Trust The Process.
Following the 2012-13 NBA season, newly hired Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie shifted the direction of the franchise toward a complete rebuild. In his introductory press conference, Hinkie set the stage for what would take place over the course of the following four seasons.
Hinkie went right to work, setting up a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans on the night of the 2013 NBA Draft. The move would send the team’s marquee player, Jrue Holiday, and the draft rights to their second round pick, Pierre Jackson, to the bayou in return for the draft rights to Nerlens Noel — who was still recovering from an ACL tear and would miss the entirety of the 2013-14 season — and the Pelicans’ first round pick in 2014.
By January 1st of that season, only six of the players from Philadelphia’s 2012-13 team remained on the roster, as the other eight — mostly veteran players — were either waived or left the team in free agency. The Sixers had filled the roster with young prospects from the then NBA D-League or with guys who had spent a short amount of time on other teams before getting cut.
The Sixers would go on to finish 14th in the Eastern Conference with a 19-63 record. The third worst in franchise history.
The following year, Hinkie used the Sixers’ third overall pick to select Kansas Jayhawks big man, Joel Embiid, and would flip the Pelicans pick acquired in the Holiday trade — No. 10 overall — to the Orlando Magic for the rights of their first round pick, Dario Saric. Neither prospect was expected to make an immediate impact for the team, as Embiid was recovering from a stress fracture and Saric was expected to remain in the Turkish Basketball League for another couple years.
Philadelphia finished the 2014-15 season with an 18-64 record and 14th in the Eastern Conference, this time tying the franchises’ second worst record.
It was during this season that 76ers guard Tony Wroten used the phrase Trust The Process in an interview with ESPN’s Pablo Torre, and the motto became the rallying cry of Sixers fans everywhere.
The 2015-16 season saw the Sixers at their lowest point since the 1972-73 season, finishing with a league worst 10-72 record. Embiid missed his second consecutive season with a leg injury, and the team set an NBA record with a 27-game losing streak.
Still, The Process served as the vision of what was to come for Philadelphia.
Sam Hinkie resigned his position as General Manager in April 2016, but in his 7,000 word letter of resignation remarked that while he wouldn’t get to see the harvest, the seeds had already been sown.
The Process finally bore fruit during the 2017-18 NBA season, when the Sixers finished third in the Eastern Conference with the team’s best record since the 2000-01 season — 52-30 — and clinched their first NBA Playoff berth in six years.
Sometime around 12:55PM ET on Saturday, Austin Kendall took a snap from Missouri’s 20 yard line and promptly threw the ball into the dirt three or four yards in front of him. The official box score says it was an incomplete pass to Sam James on a tunnel screen, but that’s entirely debatable.
At this point, West Virginia was already down 17-0, Kendall had already thrown his two interceptions and the Mountaineers were only in Missouri territory because of two 15-yard penalties on the Tigers.
I arrived at a cross roads.
Our house was ravaged this week by a virus that, naturally, spread during the first week of school and sleep came at a premium. With Kendall’s most egregious incomplete pass of the afternoon, I decided that my time would be best spent putting my one-year old down for a nap rather than waste what remaining energy I had left watching West Virginia’s anemic offense bumble around on the field.
The game would be on the DVR when I woke up, and there was nothing I could do to help out by critiquing everything that was happening in real time on social media.
Trust The Climb.
On June 5th, the official West Virginia football social media accounts began tagging posts with #TrustTheClimb. After a less than promising Spring football game, it seemed as though Neal Brown was preparing to set the Mountaineers on a rebuilding path that would most definitely warrant counting the 2019 season as year zero in his tenure.
Brown began preaching patience during interviews. He centered his Big 12 Media Days appearance around getting the word out that his team was a work in progress and that patience from the Mountaineer fan base would be appreciated.
I awoke from our nap just in time to see Jack Allison come into the game for the Mountaineers and hit tight end Mike O’Laughlin for a quick four yard gain. Still a little out of it from my two hour slumber, I had no idea what had transpired but I was intrigued. The Mountaineers were down 31-0, so I drew my own conclusions that lead me to believe the offense continued to be putrid while I grabbed some z’s.
