Schneider mailbag: Owning up for bad losses, taking revenge on Utah, making the NFL and the lonely life of kickers
When a coach owns a loss in front of the cameras, does he do the same in the locker room? I-5 Corridor co-host Aidan Schneider answers that and more in this week's mailbag
Aidan Schneider is the co-host of The I-5 Corridor podcast and a former All-American place kicker at Oregon. This is a free story from The I-5 Corridor. Learn more about The I-5 Corridor here and consider a subscription for access to all stories and podcasts.
Thanks to all who submitted questions for this week’s mailbag. Let’s get right to it.
After the UO men’s basketball team got blown out by BYU, coach Dana Altman said that his team wasn't prepared and it was his fault. I hear that a lot in college football, where the coach falls on the "not prepared" sword. That they've got to do a better job. Is that the same message that they're relaying to the team behind closed doors in the locker room, or do they tear into you for screwing up?
When a coach goes in front of the media and takes responsibility for not preparing their team well enough it does not necessarily mean that they think the loss is their fault. Rather, it means that they understand the buck stops with them and running a program means taking responsibility for the final result, however good or bad it might be. Coaches will often tell players that they will live with mistakes made at full speed because they can be corrected later on film. The one thing that coaches do not tolerate, however, is a lack of effort or discipline. So if the team played hard and it just wasn’t their night, the coach may fall on his sword and mean it.
Some losses are so shocking and bad that there isn’t much to say (Utah 2015 and Washington 2016 at Autzen) — the coach’s talk is short, the locker room is quiet and the staff is sent back to the drawing board. But if players don’t play with great effort and give up once the game is out of hand, the locker room is not a fun place to be and neither is practice the next week.
Sometimes when a loss is that bad there is no sense in trying to understand it or being angry about it, you just have to flush it and move on.
Yo, Aidan. Friends and some sportswriters say Oregon might just turn the tables on Utah on Friday. My question: In your experience, how could a team drubbed as badly as the Ducks were two weeks ago make up four (or was it five) touchdowns? Take away a seven to ten points for home field. Subtract the fluke punt return TD allowed by a very average Oregon special teams squad. Ducks still lose by 10 to 15. Eh?
College football is weird. The Pac-12 is even weirder. Sometimes it just isn’t your night, and when Oregon played Utah it certainly wasn’t their night. The teams atop the conference this year feel suspiciously like their records are more of a reflection of the Pac-12’s lack of competitiveness than one of sheer dominance (this includes Oregon.) This Utah team is good, but its are far from perfect. It was just last month that the Utes lost to Oregon State. The same Oregon State the Ducks racked up 500 yards of total offense and were in control from start to finish on Saturday. Utah was also far from convincing in an 11-point win against a one-win Arizona.
Is Utah a better team than Oregon? I don’t know. It’s possible.
Is Utah 31 points better than Oregon? Certainly not.
I am confident in Mario Cristobal and his staff to learn from the loss and put together a game plan that gets the job done against the Utes. In typical Pac-12 fashion I expect Oregon to avenge the playoff hope dashing loss and beat the Utes on Friday night.
Were you close with a bunch of other players or are the kickers, holders, long snappers isolated from the rest of the team ?
Being a specialist is a unique experience. With more than 100 players on a roster, there are usually only between six and twelve specialists who have about a fifth of the meetings and a tenth of the amount of practice that everyone else does. This leads to a lot of time spent hanging out in the locker room, players lounge and on various beanbag chairs throughout the facility with the other specialists. It’s not hyperbole to say that the majority of the time I spent in the Hatfield Dowlin Complex was spent shooting the shit with the specialists. Honestly, that’s when most of my favorite memories were made and if I could do it all over again and play another position — assuming I was gifted with a significant amount of additional athleticism — I wouldn’t change a thing.
What is your suggestion for a new name for the Civil War? How about the Oregon Trail Bowl??
The “Civil War” was so entrenched in the vocabulary of Oregon and Oregon State fans that it’s been a real adjustment to try to forget it. I don’t think anyone is going to come up with a name that instantly feels right. The game makes the name, not the other way around — so let’s get to work. No need to have a Washington Football team situation where we refer to it as the “Oregon Football Game” indefinitely.
Personally, I like the name “The I-5 Clash” or something along those lines (I wonder where that idea came from.) In the wise words of one Tyson Alger, “We have an opportunity here… a name lasts like 100 years and people will always be like ‘how did that name start?’ and usually it’s some old, crusty sportswriter who used it once in the tenth paragraph of one of those broadsheet newspapers.”
What determines whether or not a kicker gets an NFL tryout?
Talent, college production, luck and timing, mostly. There are only 32 kicking jobs in the NFL and no backups, so the margin for error is slim to none.
Kickers, punters and snappers are the only positions in football where you can have a wildly successful college career and not even sniff the next level. A few kickers are drafted each year, a handful more sign as undrafted free agents, and a slightly larger group than that attend minicamps on a tryout basis like I did. In the pre-draft process it is hard to know how much interest teams have in you. I knew I had success in college but that I likely wouldn’t be drafted because of my lack of long field goal attempts and my limited experience kicking off. At my pro-day, I felt like I answered the questions about my leg strength and talked to a scout from the Miami Dolphins after the workout who seemed pretty impressed. Told me he’d be in touch. Draft day came and went and my phone never rang.
It wasn’t until two days later that I received my invite to rookie minicamp with the Kansas City Chiefs. I was excited to finally be getting the opportunity I had been working towards for so long and felt like I deserved, but quickly upon arrival I was told that they wouldn’t be bringing me back regardless of performance because they were happy with Harrison Butker who was coming off a Pro Bowl rookie year (who can blame them?)
I had a great weekend and had some of the best days kicking I’d ever had, but it still wasn’t enough. Did I kick well enough to get signed if I had been invited to camp with a team open to bringing in a kicker? I think so, but I’ll never know.
— Aidan Schneider
(Top photo: Dana Altman, in his happier month. Photo/GoDucks.com)