While Chris Petersen has done an admirable job of putting Washington football back in order, and is well-liked by the masses, I think it’s bad form for him to hide his players when adversity strikes.
Case in point, Jake Browning.
The quarterback hasn’t been made available to the media since becoming a huge story last weekend at California—as the former Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year yanked late in the third quarter in favor a redshirt freshman with no experience under fire. Petersen’s impulsive move led directly to a 12-10 defeat.
Browning didn’t speak to reporters Saturday in Berkeley or meet with them Wednesday during the UW’s regular offensive player media session.
Now if Browning was in no mood to address the situation, that’s one thing. Yet in the handful of times I’ve been around the senior QB, he’s never shied from answering questions about his rough spots, his interceptions, his losses. He generally looks you in the eye and gives you a straight-up answer.
It’s possible that Petersen kept him away from the press because he was fearful Browning might be a little too honest in his assessment about getting replaced with a game on the line in the twilight of his Huskies career.
However, it appears that Petersen feels it’s necessary to coddle his guys, just like he did with Peyton Henry after the redshirt freshman kicker missed a potential game-winning field goal at Oregon. Henry still has never addressed that difficult moment publicly.
In the past, Washington’s championship teams, both in football and basketball, were built around guys comfortable in their own skin and willing to discuss wins as well as losses.
A prime example was the Huskies’ Sweet 16 basketball team a dozen years ago. Freshman guard Justin Dentmon missed some crucial free throws at the end of a late-season loss at Stanford. While a trainer attempted to shoo reporters away from the despondent player in the locker room, senior All-America guard Brandon Roy leaned down to the seated Denton and whispered in his ear.
The young player got to his feet and faced the media scrum. Roy basically told the younger player to deal with the unpleasant moment, that it was his obligation to address losses as well as wins, to man up. Reporters were respectful of the young player’s anguish and gently quizzed him about the moment. Roy and Dentmon later were lauded for their actions in handling a raw moment.
Petersen does a lot of things well as the Washington football coach. In fact, he spoke at length on Monday about his ill-advised decision to replace Browning with Jake Haener. Not all of his explanations made sense, but he took on the inquisition.
Yet the feeling from those who cover the team is that Petersen goes overboard in shielding his guys from their pratfalls. He babies his players when things get tough. Dealing with hardship is part of the process.
How are these guys ever going to find success if they can’t handle failure?