Monday, August 27, 2007

Why Do We Hate Brink?

First of all, props to my good friend Brinkhater. His "senior thesis" on why he adopted the moniker should be on the short list of best post of the year. Very, very good view as to why he's "hated Brink at hello" (great line btw).

That said, for all the hatred and disgust towards the young man, isn't it somewhat amazing that we're sitting here on the verge of a QB set to break every passing record in the WSU media guide?? How did we get here? Why does Brink have such a polarizing effect on WSU fans? It's not an easy answer is it?

Some point out that he's never stepped up in the biggest games, like Auburn last year where he was a woeful 11-for-24 for 67 yards and several 3-and-outs, helping to wear out our defense in the humidity that led to a huge second-half fade. Or at ASU, where the entire team laid a major egg and Brink got a ton of the blame for not "stepping up" without Bumpus and Hill with a bowl game on the line. Or the horror show vs. USC in 2005, where the team was embarrassed so badly that they were outgained 745-284 and USC had an amazing 40 first downs to only 13 for the Cougs! That's a game where you just wish in hindsight that the plane never left Pullman.

Yet that same haters conveniently ignore the efficient 20-for-23 game vs. Oregon in a game that they absolutely, positively had to have. If you remember last year, that Oregon game was coming off a disappointing 21-3 loss to Cal that left them at 4-3, and the season was teetering on the edge of disaster. Brink responded by playing a nearly flawless game against a ranked team. But how about the next week, where he topped the Oregon performance by winning POW honors in a 28-for-38, 405 yard win at UCLA to get the team to 6-3 last year, a game that nearly returned them to the post-season? Wasn't that a big game? UCLA, by the way, had a very good defense last year and even held the vaunted Trojans to just 9 points later in the year. Going down to Pasadena and having a game like that, maybe Brink's best game ever, was no small feat.

So why is it that the majority ignore the positive and write it off as basically saying "he should do that every week" and then as soon as he doesn't play well, he gets a ton of the blame? It's never been an easy question to answer.....but....I think I understand it better today than any other time.

He's just NOT A LIKABLE GUY, in many different ways. Think about it - On the field, he doesn't have the Bledsoe or Leaf tools, with the dream size and cannon arm who can make any throw that John Elway could make. He is a very strong 6-3, 215-220 now, however, and the word is that the velocity and accuracy at this point are better than it's ever been. 6-3, 215-220 is not small. In fact he's actually a little bigger than Jake Locker, a guy who's already loved so much he's rumored to actually walk on Lake Washington.

Ok, so he's not the most "toolsy" guy around, and in reality he's closer to Gesser than the Bledsoe/Leaf group. But "I've watched Jason Gesser, and I've watched Alex Brink. And you, Alex Brink, are no Jason Gesser" or something along those lines seems appropriate. Why? Because the team, from the moment Gesser showed up, saw that Gesser had an extra quality about him that players just gravitated towards. Many stories are about how much love other players had for Gesser, even during his scout team performance his true frosh season, and later that they were just so confident when they took the field that he was THE GUY. In the end, they were right. Even Davard Darling credits the time he spent with Gesser on a recruiting trip post-FSU that Gesser was just the greatest guy and the best recruiter WSU had, and was one of the reasons he not only came to WSU but also roomed with Gesser. But it was never about the tools with Gesser. He had some great games with fat numbers, but he also had his share of stinkers, especially early in his career. But some of that gets overlooked because of the total package. Gesser is the most successful QB in the modern age at WSU, and, maybe the biggest winner in the history of the school, in any sport. Does Brink have anything close to what Gesser brought to the table in terms of the total package? Absolutely, positively not. Yet here Brink sits, roughly a half-season of stats away from bumping off Gesser at the top of the career charts.

Today's Times opened my eyes to one thing. Maybe it's not just the fans, but also the players, that realize something about him. For example, Brink shows up late to lunch, and instead of sitting with other teammates? He sits by himself, and nobody invites him to sit with them, and nobody comes to join him. Can you imagine Gesser walking into lunch late and sitting down, eating all by his lonesome, without even getting invited to sit with them? Neither can I. It doesn't sound like it's a big deal, but deep down, it is.

