Brownie Points: Winning will turn around Graham's rough start - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Brownie Points: Winning will turn around Graham's rough start

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Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. Contact him at

Posted: Saturday, December 17, 2011 12:00 am

I really can't tell you if Todd Graham can coach. I'm certainly not alone in that admission, which is a big part of the problem, but here's one thing I do know:

Arizona State University just hired the first football coach in NCAA history who, if you believe him, changed jobs in order to move closer to his mother-in-law.

I wasn't surprised with Wednesday's announcement. I was floored. I can't believe Sun Devil Nation - at least those still feigning interest - went through the last few weeks' twists, turns and explosion like a Roger Corman film (June Jones was never offered the job? Really, Dr. Crow?) and the Sun Devils wound up with a guy that ESPN likes even less than Mike Leach.

It took about 45 minutes of digging to discover that the latest suitor to attempt an assault on Mt. Kush might be just 47 years old, but he's already burned more bridges than the Huns. That's not necessarily a bad thing - bad would be you have to stay at Rice or Pittsburgh because no one else wants you - but Graham is just about to hop into the big boy's sandbox and seems a bit ill-equipped for the gig.

Let's put it this way: If a recruit invited Leach, Chip Kelly, Lane Kiffin, Jim Mora Jr., Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham to dinner, who winds up sitting at the card table with the kids and dolls? I heard Todd Graham's name been called Tim Graham, Tom Graham, Anna Graham and Candy Graham in the first 24 hours. Hopefully we'll get all that straightened out before he blows town again.

(If Graham wasn't thinking about ASU until the night before, how was he able to rattle off ASU history like he worked in the marketing department? He either has a photographic memory or dabbles in Sun Devil lore as a hobby).

But let's look past the track record of Kardashian-like tenures of previous stops. Let's look past that press conference.

A little bluster and bravado isn't a bad thing after a decade-long milquetoast diet of Dirk Koetter and Dennis Erickson. Even if it's snake oil, sometimes you like to hear someone talking like that over in Tempe. You don't want to be selling an athletic program where Herb Sendek is known as "the charismatic one."

If Graham can figure out a way to mix in a little success with his smoke and mirrors, well, it could remind me how much I miss former baseball coach Pat Murphy's soliloquies every now and then.

As much of an uphill battle as this appears, I have to admit I'm happier with this hire than I was with the last one. Erickson was either going to fail miserably or embarrass the university with on-field conduct of his players, and he wound up hitting the daily double in less than five years. Graham is going to have to prove he's more than just an incredibly fast packer before Pac-12-level talent trusts him enough to start showing up in Tempe.

If he can do it, however, he does appear to have what it takes to "coach ‘em up." Going 6-6 in his first year at Pitt, given the problems in that program, aren't concerning. But the man won seven games at Rice!

Three double-digit win seasons at Tulsa brings back memories of another coach from there that made a pit stop at ASU 25 years ago on the way to "his dream job."

If Graham takes ASU to three bowls in three years and eventually wins the Rose Bowl like John Cooper did before Graham texts in his resignation, I don't know a Sun Devil fan who wouldn't sign up for that.

Quick Hitters

•Terrell Suggs couldn't get to his Twitter account fast enough after Graham's hire, tweeting that "I see ASU dropped the ball again. Former players like myself will never get involved with the program if they never hire a winner! Period! (sic)."

Former players like Suggs are part of the problem at ASU. He sounds like many Sun Devil boosters who back the program, win or tie. Now is when you're needed, Terrell. You're either a Sun Devil, or you're not. If ASU ever gets back to a BCS bowl and Suggs decides it's a perfect time to "get involved with the program," I hope they give that sideline pass to an alum that didn't have to run a 4.5 to get on the bandwagon.

Cardinals 23, Browns 10: Both starting quarterbacks are on the sidlelines with concussions, and the Big Red is in the unique position of starting John Skelton and having the best quarterback on the field. Ray Horton's defense arrived two months late, but it's fun to watch now. Arizona will be 7-7 come Monday. Say that again slowly to yourself.

By the way, the "Fire Ken Whisenhunt Club" cancelled its Christmas party.

Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at


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