Tulane’s mediocrity not the fault of Coach Johnson
We’ve seen it all before. Tulane football coach, in his third season, is off to a bad start, and already the message board buzzards are circling.
One year ago, head coach Curtis Johnson was the savior. Now, he’s the goat?
Frankly, I didn’t expect Tulane to be any better than 2 wins, 3 losses heading into the bye week.
The opener at Tulsa was a toss-up. Tulane should have beaten Southeastern, and did. And, the Wave lost to Georgia Tech and at Duke and at Rutgers.
Several things have contributed to Tulane’s 1-4 start. One of the biggest is strength of schedule. In 2013, Tulane’s strength of schedule was 98th in the Sagarin computer ratings. This season, after five weeks, it is 48th.
Special teams have been abysmal. A missed 21-yard field goal by freshman Andrew DiRocco at the end of regulation was the key play in a double-overtime loss at Tulsa. DiRocco is 1 of 5 in field goals on the season, including 0 of 2 from 20 to 29 yards. Tulane’s entire special teams unit has struggled.
In 2013, the Green Wave was plus-11 in turnover margin. This season, it is minus-3.
Last season, Johnson coached the game entirely differently. Tulane depended on the outstanding play of its defense, the place-kicking of Cairo Santos and a no-frills offense. This season, Johnson, with contract extension in hand, benched Nick Montana and started redshirt freshman Tanner Lee of Jesuit. Lee has thrown nine interceptions and has been sacked 11 times. Working behind an average (at best) offensive line, Lee suffered a shoulder injury in the loss at Rutgers.
A dip in Tulane’s defensive production should be expected. Tackles Chris Davenport and Julius Warmsley both departed after the 2013 season. Davenport gave Tulane some size at the point of attack. And Warmsley had a terrific season, finishing with six quarterbacks sacks.
Tulane’s leading sack man was nickel back Jordan Batiste, with seven. In January, he departed Tulane and enrolled at Southeastern.
So, five games into his third season, some of what’s left of a shrinking fan base have declared open season on Johnson.
Now, for some perspective. In the last 10 seasons, including the first five games of this season, Tulane’s cumulative football record is 36-89. Ten of those wins came against Football Championship Subdivision teams. So, against FBS teams, Tulane University has 26 wins in 115 starts.
You can’t blame the supposedly cavernous Superdome. You can’t blame every coach who walks through the door. The fact is, Tulane is one of the toughest jobs in college football because Tulane makes it so.
Is there a system inside the university that is set up to do everything it can to help football succeed? The record says, no.
If you think changing coaches for the 10th time in the last 40 years is the answer, you are sadly mistaken. However, at Tulane this fall, tailgating was a higher priority than winning.