Brink also lives alone, something I never knew until today, and that might speak volumes. How many players do you know of, outside of the ones that are married or have a wife-to-be or whatever, that actually don't have a single roommate? Why? He's only got two friends that are acknowledged in the article, Bobby Byrd and Chris Baltzer, one of whom is a high school teammate. But that's it? And how many players are quoted in the article? ONE, Jed Collins, who just says that Brink is smart and knows where everyone should be in every play and that he leads by example. But not one other player was quoted in the article? Nobody coming forward to say Alex is misunderstood and is really a great guy who takes a while to really get to know? And think back over the last few years. How many players have ever really stepped forward to say that we're all wrong about him and that he's a great guy? I remember Hill and at times Bumpus being quoted last year as saying Alex is the QB and there shouldn't be a controversy, but never, ever did you see the article about the great leadership and the intangibles that other players respect so much.

One more thing, and this is purely anecdotal and/or rumored. The whispers on Brink are, basically, that he's very aloof and appears arrogant to the general public. One very good friend (and potential writer this year on this blog) was down in Pullman during spring ball this year, and being a great Coug, of course he ventured down to the Cottage one evening for a few cold ones. Who does he see? Brink, and Byrd, and maybe someone else (Collins?). But what did he see? Brink, wearing a tank top, with SUNGLASSES ON AT NIGHT, sitting in the corner and looking like, well, let's just say looking like a guy you glance at and shake your head, "who's the jackass with the sunglasses on at night?? What a CLOWN."

Look, Brink isn't a thug, or anything close too it, off the field. He's not running a dog-fighting ring, he's not raping or hitting women or shop-lifting or getting DWI's or starting brawls, or even getting into confrontations with coaches or reporters. He's just simply being who he is, kind of a recluse that comes across arrogant and self-serving and someone that just doesn't have that extra-something special in a magnetic sense. The same quality that drew us all to Bledsoe, Leaf (at least in 1997), and of course, Gesser, that same "thing" that we were so happy to have in our QB, is the same thing that Brink simply lacks.

And sadly, what Brink lacks off the field, is something that he also lacks on the field. 12-16 as a starter, coming off the most successful 3-year run in school history, is just poison for him to be loved. All the come-from-ahead losses in 2005, where the onus fell to him to lead one more late-game drive, yet continually coming up short, did him in. I for one was extremely hopeful that the 2005 Apple Cup win, where he finally led the team on that game-clinching drive, was going to lead to huge things the rest of his career. I told Brinkhater, FINALLY, he did it, and now it's all about turning the corner. But when the chips were down late last year, without his best weapons, he couldn't get it done.

In the end, Brink is going to go down to a similar fate of someone like Cody Pickett or Damn-it-Damon Huard at UW. Guys who put up big numbers, but rarely got the big W. Guys who, despite their overall fat numbers, never got to the big game, and basically under-performed in the eyes of fans everywhere. Don't believe me? I was at Husky Stadium when Damon Huard broke the UW passing career record vs. the Cougs. And there was, easy, about 40% of the stadium that booed him. And the only thing UW fans will remember about Pickett, other than being a great athlete who was a rodeo champion from Idaho, was great numbers with Reggie Williams, but he never won the biggie.

All that said, the book isn't closed on Brink. At least not yet. He's got 12 more games to go, and every week is another chance to shut us all up and bury the difficult past. 12 games to not only break records, but do the thing that senior QB's are supposed to do, and that is perform at the highest level when the chips are down. We've gone through nearly 3 seasons of ups-and-downs with Brink, and we're nearing the end of the line. How will the legacy be cemented? Will he explode this year, when the predictions are generally for an 8th or 9th-place finish? Will he come through when it matters the most? Last call Alex. Now go prove us all wrong.


Ben Million said...

It seems Brink manifestoes are quite the in thing lately - I posted, perhaps unwisely, on this same subject in my blog this morning.

I think I speak for all of us when I say: Saturday, please get here so we can stop speculating.

Sedihawk said...

