Dear Mississippi State fan base,
We must discuss the current state of the Mississippi State football program. What should the expectations be? What is the program’s current trajectory? What are we to make of the Mike Leach experience thus far?
All these questions will be discussed in this letter to the Bulldog faithful, and I’m sure everyone of you will simply decide that you agree with what is said here today. I’m sure there will be no debate over the program’s current state, trajectory or head coach. I’m sure everyone will see eye to eye after reading this and gone will be the days of overreactions and disagreement within this fan base. I’m quite sure of it. Yes.
For starters, let’s specify an important truth in regards to measuring success. And this rule applies for most things, not just football.
Everything is relative.
What do I mean? Well, relative to Vanderbilt, Mississippi State’s program looks like a bunch of world beaters. Relative to Alabama, the program looks prime to get beaten by the world. So, if we’re going to measure something, we must measure it against something else. Statements such as “Mississippi State is good’’ or “Mississippi State is bad’’ are all fine and dandy, but they’re essentially meaningless in a vacuum.
So, let’s just go ahead and get into Leach first because I know that’s what you’re all here to have a very calm and polite discourse about anyway. Let’s discuss the Leach tenure so far in relation to the state of the program when he inherited it.
To put it shortly, Leach inherited the Titanic.
Once a proud vessel in the days following Dan Mullen’s departure, Mississippi State looked ready to take the next step forward towards Southeastern Conference championship contention. The Bulldogs had what would go on to be the best defense statistically in all of the FBS during the 2018 season, which saw three Mississippi State defenders become first-round NFL draft picks. The offense featured a quarterback named Nick Fitzgerald, who would end his career in Starkville as the SEC’s all-time rushing leader at the quarterback position. The team also featured a young running back named Kylin Hill, who would go on to put up impressive numbers himself before his own leap to the NFL.
What followed was a harrowing next two seasons that saw the Bulldog program go from its all-time peak to a program threatening to become a conference bottom feeder amidst an academic scandal. It took only two seasons after the departure of Mullen for Mississippi State’s program to once again stare rock bottom in the face.
Then came the miraculous hiring of Leach (miraculous in terms of it coming out of absolutely nowhere) and his well-known Air Raid philosophy. Leach’s Air Raid offense takes more time than your typical scheme to engrain itself in a program. To be frank, the expectations for the first season should’ve been low because…
1.) It’s the Air Raid, an extremely unique system. It’s been compared to the triple option offense for no other reason than its presence on opposing coaches’ schedules as a difficult oddball to prepare for.
2.) Leach’s first season took place amongst an unprecedented season affected by COVID-19, hampering offseason opportunities to prepare, which are crucial for the Air Raid. This also meant an all-SEC conference schedule.
3.) As stated before, Leach inherited a once proud ship that struck an iceberg named Joe Moorhead and was sinking fast. Much of the leftover debris transferred out of the program just as Leach predicted it would. Leach then began building a new ship altogether, though he likely would’ve done so regardless of the state he found the old one in.
These three reasons are why four wins last season was an overachievement.
And as for the second year?
The team is consistently getting better. The win over Texas A&M is what we call a proof-of-concept game. We saw that the Air Raid can work consistently in this conference when the ball isn’t turned over. The turnovers will continue to trend down with time. This offseason needs reps, and it’s been consistently improving as more reps occur.
Yes, this team is legitimately a single digit amount of plays away from having a 5-0 record. It’s also a single digit amount of plays away from being 1-4. That’s the nature of Leach. Indeed, there is always the potential for sporadic results, games won that shouldn’t have been and games lost that shouldn’t have been.
But for the first time since the Mullen days, this program is trending in the right direction and improving. Oh, and by the way, Mississippi State is fun again. Leach ball is stress inducing, I get it, but it’s fun.
Do you guys remember the 2019 season under Moorhead? That’s about the least fun thing anyone has ever witnessed.
Mississippi State is dang fun right now and will continue to be under Leach. And slowly but shortly, the program’s stock is rising again. Take some Tums, like I said earlier this season, and enjoy the ride.
This article began fairly organized and structured at the beginning before slowly dissolving into a more rant-like experience, but heck with it.
Also, yes, it’s very possible that the Bulldogs get clobbered on Saturday. Please be sure you’re doing your part to respect our overlords this week. We only have the honor of respecting them for an entire week once a year. Cherish it.