Joe must go.
The genesis of that phrase—at least in a sports context—dates back more than 40 years to when Philadelphia Eagles fans organized a movement to oust head coach Joe Kuharich, who began the 1968 NFL season 0-11.
Buttons supporting the cause were sold by the thousands, anti-Kuharich signs were made, and one disgruntled fan even hired an airplane to fly over Franklin Field with a “Joe Must Go” banner attached to its tail.
In recent years, many have expressed their desire to start a similar campaign. In this case, the “Joe” in question is Joseph Vincent Paterno, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions.
This time, however, there will be no aerial display over the skies of State College, Pennsylvania, nor should there be. With two national championships and a legitimate argument for at least one more, Paterno has earned the right to leave his post at his own discretion.
But the fact remains that, with each passing year, the movement to replace the legendary coach gains a little bit more traction. There are two separate and distinct camps in the battle, but fans on both sides of the aisle can agree on what appears to be the most likely outcome:
Joe must go…on his own terms.
The resume is too impressive to ignore. With 405 wins (and counting), Paterno holds the record for most victories by a head coach in Division I-A/FBS. He is four wins away from passing former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson as the all-time winningest coach in college football history.
Of course, when you coach for 46 years, there are bound to be some losing seasons. Penn State went a combined 7-16 during 2003 and 2004, and the calls for a coaching change began in earnest.
The stubborn, Brooklyn-born Paterno responded the best way he knew how, guiding his program to a stretch of five consecutive seasons in which they won nine games or more, including four bowl victories.
His accomplishments both on and off the field simply can’t be denied. Joe Paterno isn’t merely the head coach of the Penn State football team. Joe Paterno is Penn State.
So, as the head of an iconic program that hasn’t had a losing season in seven years, why are there so many people clamoring for his departure?
One look at his birth certificate will tell you all that you need to know. On December 21, 2011, Joe Paterno will turn 85 years old. At such an advanced age, it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to handle the day-to-day obligations required of a head coach at the FBS level. The fact that he continues to excel at the most challenging of those functions is a testament to his resiliency. According to Rivals.com, Penn State has had top-35 recruiting classes each of the past three years.
That run of success on the recruiting trail will likely end sooner rather than later. Ideally, Paterno will step aside before there’s any negative impact on the program he inherited nearly five decades ago.
More than anything, most potential student-athletes pick a school in order to play for a particular coach. In the coming years, it will be increasingly harder to convince 17-year-old kids to commit to four years in Happy Valley for a coach who is five times their age.
It’s common knowledge that recruiters are ruthless when it comes to battling other schools for talent. But there’s no reason to be underhanded when competing against Penn State for a blue-chip recruit—Joe Paterno’s Medicare card is the only ammunition that they need.
Earlier this year, former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden revealed that he received prostate cancer treatments prior to the start of the 2007 season. Bowden, who was 77 at the time, didn’t disclose his illness because of the negative effect it would have had on his program.
“I didn’t say anything because of coaching,” Bowden said. “In recruiting, if people find out you have some kind of problem, they’re going to magnify it.”
Paterno has had medical issues of a different sort over the past five years. Since 2006, Paterno has been hurt on three separate occasions on the football field. Several broken bones and a hip replacement later, he doesn’t hide the fact that the injuries have had a significant impact on his role with the team.
“Because I’ve been banged up physically, I can’t do some of the things I would do,” Paterno said during his weekly radio show on Thursday. “I’ve spent more time looking at tapes and have probably put more into what we’re going to do than I’ve done in a long, long time.”
The above quote is telling, regardless of which way you spin it. Not only is his health limiting his duties, he freely admits that he’s more involved now than he has been over the past few seasons—a sign that he maybe should have stepped down years ago.
Then again, with the success that the program has had over the past several seasons, whatever they’re doing in Happy Valley seems to be working.
It’s no secret that quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno (Joe’s son) and offensive coordinator Galen Hall call most of the plays on offense for the Nittany Lions. But it is fair to question exactly how engaged the elder Paterno is on game day.
“I don’t do much play calling anymore,” Paterno said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “I’m a cheerleader.”
Two days later, Paterno recanted that statement, explaining that he was “horsing around with the media.” The die had already been cast at that point—the damage had already been done.
Whatever the case may be, that isn’t just cause to force the man out of his job. And Paterno is clearly more than a “cheerleader” when it comes to selecting the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback, much to the chagrin of those in the “Joe Must Go…Now” camp. Five games into the season, Penn State has yet to settle on a signal-caller, frequently shuffling sophomore Rob Bolden and junior Matt McGloin in and out of the lineup.
Quarterback battles are nothing new in State College. Just ask Jeff Hostetler, Todd Blackledge, Pat Devlin, Daryll Clark, Anthony Morelli and about a dozen other quarterbacks during Paterno’s tenure in Happy Valley.
And in his defense, neither Bolden nor McGloin has done anything on the field to distance himself from the other, though McGloin has put up the better numbers this year.
So, despite the pleas from Penn State fans across the nation, Paterno will make a decision on a quarterback whenever he sees fit to do so.
Unlike many other schools with older head coaches, there is no succession plan in place for whenever Paterno decides to step down. Those connected with the program believe that defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will be the next head coach of the Nittany Lions, but Bradley shouldn’t place much stock into those rumors.
After serving 30 years as an assistant coach under Paterno, longtime defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky left the program after it was clear that he wouldn’t be assuming the head coaching responsibilities upon Paterno’s retirement.
That was 12 seasons ago.
If the Brooklyn-born Paterno had his way, he’d coach the Nittany Lions for another 12 seasons. But even he knows that at some point in the very near future, he’ll have to hand the reins over to someone else.
It’s on him to figure out exactly when that time is, however. He’s earned that much.Source: bleacherreport.com