Has everyone been keeping up with the recent Mike Leach Madness?
Geez, a guy gets to double-digit wins one time and his mouth turns into a news making megaphone.
Who knows, maybe Mike Leach has always been like this; but like his beloved pirates who are all the rage in the news right now, stories of Mike Leach’s megalomaniacal attitude and controversial comments have been quite plentiful this offseason.
First, there was the tense period of contract negotiations between Mike Leach and Texas Tech after the Red Raiders won 11 games in 2008. Ultimately, despite an unnecessary pissing match between Leach and the school, they agreed on a 5-year extension to keep Leach in Lubbock through 2013.
Then, during this weekend’s NFL draft, Mike Leach had some choice words for Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini. After Tony Grossi of the Plain-Dealer reported that the Browns had been turned off by Michael Crabtree’s purported “diva attitude” – not citing Mangini as a source or with any direct quotes, mind you – Leach had this to say (courtesy of our friends at Shaver Sports, via the Sporting Blog):
â€œCrabtree as a receiver has been more successful than that guy has been as a coach. … I think he took it upon himself to figure that in a few minutes he had all the expertise on the subject of Michael Crabtree that he needed. And so weâ€™ll see how those non-divas up there in Cleveland do this year.”
Well alrighty then.
I know that a coach has to, and should, stick up for his players. However, it seems to me that there just might be a more tactful way to do it, especially since Leach is basically trusting Grossi who is trusting a source – it’s not like the words came straight from Mangini’s mouth. Either way, Leach came across sounding like the kid over in the corner of the sandbox who has trouble getting along with the other kids.
And the coach sounded even more like that in the most recent report of unnecessary comments by Leach, this time concerning a player from a school in his own sandbox state. For whatever reason, Mike Leach decided to take what most people are interpreting as veiled shots at former Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, who by all account is a nice, upstanding young man – albeit one who never totally lives up to his high school hype.
I am sure that a major reason for Leach’s comments was the fact that McGee was drafted while Tech QB Graham Harrell was not, despite Harrell’s college production dwarfing that of McGee’s. (And in the irony of all ironies, Graham Harrell ended up signing a free agent contract with the Browns.)
“I’m happy for Stephen McGee,” Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said. “The Dallas Cowboys like him more than his coaches at A&M did.”
Now look, there is nothing in that statement that is inherently awful. However, Mike Sherman and Stephen McGee took offense to the comments. And with Leach’s track record, plus the Tech-A&M rivalry, they probably have good reason too.
With Sherman still trying to win over the Texas A&M fan base, and McGee probably feeling a bit defensive about his underwhelming college career that he hopes to turn around in the NFL, I can see how they might be taken aback by what Leach had to say. Moreover, whether what Leach said was that bad or not, why not stay focused on your program? More than anything, it just seems pretty tacky to me.
“I don’t understand Coach Leach’s comments about Stephen McGee,” Sherman said Monday. “He was named our starter until he got injured. I’ve always believed in Stephen’s character and I’ve always believed in his talent, and I always will. I see him having an outstanding NFL career.
“Coach Leach is in no position to comment about my relationship with Stephen McGee.”
For his part, Stephen McGee showed one of the reasons why so many NFL scouts were high on him as a potential second-day sleeper in the 2009 NFL Draft; he showed that he has something in abundance that Leach apparently lacks: class.
“I don’t know where that comment came from or who it was directed at,” McGee said. “But I am shocked because my time at A&M was very special to me. Obviously, I got injured, and many people think that Coach Sherman benched me. That’s just not true.
“If I had a son today and he was a college quarterback, I would send him to Coach Sherman or Coach Fran without any doubt, without any question, first and foremost.”
And Leach’s response?
“…based on all the fuss and commotion on this, I can’t help but wonder what round Coach Sherman would have drafted Stephen McGee, given the fact he was once a head coach in the NFL.”
As for an apology?
“I’m not sorry for what I said,” Leach said. “I’m sorry if they feel offended.”
After reading the quotes, too big of a deal is probably being made of this latest Leach story. Stephen McGee and Mike Sherman probably need to get their panties unbunched and not get so defensive.
The truth is, Mike Leach knows that he will always face an uphill battle staying relevant out in Lubbock with the majority of the national attention in the Big 12 being showered upon Austin and Norman, OK. And honestly, that’s one of the things that makes Leach perfect as the Texas Tech coach. He’s brash, outspoken, and has proven he can win there consistently and attract national attention to a campus that isn’t typically on the national college football radar screen.
But boy is Mike Leach acting emboldened now that he has his 11-win season, was a hot commodity for every major coaching vacancy this offseason, and now has a new contract. Or maybe he’s always been saying things like this and I’m only now paying attention because of the three aforementioned reasons have increased his profile and because his previous quote about Mangini and Crabtree pierced through the noise of this draft weekend for the Browns.
Either way, something tells me his bosses at Tech are smiling, even if they’d never say so publicly. Leach can’t be vanilla like Mack Brown is at Texas, otherwise Tech will fade right back into the third and fourth tiers of college football relevance. But if Michael Crabtree does turn out to be a diva in the NFL, we’ll have a pretty good idea of at least one example he is probably following.