Good stuff Ben. It's an interesting thing, the relationship between Brink and us. But I don't think there's one easy answer. It's pretty much everything, I guess, the on-the-field shortcomings and the off-the-field resounding "meh" he seems to resonate among fans and teammates, it just all adds up. I swear, you watch Gesser work the sidelines at a game and you'd think he'd win King of Pullman in a landslide if they had the election tomorrow. Bledsoe is a God, Rypien, Rosie and Jack are revered, and while Leaf was a knucklehead, I'll always love him for 1997, period. But I think of Alex, and I wonder what people will say about him in the future when they speak of the great WSU QB's of the modern era. The best part of all is that he's got this last shot to "win the crowd, and you win Rome".

Brinkhater said...

With Gipson now doubtful, just chalk this baby up as a 44-10 blow out.

Put it in the bank...take Wisconsin and the 14 points....

With the deep threat out, Brink is going to be beyond tested. Simply put, we'll see about whether or not this new armstrength thing is true or not...but they are going to CROWD us big time.

And it ain't gonna be pretty.

Get ready to hold the nose for three hours..

Sedihawk said...

Gibson out, DAMN that sucks. We'll see come kickoff, but they don't want to risk the season if the knee is balky for week 1. Too bad we don't open with Idaho, but, it is what it is.

I have to agree, without Gibson we become pretty one-dimensional. He's the hero in the hero-route strategy, and Bumpus is good to great underneath. But if that's all you can do, it'll take Wisconsin about a quarter to figure it out and then we're toast. But Wisconsin ain't perfect, losing Cooper will hurt their depth up front and their other d-end, Ware, isn't totally healthy either. No WAY do they have the defensive speed that Auburn shocked us with last year. We just need to see Dillon, Ward, heck, maybe even Jeshua Anderson step up and get open down the field. And the obvious, of course, Brink needs to bring it big-time.

But my GOD, what the hell is it going to take for us to ever be healthy!?!? Every year, it's like this has been the drumbeat since the 2003 season ended. It's like it started early in '04 with Derting and the broken hand, and it just hasn't let up. We must have cashed out all our karma during the 01-03 seasons, because it's sure run out on us in a huge way. I know that's an exaggeration, but still, we are so thin as a program these days that we just can't seem to survive any key injuries, period. Remember the '02 team when Jason David got suspended when he got into a fight with Ira Davis? We just plugged in Karl Paymah vs. ASU, and he did great. Karl Paymah became an NFL player and is still in the league. Now THAT is depth. Just shows you that it's nothing like it used to be.

Anonymous said...

Obviously our depth has been poor in past years. I always look at our starters and wonder, how can we be losing with these guys? Of course, we have had more injuries than usual these last few seasons. Whether this is due to poor recruiting, bad coaching, dumb luck, or a mix of all of these, I don't know. I think, because of recent injuries our coaches are starting to figure things out, though. Remember, Doba and co. are still a young coaching staff. I think our depth this season will be better than last year, but definitely not up to snuff with our run of good teams.

By the way, good stuff on Brink. Sometimes you just feel certain ways about athletes or coaches. Personally, I was a big fan of Mike Price. He had some issues but he just had this good aura about him. You can't really describe it. I don't really feel the same way about Doba. He is a good interviewer and a good person. I just don't care for Doba as much as I cared about Price. It's the same with Mr. Brink. I think that even if (or when, we're gonna be good this year) Alex leads us to a great season, personally I still won't be able to classify him with the Cougar QB greats. He just doesn't feel like that larger than life kind of guy.

Other notes for Wisonsin game:

- Brandon Gibson is likely going to start; Doba says they hope he'll be practicing again by Wednesday.

- Coach Yarno says the line is looking really good, and have improved a ton in recent weeks; Doba agrees.

- Chima Nwachukwu is starting the game, here's hoping he's the real deal.

- The Cougs are going to win.

longball said...

1st time reader! this blog is a great find. I just had to add my 2 cents about my frustrations with Doba - In his press conference he does, as stated above, agree the O-line is looking good... then says
"From where they started... they're not perfect by any means, but they've come a long ways." Ugh, couldn't stop at just saying they look great.

