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No Lamar, No Problem?

By Zach McCrite

screen-shot-2018-08-20-at-3-40-43-amLIFE IS ALL ABOUT expectations.

We all have expectations about certain aspects in our lives. Whether it be who we marry (shout-out to all the ladies and gents checking out this sportsy column in the midst of this wedding issue), how much money we make, how good we expect to be at a certain trade, etc.

For instance – and I don’t know if this is the smartest way to go – when I tell other people what they should expect out of me when I write these columns or when I do a segment on the radio, I tell them to expect very little.

It’s not that I’m not confident in my abilities. Most of the time, I am (and some people think I’m a little too confident sometimes). It’s just that when I keep expectations low, I end up pleasing more people than I would have had I come in with a bunch of bravado about my column or radio appearance.

In other words: underpromise and overdeliver.

This is a practice used in many places. But it’s seemingly never used in our sports.

Take Bobby Petrino, for example. The head coach of the Louisville Cardinals seems as confident in his 2018 football squad as a TV weatherman is excited when tornado warnings hit his viewing area.

“I expect us to be better,” Petrino told WDRB.com.

Wait. What?

Bobby, on offense, you just lost your Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. You remember Lamar Jackson – the QB you could only help muster one (one!) top-25 finish in his three years on the field?

“I expect us to be more balanced, the ability to get more guys involved, particularly in the running game,” Petrino continued. “I really like our receiving corps coming back. I really think it’s one of the strongest corps coming back.”

Alrighty then. Fair enough.

Truly, I admire his confidence. That’s certainly what you’d like from your head coach every season, and I truly do believe Petrino when he says these things. He likes his team.

But, I’m not sure it’s the right public relations move for this season.

If Petrino expects his team, especially his offense, to be better than last year while Lamar Jackson roams in and out of the lineup as a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens, you would then have to believe that the expectation he is setting is, at the very least, one additional win to last year’s 8-win regular season total – so, 9 wins in 2018.

What is there to gain from such public confidence? What is there to gain from keeping the expectation level high. Let’s investigate.

MEETING OR EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS

If Louisville ends up meeting or exceeding last season’s results (that were akin to kissing your sister), that will easily include wins over teams that the Cardinals weren’t able to beat last season.

If that were to happen, it would be a tip of the cap to Petrino, his coaching staff and his players. It would also be an annoying reminder of the season that could have been in 2017 – some would call it “wasted” – when the best quarterback in program history was finishing up his final season in a college uniform before heading to the National Football League.

FAILING TO MEET EXPECTATIONS

If the Cards fail to meet these relatively-lofty expectations set by Petrino, the seat gets hotter. And, I can promise you, the seat warmer was already tested to see if it was working last year. Add the wildcard of a new athletic director who hasn’t been afraid to tear up old contracts and write new ones in the infancy stages of his tenure. Vince Tyra has done many things to make sure his fingerprints are all over this revamped image of University of Louisville Athletics.

And who is to say Tyra wouldn’t want “his guy,” whomever that may be, at the helm of Louisville football? A 2018 season that fails to meet the expectations set by Petrino might jumpstart that, especially for a coach whose base pay (almost $4 million for 2018) was less than only Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney when he signed his latest contract in 2016 and runs through 2023.

But here we are. Petrino expects “better” in 2018.

FANS ARE CATCHING THE EXPECTATION BUG

And if Petrino expects good things, so do his program’s fans, some of which are throwing out eight-, nine-, and ten-win seasons as a 2018 benchmark.

And, by gawd, those may be right.

It might be one hell of a year for the Cardinals. It won’t be the first time that Petrino has worked some magic with the right group. Count me in the group of people that have seen the “Bobby Magic” and wouldn’t be surprised if it returns.

But I’m going to need more evidence than what I got right now.

Fans with high expectations are going through the Cardinal schedule like the menu at Jeff Ruby’s – mouths watering at the victories they are sure to enjoy soon.

Even the staunchest of supporters have UofL dropping their opener to defending national champion Alabama. But, somehow, they believe that the Cards bounce back from last year’s debacles and turn 2017 losses to teams like Boston College and Wake Forest – neither of which have had a winning ACC season in seven years – into 2018 wins.

Why? Because Petrino says you’re better? Is that all it takes?

How much have you seen of new quarterback Jawon “Puma” Pass? Twenty-three career completions and a spring game?

How do you know the opponents you lost to last season will be the same or worse, from a talent and coaching standpoint, this season?

The answer to most of these questions is this: None of us fans know. All we really got are Petrino’s expectations for this bunch. And he erred in how he delivered those expectations to his fans after Lamar Jackson went to the NFL.

The correct course of action should have been to underpromise on expectations. And then overdeliver.

Because life is all about expectations.


IF LOUISVILLE ENDS UP MEETING OR EXCEEDING LAST SEASON’S RESULTS (THAT WERE AKIN TO KISSING YOUR SISTER), THAT WILL EASILY INCLUDE WINS OVER TEAMS THAT THE CARDINALS WEREN’T ABLE TO BEAT LAST SEASON.

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