Fitz: “We’re Not Very Good Right Now”

Fitz discouraged at SYR '12

Head games? Maybe. Brutal honesty? Perhaps. Combination of all of the above? Likely.

It’s Tuesday of game week and thanks to the below video from PurpleWildcats.com, you can watch for yourself as Fitz blasts the play of the 2-0 ‘Cats, even taking on the defense after perhaps their best collective showing in two seasons. Earlier today both of Chicago’s major sports sections ran with the following theme – Venric Mark is the only guy who Fitz is saying is playing at a championship level and the rest of the team is getting called out.

Neil Hayes, the new ‘Cats beat writer in 2012 for the Chicago Sun-Times bought the “brutally honest” approach. He quoted Fitz from Monday’s presser as saying
‘‘We obviously didn’t bring our big boy pads in some areas on Saturday. ‘‘We’ve got a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball.’’

Hayes himself offered this perspective:

This wasn’t just another example of a coach playing mind games. With Boston College, South Dakota, Indiana and Penn State ahead, and with Big Ten teams dropping nonconference games left and right, Northwestern could position itself for a memorable season. For that to happen, however, across-the-board improvements must be made.

Meanwhile, Teddy Greenstein cranked out yet another glowing piece on Venric Mark, but also was sure to include the surprising tact by Fitz. Greenstein pointed out the question many of us wondered - “So NU’s defense finally performs well, holding Vandy tailback Zac Stacy to 36 yards on 13 carries, and Fitzgerald rips into the unit?”. Fitz’s response, according to Teddy’s article? “I’m being honest.”

I’m inferring that Teddy G. will take the “head games” answer I posed for 200. I’ll tell you that I harped on the poor play of the WRs on Saturday night and many of you jumped on me for it citing poor passing by Kain.  Well, playing WR involves more than catching the rock, and we had a few balls that should’ve been caught, and yes, in fairness, several that were poorly thrown. However, the blocking by the WRs, especially on the screens and quick strikes was particularly poor in the first half. Fitz has taken the WR corps to task. I almost couldn’t believe this quote as it seemed out of character, but Fitz said “I reminded them that it’s a $60,000 scholarship. Catch the ball.” Whoa. All you need to do is rewatch Fitz at halftime to BTN sideline reporter (and Wildcat alum) Lisa Byington and you know he might have added a few unrepeatable adjectives around that statement in the lockerroom.

Whether or not these are motivational tactics, authentic feelings or some other coach strategy, I don’t really care. I like it when Fitz is a little more raw.  I have no problem when he hits a button, like he clearly did with Trevor Siemian’s favorite target and former high school teammate, Rashad Lawrence.  When you read this, as Neil Hayes printed:

‘‘We weren’t playing to the best of our abilities, whether it was blocking or catching the ball and making the offense go,’’ junior receiver Rashad Lawrence said. ‘‘We’ve got a lot to work on. The coach is taking shots at us. We feel like he’s calling us out, so we’re going to step up and make it happen.’’

You just get the sense, the unit will be bringing it’s “A-game” on Saturday. You get the sense Fitz has been in downplay mode on this unit since Yahoos like me have been pumping them up to opposing fan bases at every chance. I can’t WAIT to see how the WRs respond on Saturday.

VanHoose Update

Fitz is hopeful Nick VanHoose will play on Saturday, which would be a huge boost to the defense.

South Dakota Start Time

Let the tailgate great times roll. A great move by Jim Phillips and team to get the 2:30 start time for next week’s home date with South Dakota. I’m convinced it will have a 5k-7k impact on attendance.  The game will be televised by BTN.

Fitz Is The Judge

Chi Chi Ariguzo may have been Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, but he didn’t even beat out his own teammates for the NU honor of best defensive performance. That honor went to junior TE, Tyler Scott who had a pair of TFLs, a sack and a fumble inducing hit that led to our game-winning/clinching score.

 

  • nwildcat

    Glad to hear Fitz’s remarks. As happy as we are about 2-0, improvements need to be made. Halftime at the Vandy game makes this clear. Avoiding an offensive “stall” as well as a porous secondary in the BC game will go a long way to show that these young men value a 3-0 record.

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  • KP

    You left out my favorite Fitz quote via Teddy Greenstein: Fitzgerald jumped on his receivers for some drops: “I reminded them that it’s a $60,000 scholarship. Catch the ball.”

    Amen to that.

