly open for the TD.
That sort of creativity wasn't unusual with Tressel. But the point about his luck with QB's is dead on. Very nice analysis of a miserable history. Krenzel was the prototypical heady overachiever. So heady, in fact, that his reaction to the Fall of Tressel is spot on. For that he'll likely be excommunicated and banished to Nashville, home of former OSU players with an IQ north of 75.
1. Not only was UM going for the 2nd straight outright big ten title but the future was looking so bright, we almost had to wear shades - a true frosh at QB and RB helping to lead the way.
2. Either you or someone mentioned in another post in this thread how similiar Carr and Tressell were but that Tressell knew when to open it up. To me this game was an excellent example of a criticism that often landed upon Carr - he waited to late to open things up. UM moved the ball right down the field the first two times they touched the ball to go up 14-7 using Hart and the short passing game. However, OSU made some adjustments and the UM offense sputtered until the 4th quarter when they were down 15-20 points and were forced to change it up.
One last thing: the real dagger in the '04 game was the punt return for a TD by Ginn. OSU was holding the UM offense in check but UM was still hanging in there. The punt return by Ginn gave OSU their first real cushion and sent Uncle Mo onto the shoulders of OSU.
A slight correction.....
The actor that portrayed Poole - Dick York - played the role of Darrin Stephens on Bewitched, not Durwood.
Otherwise, a highly entertaining and well-written diary entry.
While the character's name was Darrin, Endora repeatedly butchered his name out of spite and on several occasions referred to him as Durwood.
'What if' games like this can kill you. But you're absolutely right. Steve Bellisari not getting that DUI would have changed so much. I loved Belisari. You could always count on him to throw the ball to us. He threw it to Ian Gold. He threw it to Dwayne Patman. He threw it to Julius Curry. He threw it to Dan Rumishek. It was glorious. Bellisari ended the 10 year run of OSU QB's (Greg Fry, Bobby Hoying, Brett Powers, Stanley Jackson) throwing to Michigan defenders.
My mouth was watering the entire week leading up to the game in 2001 at the thought of Tressel eating his words. With Belisari starting, I know that would have happend. It was sickening to see the bucks win at the Big House for the first time since the Ronald Reagan administration.
I should add in regards to the 2007 game, Henne and Hart were completely banged up. Neither of them played against Minnesota 3 weeks earlier. They both hobbled their way through the win at East Lansing the following week and then could barely last half a quarter in Madison They were both pulled from the OSU game because of their injuries and eventually came back on the field only because it was their last ever game against the bucks and their last at Michigan Stadium. As we later saw against Florida, we could be dangerous once we we WERE healthy.
That was always another thing that struck me about Tressel's troops. They always seemed to be in close to perfect health whenever they faced us. I wonder if that was part of the flipped coin deal as well.
Nice read. And just to add a thought...I always viewed Tressell as a coach who did an exceptional job of identifying and capitalizing on the opposing teams weaknesses. In so many games this held true. And despite the fact that a coach should identify and try to exploit opponents' weaknesses, I found that he was superior to his peers in that part of the game. Glad Tressell is getting what has been long due on his violating ways.
I just started watching a few of the Twilight Zone episodes like Eye of the Beholder and of course the Shatner classic Nightmare at 20,000 Feet I'll have to check this one out.
Someone already mentioned how you can kill yourself thinking of all the what ifs and its true. They are infinite.
Remember that Michigan got its own bit of QB luck when Matt Gutierrez got injured and had to start Chad Henne. True, Gutierrez made it into the NFL after transferring (which is damn impressive) but I like to think Henne wouldn't have been as good without that extra two years of game experience culminating in one of the most exciting wins ever over Tebow and Florida and ending the Lloyd Carr era with pride.
Also, Tress didn't really run out of quarterback luck. Pryor is a very good college quarterback and it's Tressel's own stupidity for not reporting the violations (and why would you when you get away with lying and cheating for so many years) and resigning. Pryor didn't make him hide violations from the NCAA he just gave Tressel the opportunity to do so.
Hope to see more posts like this in the future from you
When you read such wonderfully written works it really makes you appreciate the community more and more. Thanks