An admirable and clever thing about Kyle Whittingham is that when the Utes win, he gives the players the credit, and when they lose, at least generally, he says what he said on Saturday, and what he's said on four of seven weekends since the start of September.
He's repeated it so often this season, it seems he now owns it and is receiving royalties whenever he hucks it out there for public consumption:
"It's a coaching issue more than anything. We need to do a better job of coaching the game."
This, of course, is total BS.
No, it's partial BS.
It's a lie â¦ a half-lie, a half-truth.
It's faux accountability, and it's useful misdirection.
It's what good coaches say when they don't have enough good players. When they start out 0-4 in conference, what are they supposed to say â¦ Our team sucks? Our players are dogs? Our quarterback is in over his head? He should be playing in the backlands of Nebraska, against Steaming Heap Baptist?
They have to keep strings and strands of hope intact for their players, so they blame themselves and say things can get better.
Yeah, Utah coaches can come up with better schemes, better approaches, especially on the offensive side. They blew it in a big way, in one specific regard and we'll get to that in a minute. But this season, it's no coincidence that the coaches have been a lot dumber against teams that are flat-out better than the Utes: USC, Washington, Arizona State and Cal.
And anybody notice? the coaches were smarter before Jordan Wynn's left wing, his one remaining healthy shoulder, was turned into pulverized meat and he was put away for the duration.
Asked whether his team can do its business with backup QB Jon Hays running the shop, Whittingham said: "We'll keep trying and keep working because he gives us the best chance to win right now. We just need to find ways and situations for him to be successful because that is our job as coaches. We need to get not just him, but our entire offense into position to have success and we need to figure that out."
Well. While we're young?
To get that done, Whittingham might have to be some kind of miracle man. It was Miracle Max, I think, who said: "You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles."
Rotten or not, the Utes are in desperate need.
They have a better chance with their figuring and their miracle-making against Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington State and Colorado. After a tough initial run, there are some big softies in that group.
Two things the Utes are finding out the hardest way this season: The level of competition, week after week, makes a huge difference in the fortunes of a college football team and an effective quarterback opens everything up.
The coaches' biggest blunder for 2011 was this not bringing in a top junior college quarterback to back up the physically vulnerable Wynn. Everyone seemed to realize that Wynn's health, after offseason surgery on his right shoulder, was the single biggest pivot point upon which the Utes' success would turn.
The fact that they didn't sure up that position by recruiting a decent JC quarterback, given the probabilities that strong reinforcement would be needed behind Wynn, is inexcusable. It's one of Whittingham's biggest mistakes since becoming Utah's head coach seven years ago. An absolute blunder. The story goes, assumptions were made about the guys already in the fold, and the coaches went after and whiffed on a couple of additions.
They're paying a steep price now. And what if the injury-prone Wynn gets hurt again next season? Tyler Shreve â¦ hello?
A program at Utah's level should have gone beyond frantically rummaging through the garbage bins at Division II Nebraska-Omaha, which was dropping football.
No big surprise, then, that Hays hasn't kept Utah's offense afloat, not against the better mid-tier Pac-12 teams. Don't even think about how bad it might have been had the Utes played Stanford and Oregon.
Good fortune they didn't and don't.
As they now open the league's junk drawer, finding among the paperclips, staples, glue-sticks and tape dispensers, opponents such as the Beavers and Bruins and Buffaloes, the Utes also find that aforementioned bit of hope. And maybe even a couple of victories.
Whittingham, then, can stop with the half-lies and half-truths, and start giving his players credit, again.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GordonMonson.