NC State Beat: O’Brien Must Be Held Accountable

A win is a win.

No matter how it happens, if you score more points than your opponent, you are awarded with a victory. There are no asterisks placed beside wins. Well, unless you’re UNC-Chapel Hill, of course. But that is another story, for another day.

NC State somehow snuck out of Connecticut with a win. After watching them play, I still can’t figure out how they managed it, but they did it. And that is all that matters. The Pack scored more points than UCONN, and come back to Raleigh with their first win of the season.

The Pack is back to winning, they have avenged their crushing loss to Tennessee, and everything is sunshine and rainbows in Raleigh, right?

Not even close.

You see, Tom O’Brien has been given a free pass for five years at NC State. The excuses included injuries, inexperience, lack of depth, etc. But now TOB himself has described this team as his most experienced and deepest team. Yet, the product on the field resembles that of a high school JV team with only 15 players on the roster.

What we saw on Saturday was not an experienced and deep NC State football team. What we saw was an unprepared, unmotivated, and unenthusiastic group of individuals who seemed to want to be anywhere else other than where they were.

After five years of ‘program building’, the blame starts and stops at the top, with TOB himself.

First and foremost, let’s go ahead and get this whole “he’s beat Carolina five years in a row” nonsense out of the way. I loathe the notion that beating the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill should be the definitive measuring stick for how well a program is doing. Some would be okay going 1-11 every year, as long as that one win was against the Tar Heels. How anyone can call themselves a fan of a team and only want them to win won game a year is beyond me.

Beating a rival is part of every coach’s job. The fans want a good team, but they also want to have bragging rights for a year. It is totally understandable, but it cannot be used as a measuring stick for the program. It is simply an extra incentive. And to his credit TOB has done well against the Wolfpack’s main rival.

However, Tom O’Brien finds himself in increasingly hot water for everything that his program is not doing well.

The slow start NC State is experiencing this season is nothing new. In fact, as I said last week, it has become an unwelcomed, embarrassing NC State football tradition. Coming into this season, O’Brien led State teams have an overall 14-16 record in the first six games of the season. In the final six games, the Pack is 18-12. TOB always seems to right the ship, but with the way his teams start, there is only one way to go.

Let’s assume for a moment O’Brien once again rights the ship, wins seven games, beats UNC-CH, sneaks into a bowl game by coming back from 37 down in the final game, and State fans continue to sing ‘Hail to the Chief’ wherever TOB goes.

At what point do you, as a State fan, expect more?

That time for me has come and gone. I expect TOB’s teams to at least compete for an ACC title now. No more of this limping into the postseason stuff. The Pack has been very good at that under O’Brien. The time has come for State fans to hold Tom O’Brien accountable for these slow starts that are ultimately costing NC State valuable wins.

Sure, some of you are sitting there, thinking to yourself “State is not a Florida State, Virginia Tech or Clemson. They can’t compete for ACC titles every year.” And to that I ask, “Why are you even a fan then?”

If you are willing to settle for seven and eight win seasons, year after year after year, then why are you even watching the games? Why are you spending money to go to the games? Buying t-shirts and other merchandise? If all you want is mediocrity, why not just nap every Saturday until November and wait for TOB to pull off that 37 point comeback and win that seventh game. Or, in your mind, the Super Bowl.

Seven and eight wins is mediocrity. Seven and eight wins is crap. Why even play the games? Let’s just rest the Pack and send them to the Belk Bowl every single year.

This is going to touch a major nerve, but Tom O’Brien is Herb Sendek, State fans. He never lives up to expectations, wins just enough to get into the postseason, and has the blandest team in the ACC. Face it, they are twins separated at birth. The only difference is TOB can beat UNC-CH and Herb, well, couldn’t.

I’m not throwing the towel in and saying ‘FIRE TOB’ right now. But I am saying that the seat is getting warm and that fans should be holding O’Brien more accountable than they seem to be. O’Brien could very well lead NC State to a 9 or 10 win season and not play for the ACC title. And that’s fine. He would have put State in a position to play for it, and that’s all I’m asking. But, history just doesn’t bode well for that happening.

In five years, Tom O’Brien has never won an Atlantic division game on the road. Let that sink in for a moment. A Tom O’Brien coached NC State team has never beaten a divisional opponent on the road in his time in Raleigh. How can you expect to win a division in which you can’t win a game on the road?

There are 10 games left for the Wolfpack, and a lot can happen. Trends and history can be rewritten in that amount of time. So, don’t push the panic button just yet, or throw in the towel on the season, State fans. But sincerely sit back and evaluate the product TOB puts on the field at Carter-Finley Saturday. Are you okay with mediocrity? Or are you, like me, ready to hold TOB accountable and demand results?


NC State blogger Spencer HardisonSpencer Hardison has been writing about NC State athletics for over a year for various web sites, and has been talking about and passionately pulling for the Pack since the day he was born. He lives by the idea that numbers never lie, and firmly believes that defense wins championships. Spencer is one of the more opinionated and passionate people you will ever meet. Basically, he’ll argue with a wall, if said wall doesn’t agree with him. All in all, Spencer loves to be opinionated, make bold statements, and prove to everyone that he is right and they are wrong. Oh, and Taylor Swift has written three songs about him. You can find Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerHardison.

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