Luke Fickell is like a single mother trying to balance working a full-time job while raising a reprobate of a child who seemingly gets himself into one mess after the other.
Except in Fickell’s case, he has 120 children.
And each and every one of those children happen to be exceptionally big, fast and strong football players.
And his job happens to be the head football coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Not to mention, the climate for such a massive undertaking couldn’t possibly be worse (knock on wood).
So to say that there’s a lot of weight on the 38-year-old’s shoulders is probably a vast understatement and gross cliché.
I don’t need to explain to you what OSU football means to Ohioans. Spend more than 20 minutes in Columbus and you’ll be classically conditioned like one of Pavlov’s dogs to say “I-O” whenever you hear an “O-H.” Football Saturdays in Columbus aren’t just something to do — it’s what you do.
I don’t need to explain, then, that fans expect the Buckeyes to compete for a National Championship every year.
Five games in and this isn’t possibly how fans, or even Fickell, envisioned his inaugural year as coach. Perhaps the team was just having a difficult time adjusting to its new leader and new faces on the depth chart.
The Michigan State game was an opportunity to turn the ship around and “silence the doubters.” Maybe a Big Ten Championship was still in reach. For a team in desperate need of a shot of confidence, it was make-it-or-break-it time.
Unfortunately for OSU, the Buckeyes broke in a loss that only worked to showcase a number of fatal weaknesses, most notably an inept offense that wasn’t able to put a single point on the board until the final 10 seconds of the game.
The boos from the fans are justified. Critique of the play calling is certainly justified. I’ll even go so far as to say that talk of Fickell being “one-and-done” is justified.
But remember, Fickell didn’t ask to be placed in this mess — he was thrown into the fire. In the last nine months or so, he went from being a linebackers coach to the head coach of a perennial BCS bowl team. Just because you’re a chef at a five-star restaurant doesn’t mean you are qualified to run the actual establishment on your own.
Let’s not be foolish. This isn’t the OSU of 2002, 2006 or even last year. This isn’t a Jim Tressel team where one loss didn’t capsize the entire season. There isn’t a Craig Krenzel, Troy Smith, or AJ Hawk on the 2011 Buckeyes’ roster.
Fickell was given the keys to a used Ferrari that at one point was the greatest in its class.
Deep, intricate scandal has tarnished what used to be a thing of beauty. This isn’t your older brother’s Ohio State, but it’s still Ohio State — it still works.
It’ll take a lot of work to get OSU football back to what it used to be, and even though Fickell is doing the best he can with what he has, maybe it’s not his destiny to be the coach who brings it back to life.