It's too soon to rule on Temple's Matt Rhule
The other day, one of the more ardent Owls football fans, a guy you would respect for his knowledge and decades of Temple passion, contacted me - after Temple had lost to Fordham to drop to 0-3 - with a reminder that both of us thought there were better candidates than Matt Rhule to be Temple's current coach.
Let's get this out of the way: I admire longtime Temple football fans. For one, they've seen things the rest of us haven't.
They've also seen the occasional good game the rest of us didn't watch because we didn't bother getting to the Linc or the Vet or Franklin Field or wherever the Owls were calling home.
Back to the coaching search. My list had two names on it: Dave Clawson at Bowling Green and Mike MacIntyre, then at San Jose State. A great list - just not a workable one. MacIntyre, a former Owls assistant, did such a good job in San Jose that Colorado hired him last winter while Temple was looking for its coach.
Somebody close to Clawson told me last winter that Clawson knew he had a good team at Bowling Green this year, and that his best shot to get a big-time job, maybe a Big Ten job, was by staying put. Temple could have hired Clawson long ago, instead of Al Golden, but not last winter.
Like Rhule, neither Golden nor his successor, Steve Addazio, had been a college head coach when he got the job. It was nice to think that recent success had elevated Temple to a point where head coaches with decent jobs would consider coming to North Broad Street.
In fact, Rhule was the most qualified candidate to succeed who actually wanted the job. He's 0-3, and some Temple diehards are down on him.
Going in, Temple wasn't supposed to win more than three or four games this season. The Owls were picked next to last in the American Athletic Conference. Those that had Temple in bowl contention - they had to win virtually all the games they were capable of winning. Wasn't going to happen.
Golden got the train turned in the right direction at Temple and is doing the same at Miami, but he actually didn't set the world on fire here. Under Golden, the Owls never beat a Mid-American Conference team that finished over .500 in the league. He lost some games the Owls could have won and never pulled off what you'd call a stunning upset. He also was 1-11 his first season at Temple.
But Golden got Temple bowl-eligible before he left for Miami and the big time. He earned his money. He put down a good foundation. One bowl appearance got him the Miami job.
Addazio was smart enough not to make a lot of changes his first year, since he had a veteran offensive line and a running back bound for NFL playing time. The Owls went back to a bowl in 2011 and won it.
I'd argue Addazio's 4-7 second season probably was about what Golden would have done, given the talent. It was telling that Boston College didn't hold 4-7 at Temple against Addazio.
(I also will argue that Temple fans who blame Addazio's recruiting for Temple's current troubles are into revisionist history. Most current veterans were recruited by Golden, and Rhule was a big part of that recruiting.)
Rhule obviously shouldn't be judged on three games. I didn't see the Fordham game, but was at the Notre Dame opener and the Houston home opener, and the coaches were not overmatched in South Bend, Ind., and held their own despite losing to Houston.
Of course, Fordham was the game Temple was supposed to win, so an extra mark goes against the coaches for that one.
I'll admit to rooting for Rhule in this sense. He seems to be a real human being, a good man, and Division I college football coaching isn't 100 percent populated by such men. He's also a smart man who knows the game and how to communicate it. So we'll see where this goes from here.
The Owls already have used three quarterbacks and three kickers to go with their three losses. The defense couldn't stop Fordham with the game on the line. The diehards aren't happy, and the truth is, the school needs more people unhappy with 0-3 and the new man in charge, more people who aren't interested in rational discourse, with me telling them to calm down. That is the real Owls dilemma, the perennial one.
Contact Mike Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jensenoffcampus.