The drumbeat to end Scott Shafer's employment at Syracuse University is growing louder in the fanbase and not just in strange corners of Twitter. It's a topic of discussion now and an unavoidable one given that the team is now riding a five-game losing streak with the potential that we may very well not win another game.
Personally, I still think we owe it to Shafer, the players and the program to let the season play out a bit more before we rush into any kind of final decision. I'm not ready to say anything for sure either way (which means I'm not against you just because your opinion is set in stone). Last week I presented four things that are working against Scott Shafer's bid for a fourth season at the helm of the program. A lot of those issues are only more magnified now. That said, it wouldn't be fair not to consider the issues that exist working in his favor, even at 3-5 (6-14 over last two seasons).
Every Other Job Is Already Open
Frank Beamer announced Sunday that he would be retiring at the end of the season, adding Virginia Tech to an already long list of available P5 head coaching gigs.
Virginia Tech would make another P5 coaching opening. USC, South Carolina, Miami, Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota. Wow.— chris carlson (@ccarlsononSU) November 1, 2015
And that doesn't even include other jobs that could be open such as Rutgers, Virginia, Purdue, Arkansas and UCLA to name a few. Couple all of that with schools like Temple and Memphis that are probably going to lose their head coaches to better opportunities (Ed. Note - And add Hawaii to the mix, too).
What does it leave you with? A field in which it is extremely unlikely Syracuse could get the Shafer replacement it wants. Any big-time coaching prospect can find a better opportunity than SU out there. Even if there is a guy worth pursuing who will consider Syracuse, there's three or four other schools he'll be choosing from as well.
The people who say "Fire Shafer right now" don't like to consider the question that follows that. "Okay, so who do you hire?" Judging by the competition this off-season, the Orange would be lucky to get the table scraps. It's be getting rid of an established guy for another roll of the dice. I'm pretty sure Syracuse fans are in no mood to roll the dice yet again.
Besides, remember what happened the last time a new athletic director moved too quickly to remake the program in his image without thinking everything through?
The Good Guy Discount
In How To Grow An Orange, I wrote about how Greg Robinson was the kind of guy you'd want to be your uncle. He's approachable, he's into sports, he seems genuine and he's just really, really nice. But nice doesn't win football games. Not by itself.
That said, being a good person is not something that should be discounted wholesale. Part of the reason Lane Kiffin got fired the way he did was because he's a jerk and nobody likes to keep a jerk around any longer than you have to. If they're winning, we'll tolerate it. If they're losing...get out of here, jerk.
By all accounts, Scott Shafer is a nice guy. As Tim Green said, you won't find anyone who will say anything but nice things about him as a person. He commands the respect of his peers. His players love him so much that's part of the reason he took over the program.
Academically, Syracuse Football is doing gangbusters. The number of off-field incidents involving Orange players has dwindled to almost nothing, which is a minor miracle in this age of social media.
Look, I'll be the first person to tell you that winning football games is ultimately what matters and that a lot of Orange fans would gladly put up with some off-field incidents if it meant we were winning nine games a year. But when it comes to taking a chance on one more season with a coach whose treading water, Shafer is the kind of person you want to take a chance with.
The Future Is, In Fact, Bright
The biggest argument Shafer defenders have presented is that the 2015 Syracuse Football team is relying on young talent and if you just stick with it, that talent is going to blow up next year and the year after that. If you let Shafer ride out the rebuilding process, including bringing in the talented recruits yet to arrive, he'll lead us all to the glory land in a year or two.
There's some merit here. First and foremost, Eric Dungey has superstar written all over him. If he can stay healthy, he's on the fastback to being the best Syracuse quarterback since Donovan McNabb. He's surrounded in the backfield by talented young players such as Jordan Fredericks, Dontae Strickland and Brisly Estime. On the other side of the ball you've got guys like Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett who are just getting started. Assuming Rex Culpepper, Moe Neal and the rest of the Class of 2016 are added to the mix, you have a recipe for what could be a very successful run for SU Football.
Of course, if you fire Shafer, most of that recruiting class goes away. You risk losing some of the current players to transferring since they came here to play for Shafer, Tim Lester and Chuck Bullough. You bring in a new coach with a new system starting over yet again and resetting the rebuild.
Everything in football is unknown. Eric Dungey could be medically-disqualified by this time next year and Moe Neal could end up faxing his LOI to someone else. What happens in 2016 is 100% unknown. But the potential is there for it to be the year the Scott Shafer really comes into its own.