With the possible exception of tailgate gluttony, sports fans' most sacred, unalienable right is second-guessing strategy.
No coach or manager is immune, witness the present World Series roasting of the St. Louis Cardinals'
, a future Hall of Famer. Lifting your closer in the ninth inning of Game 2? Failing to communicate with the bullpen in Game 5? Dude!
and Virginia football faithful can relate. Both fan bases have, and rightfully so, questioned coaching decisions this season.
Naturally, most issues arise after defeats.
Virginia Tech's 23-3 loss to
earlier this month was not pretty. The Hokies gained a meager 258 yards, failed to score a touchdown at home for the first time since 1995 and committed two turnovers.
Some fans pounced on sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas, making just his fifth college start, and pined for backup Mark Leal. But most grumbling was aimed at quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain's play calls and offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring's game plan.
A third-quarter stretch play for backup tailback Josh Oglesby on a third-and-1 from Tech's 48 was particularly weak. O'Cain even second-guessed himself, lamenting that he hadn't called more downfield passes for Thomas.
But now look. The Hokies have won three consecutive games and gained at least 470 yards in each of them. Never in
's 25 seasons as coach had Tech produced 470-plus yards in three straight games.
After throwing five interceptions in his first 107 passes, as many as
did in 315 last season, Thomas has thrown none in his last 118. Receiver Jarrett Boykin has re-emerged, and tailback David Wilson continues to run like an All-American.
Are O'Cain and Stinespring coaching better? Are the players performing better? Combination of both, undoubtedly.
Meanwhile at Virginia, coach
and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor have baffled most observers with their shuffling of quarterbacks Michael Rocco and
. But through six games, and after an upset of previously undefeated
, the Cavaliers were averaging 433.8 yards per game.
The last Virginia team to be that productive for an entire season was the 1990 squad that averaged 501.5 yards, ascended briefly to No. 1 in the polls and produced a fourth-place
finisher in quarterback Shawn Moore.
Then came Saturday's 28-14 loss to
in which London/Lazor not only botched the quarterback rotation but also abandoned the run against an opponent that was allowing an
-worst 4.7 yards per carry.
prospects along the offensive line and considerable depth at tailback, and despite inexperience at quarterback and wide receiver, the Cavaliers attempted 35 passes and 33 runs against the Wolfpack. A freshman from Hampton, Watford threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for the decisive touchdown.
London and Lazor confronted the inevitable postgame questions in far better humor than former coach
, who interpreted all such inquiries as a personal affront. Of course, spectators and keyboard jockeys are less qualified than are coaches to strategize. But that doesn't mean coaches are infallible and can't, in exchange for their considerable salaries, absorb the occasional critique.
London and Lazor get that. Both worked in the NFL, where the scrutiny is far more intense — Lazor coached under headliners
and Mike Holmgren.
Less than 24 hours after the N.C. State loss, London told reporters on his weekly Sunday teleconference that he was reworking the quarterback rotation.
Watford "playing and getting to the point where he's gotten to now, you just have to make the decision. Do you live with more of (the rookie mistakes), with adding more to his plate with everything else that he has?
"Or do you back off his role a little bit and give him an opportunity to still go in and play plays, or use him in personnel groups and things like that, knowing that you still brought him along?"
Virginia has chosen the latter, starting with Thursday night's game at
. If that doesn't work, the Friday morning quarterbacking will commence before dawn.