  • DT

    I’m going to agree with Hayes that Fitzgerald’s presser was more than “mind games”… First off, classy of Fitz to frame the whole session with the observation of 9/11. I agree with coach that we should indeed never forget that day and what it meant to all of us… While some might consider that perfunctory stuff, I thought he was genuine and applaud the perspecitve…
    I’ll agree with you as well, LTP… Whatever his motivation, this was refreshing to hear a decided lack of coach speak and posturing. This is a Pat Fitzgerald that showed maturity, took responsibility and was light on the bullshit quotient. I also liked his mention of Darnell Autry who was every bit as important as Fitzgerald in the rebirth of NU Football… I’d like to see Darnell around the program more and always enjoy seeing him around Ryan Field.Maybe, Jim Phillips can take a page out of the MLB marketing book and have some of the key players of the past ala Autry, Bates, Kustok and others as ambassadors of sorts, being compensated for that participation as well…. Just a thought…

    • cece

      great ideas. would love to see Bates working with the receivers.

    • vaudvillain

      I agree with DT — this season, when Fitz speaks, it sounds like he has largely dropped the coachspeak. I don’t sense the same chip on his shoulder that sometimes surfaced in the past. He has a sense of humor. He remembers to put things in a larger context. And when he takes responsibility for something, he is specific (on BTN, he referred to a changeup in practice last week that he felt led to play that wasn’t as physical as he would have liked). Overall — and I know this is early in the season — his tone is more mature. I like that. And I hope this keeps our guys focused so that we play as hard as we can every single week and take advantage of a year when the conference as a whole looks startlingly mediocre.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roy.lamberton Roy Lamberton

    RW used to make comments like that – remember the famous “that wasn’t us out there” comment.

    And it is a really good thing that NU is starting to get the later games. It shows that the scheduling guys at the networks are starting to realize just how good “Chicago’s Big 10 Team” really is. We just have to keep winning.

  • GreenLantern411

    I forgot what the W.I.N. on the NU gear this year stands for, and as I wore my new jersey on Saturday I had several people ask me. Little help?

    • cece

      what’s important now and there might be other things.

  • Scooter

    Yes, I love this. Hayes is totally right that the opportunity is there for something special this year, but we didn’t play like a B1G championship level team against Vandy. We played like a good team that will get offended when we’re left out of the BCS picture because we aren’t a traditional power, not a team that’s gonna earn our way into the BCS with a win over MSU.

    Honestly, I’d be ecstatic for a 9-3 season out of this team, since I’m going into it with such low expectations, but the chance is there for it to be a special year and the goal is not to be consistently above average. It’s to be in competition for a B1G title every year, win it every few years, and win us a Rose Bowl (or several).

    9-3 or so this year, sets us up well for 2013 with so much youth on the team, but why not win now? We only looked good last weekend by Northwestern standards, and in a down year (this year), B1G standards. Fitz was right to raise the bar. I want to look good by national standards, and this team has work to do to get there. But for possibly the first time in Fitz’s tenure as a coach, the opportunity is open. Let’s make the most of it.

  • wcgrad

    I like Fitz’s honesty. I don’t think he overdoes the chastising with the players to the point that they are compulsively afraid of making mistakes. But they do know that they will be held accountable for their play. It sounded like Rashad Lawrence really struggled on Saturday, so perhaps being called out by his coaches (even if not individually) a bit is warranted.

    This is speculation on my part, but it seems Fitz is very adept at forming relationships with his players and recruits. He’s not their “best buddy” and he’s not their “dad” either. It seems he really has a good sense of how much (and when) to offer the carrot and conversely when to apply the stick. I can’t point to anything specific for this, but I can’t discount this impression.

  • Chasmo

    I vote for “head games.”
    Fitz was very positive after struggling at Syracuse and now he is very negative after a good performance vs. Vandy. Last week the Cats needed confidence. This week they need to be humble.
    As documented by ESPN’s Big Ten Blog, the Cats have had a tendency to tank against inferior teams in Fitz’s tenure after they started the season well.
    Fitz is ripping into his team in order to get it focused to avoid another bad loss.

West Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Nebraska4000
Minnesota3100
Iowa3100
Illinois3100
Wisconsin2100
Purdue2200
Northwestern 1200

East Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Penn State4010
Maryland3100
Ohio State2100
Indiana2100
Michigan State2100
Michigan2200
Rutgers3101