Right on cue, Allison took the snap and looked to the left side of the field for Tevin Bush on a simple curl route. Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton read Allison’s eyes the entire time, jumped the route and took the interception into the end zone to pad the Tigers’ lead a little more.
Missouri’s reggaeton airhorns echoed through my head and made me wish I’d just stayed in bed a bit longer.
Allison wasn’t seen again. Kendall returned to the game for the next two drives, before giving way to Trey Lowe on the Mountaineers’ last possession of the game.
The Climb appears to be a little steeper than most believed, even with Brown tempering expectations in the lead up to the season opener.
Roughly around the same time I wrangled a very tired one-year old into bed, the bloom had begun to fall off the rose with some Mountaineer fans. We figured it would happen with some fans at some point this season — there’s always going to be those that are ready to throw a coach under the bus as soon as they stumble — but I’m not sure we expected it to happen this soon.
And that’s the issue facing The Climb.
The Process was all about making roster moves to build up the Sixers program, even when results weren’t immediate. Philadelphia fans Trusted The Process for five seasons before it began to pay off. College football programs don’t have that luxury. NBA teams are propped up by billion dollar corporations, and have the ability to tank seasons in order to get early first round draft picks to build their roster. In college football, the people that fund the program — donors and fans, alike — expect results. Lose that support, and suddenly The Climb turns into The Freefall.
Coming into the season, we all knew that this was a rebuilding year and that Dana Holgorsen had left the cabinet bare for Neal Brown. Most fans agreed that The Climb will take a year zero to get everything in place, and hoped that we’d be able to see some improvement from game-to-game to satiate us. The key to being successful this season is seeing the wins in the margins; improvement at quarterback, the defense coming together as a young but cohesive unit, in-game adjustments by the staff, and how all of that changes from week to week as the season progresses.
So far, those wins are nowhere to be found and I don’t think it’s entirely on Neal Brown or his staff.
To be blunt, West Virginia’s offense right now is teetering on Jeff Mullen territory and the only thing giving it a pass is the fact that Mullen had a cupboard full of Pat White, Noel Devine, and a top 15 defense to lean on and still did nothing with it. Neal Brown doesn’t have all that to work with.
Realistically, where does West Virginia go following a 38-7 shellacking by the same team that lost to Wyoming just a week earlier? You could easily convince me that this team may not win another game this season, and will finish with the worst record since going 0-8-2 in 1960. What’s the next move as we climb this mountain, led by this Mountaineer offense that I can only compare to a Sherpa that could up and die on us at any minute?
I’ve seen a lot of fans clamoring for Trey Lowe to get the start over Kendall and Allison next Saturday when the Mountaineers take on the N.C. State Wolfpack in Morgantown, apparently believing that Lowe will be the read option savior this offense needs to create a spark and generate some wins.
That could be true, but I feel that if Lowe was the answer he’d already be starting.
At this point, I believe an obtainable goal needs to be established, and that’s to make it to six wins on the season. It seems lofty at this point, but I think it can still be reached.
My initial thought following Saturday’s game was that West Virginia just needs to give up on redshirting Jarret Doege and name him the starting quarterback this week. I shared that thought with some of the other staff here, and the first response was “Do you really want to waste a year of his eligibility by putting him behind that offensive line?”
No. I don’t.
That’s what led me to what I think is West Virginia’s best solution moving forward.
Doege is eligible to play in up to four games this season without losing his redshirt. West Virginia is currently sitting at 1-1 on the season. Pick your four most winnable games — other than Kansas, who I believe we could probably beat with some combination of Kendall, Allison or Lowe and a slightly improved defense — and start Doege in those games if he offers the best opportunity to win.
The goal moving forward isn’t to make a bowl game, or even win it. It’s to earn those valuable bowl practices in December. If you fall short of the six wins, that’s fine too. At least an attempt was made to move the process forward.
But that’s just this blogger’s opinion.
West Virginia has another test coming their way next Saturday, and it’s one that is winnable. What the Mountaineers do between now and then is up to them. I’ll just be here Trusting The Climb.