SEATTLE The new face of Husky football is a stern one. Chris Petersen doesnt have a Hallmark card personality. Hes a taciturn type.
If the late, legendary Washington crew coach Al Ulbrickson hadnt been nicknamed the Dour Dane, it couldve been a moniker for Petersen. Hes from the Don James school of football coaching, which is to say his substance farexceeds his style.
You cant resist comparing the new coach to the previous one and pondering whether Washington hired up. Steve Sarkisian has departed for USC, one of the top five college coaching jobs in the nation. But from this view, there are only two things Coach Sark clearly does better than Coach Pete: public speaking and tweeting.
In everything else the real stuff, the stuff that wins games Petersen is as good and often better. From recruiting to developing talent to strategizing, Petersen doesnt have to take a back seat to any coach in his sport.
Sark left for a top-five job. The Huskies replaced him with someone regarded as a top-five coach.
Heres the catch: You might not be able to embrace him, at least not regularly, unless Petersen tailors his approach. Youll have to settle for respecting him.
It should be all that matters.
Petersen has a little mad scientist in him, and it worked amazingly at Boise State. He possesses an introverted style with the media and public. Between Sunday and Friday, he runs the most boring program in the country. Then, on Saturday, youre treated to an impressive show of creativity, toughness and triumph.
On the surface, this is a moderate concern, only because Tyrone Willingham failed miserably using a similar approach. But Petersen is more savvy and isnt quite as rigid.
Petersen would be foolish to run his program in Seattle in the exact fashion he ran things in Boise. Hell need to be a little more open. Hell need to recognize that Husky football is treated more like a pro sport here. His every move will be scrutinized in Seattle. And now that hell be, by far, the highest-paid public employee in the state, Petersen must understand the responsibility attached.
But dont expect Coach Pete to turn into Pete Carroll.
Well, dont expect it unless were talking about results.
Just like Carroll came to the Seahawks touting a way of doing things that transcends the level of football, Petersens tactics and philosophies can translate similarly.
Petersen posted a 92-12 record at Boise State, winning an absurd 88.5 percent of his games. Its easy to dismiss Petersens gaudy record as merely the result of running a great program in a non-BCS conference. But look inside those numbers.
The Broncos were 5-2 in bowl games under Petersen, including two victories in the Fiesta Bowl. Petersens teams were 8-6 against ranked opponents, and they had a 9-3 mark against teams from power conferences. Sarkisians teams were 7-18 against ranked opponents.
Without question, theres a huge difference between playing a couple of ranked teams a season and facing elite competition for half of your schedule. Petersen must prove that he can consistently have the Huskies ready for the big game. But even if he loses twice as much at Washington, he will have returned the program to dominance.
Petersen knows all about living up to a high standard. Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins were a combined 79-21 at Boise State before Petersen, Hawkins offensive coordinator, took over. Koetter and Hawkins, both of whom went on to fail at bigger jobs, made the program a mid-major power. Petersen made the Broncos a national power.
Petersen doesnt have to do the major building at Washington, either. Sarkisian already did that. Petersen will inherit a program that has had four consecutive winning seasons. His challenge: dominate as quickly as possible.
Petersen wont charm you with small talk, but at Boise State, he built a program that charmed on the national stage. His sincere, straightforward style has always been a hit in recruiting.
And when hes in the lab doing his mad scientist thing, he always seems to concoct methods that enable his teams to be sound against all opponents.
Petersen isnt likely to lead the Pac-12 in one-liners. Thats OK.
Washington prefers Rose Bowls.