September 04, 2009
This time yesterday, I think Oregon would have been thrilled to know LeGarrette Blount would wind up as the most sought-after name in America following a nationally televised debut. Instead, following their star back's decision to turn an unsuspecting Byron Hout into a punching bag and then attempt to singlehandedly reenact the Ron Artest/Stephen Jackson fan outreach program against some Boise hecklers has left the Ducks in full-fledged bunker mode:
The Ducks running back should be arrested and charged with assault today for slugging Hout, who wasn't even looking. Also, Blount should be served up by first-year head coach Chip Kelly as a reminder of everything the program should never become.
It was cheap. It was embarrassing. It was disgusting.
And that's from the Duck-friendly folks in Portland; nationally, Blount comes in for even harsher criticism, which pretty much guarantees a significant suspension, if he remains on the team at all following a string of misdeeds and some ill-fated trash-talk coming into the game.
For the record, Blount went in front of the media in the locker room and apologized straightaway for "los[ing] my head" on the heels of the worst on-field performance of his career. He vowed to "go back home and fix all the things we did wrong" with the team. The school (not Kelly or ex-coach/athletic director Mike Bellotti, because the altercation happened after the game) will decide on a punishment sometime in the next few days.
From Oregon's perspective, though, the most disturbing aspect of Blount's fury is not just the PR hit or the potential loss of the team's best running back -- it was that it sort of fit with the general theme of the night: At no point did the Ducks look prepared, composed or apt to make the right decision about anything. Kelly's head-coaching debut was an utter disaster on the field, and from the sound of it, off the field, too:
Kelly was disrespected multiple times on the Ducks sideline during the game. Players scoffed in his face. Another shouted at him. Bellotti undermined him, too, by walking up in front of Kelly's players to offer the new guy input in the second quarter. And so we're learning calling the plays is one thing, and leading the program is another.
Yes, and Kelly's first foray into the latter category goes down as an unmitigated FAIL. Boise State defensive lineman Billy Winn came right out with it after the game: "Something like that shows you what they're being coached. If they were coached better than that he wouldn't have thrown that punch."
Frustrated tantrums and open disrespect on the sideline is the kind of stuff you might expect from a team at the tail end of a disastrous season under a lame duck coach on his last legs, not a top-20 program almost universally regarded as an up-and-coming power in its new boss's first time out. Kelly seems to be on the verge of losing the team before he ever really had it. The resolution to the Blount Affair and the reaction of the team over the rest of the month against Purdue, Utah and California -- all in the usually friendlier confines of Eugene -- is going to set the tone for the rest of the season, and maybe for the rest of Kelly's tenure. It's hard to imagine how Thursday night could have possibly gone more badly for him or the program.