Of all the questions that come up in the TNIAAM staff room, there's perhaps none that divide us more than the one hanging over the 2015 Syracuse Orange football season.
How many wins is it going to take for Scott Shafer to keep his job?
Personally, I'm not rooting for him to get fired. I like Shafer, I think he's a good guy and I think he has the potential to turn things around. But this question and discussion is undeniably the most heated amongst Orange fans right now.
Is it five? Five gets Syracuse back within striking distance of a bowl game and means we probably beat the teams we were supposed to.
Is it four? Being realistic, at least it shows some modicum of forward progress.
Is it six? Does Shafer need get SU back into a bowl game or else?
Is it three? Given the turnover and tough schedule, does Syracuse just need to tread water until new recruits arrive?
Does it depend on how you get the wins? Starting 3-1 and ending up 4-8 sounds a lot worse than if the team starts slow but upsets a ranked opponent later on.
Maybe the answer is zero. Maybe Mark Coyle has already made up his mind in either direction.
Or maybe, just maybe, the number doesn't matter anymore because of the 2016 Syracuse recruiting class.
Three-star hybrid Moe Neal committed to play for the Orange over the weekend. He'll be joined in the backfield by four-star running back Robert Washington, who is so highly-touted that his recruitment restarted the whole No. 44 discussion. They'll both be looking to three-star QB Rex Culpepper to get them the ball (once he recovers from a torn ACL). He'll be throwing to three-star WR Sadiq Palmer.
Then again, if Scott Shafer and his staff are gone after this season, so are all of they.
Recruits don't commit to schools. Not really. They commit to relationships and coaches and "family." Take that away and the idea of committing to a football program run by strangers doesn't sound anywhere near as appealing.
Remember Zach Allen? The Texas QB was all set to be Syracuse's savior. Then Doug Marrone and Nate Hackett left and Allen changed his mind, going to TCU instead. Could you blame him?
So that's the thing about trying to set a number of games that Syracuse has to win for Scott Shafer to keep his job. It's not that simple anymore. It's way more complex than that.
Or maybe it isn't? Zach Allen, that would-be savior of Syracuse football? He's still on the TCU roster but only as the kick holder. He's not even listed as a quarterback anymore. Recruiting is a crapshoot and the odds tell us that between Neal, Washington and Culpepper, at least one of them won't even be on the roster by 2018. Hell, it's not out of the realm of possibility that none of them live up to their potential and just end up taking space on the roster.
So ultimately, you're left with two ways to think about this.
1. Barring an epic disaster of a season, Scott Shafer & Co. are locked in to 2016 because Syracuse needs this recruiting class to come through.
2. Syracuse doesn't improve enough for Shafer to keep his job, you throw caution to the wind and hope for the best, knowing most or all the coveted recruits who have verbally-committed will likely go elsewhere. Potentially to our rivals (like Wake Forest or Pitt).
You probably have a gut reaction to one of those choices. If it's the second one, I'll just remind you that there is no guarantee the next guy is any better. Plus, he'll probably be starting over on all fronts.
All of this aside, I do still have a number in mind. It's four. Get to four wins (massive season-ending losing streak notwithstanding), couple that with the potential of the 2016 class, and I'm willing to roll the dice another year with these coaches. I hope for more and I want more but, as seems to be my perpetual existence as a Syracuse football fan, I'm willing to look at the big picture for comfort.
Is that the actual answer to the wins question? I have no idea. If you ask me, it's not even the right question.