Maybe after 3 years of injuries, suspensions, losses and excuses, i am just starved to hear some unqualified good news from the coach. Once. Ever. I mean, how cautious can you be? In about two seconds he goes from almost making us feel that the O-line is going to be able to hold its own, to making me 100% sure they will be dominated on Saturday. This is classic Doba-speak and i can't stand it any more. I know he's a humble, understated guy and that has its charms, but this team needs an injection of confidence, and the fans need to know that while we have very little faith in this team, at least our coach has some. He never gives unqualified superlatives when talking about the team. Ever. I don't think this is some Spurrioresque tactic to not give bulletin board material to the enemy, but a genuine lack of confidence. that MUST rub off on the team. While Doba pours over all the ways Wisconsin is so big and scary, and all the ways the Cougs are stil not "perfect by any means", Mike Price would have shown up to practice in a Bucky the Badger costume and let one of the assitants shoot him with a .22, or at least assure the fans that the game will be worth watching.

Well dispite my frustrations i'll be in Camp Randall on Saturday to see for myself if our O-line is ok, or if indeed they are "not perfect by any means".

Sedihawk said...

Glad you like it "longball". Drop by any time. We'll be contributing all season long, so even if the season unravels pretty quickly, at least we'll try and keep things entertaining. Have a blast at Camp Randall. One of the best NCAA football settings around and one of the most underrated home crowds, that place can get crazy. They have great fans up there too and I'm sure they'll be a friendly shoulder to cry on when the game is over and our offensive line limps off the field!

Doba does seem to keep the expectations low, no doubt. But as Brinkhater and I have said in the past, the reality on Doba is that he's a fantastic guy, class act in every sense, but he's just not the full meal deal in regards to a head coach. That's a story for another time, but, it's not really his fault if you ask me. I don't think he ever really wanted to be in this position and he did everyone a favor by taking over the way he did. It was a nice idea as a stop-gap, but look at where the program is now (ZERO verbal commits?? WTF!?!). He's just too nice in a great grandpa kind of way, where he's the type of guy who you'd trust to get your mail while you are out of town or watch the kids for a few hours so you and the wife can enjoy a nice meal, but to lead a BCS program? I don't think so. Think about the most successful coaches alive, and are they anything like Doba? Bobby Bowden has the "aw, shucks" act down pat, but, deep down he's an A-HOLE who never sits in the back seat, and never had to carry anyone's bag. It's in his genes and what he's done since the 70's. But not Bill. Bill's been the lifer assistant, sitting the back of the bus and carrying Price's bags his whole career. Doba, bless his golden heart, is an excellent assistant and good guy, but not a BCS head man. If we roll out a 3-9 or 4-8 this year, I just prey he chooses to step down instead of getting run out on a rail.

Ben Million said...

Oh my god, sedihawk, I'd have voted for Gesser for King of Pullman in a second! I would've voted for city council to give him a blank check to fight his never-ending War on Huskies and I would've allowed him to wiretap my phone without a warrant!

For Brink, he would have to somehow get us to the Super Bowl this year to have a shot at that kind of affection.

And you're dead on about Doba: class act, grandfather figure, probably can't connect with recruits, just doesn't have the head coach, "this is my team and we're gonna kick some ass" mentality.

Mish said...

well well...i guess you all are victim of believing everything you read or see...I think judging Brink based on an article written in a newspaper and one person's account makes really no sense. Yes he has his shortcomings on the field. But really have you ever sat in the Cougar Fitness Cafe with the players to see how they interact? Maybe he was really late and everyone was done eating...or maybe it has something to do with focus. We don't know, all we know is he ate alone. Once.

He lives alone...big does this make him a terrible loner? Actually, he already is done with his degree, so I can assume he is leaving Pullman after football season. Most students don't want to live with someone who is leaving at semester because most places will still charge you rent for the year, maybe none of his teammates wanted a roomate who was leaving in 6 months. Who knows...but it makes sense to me

And I am a student, I've met Alex actually at Mike's bar with Michael Bumpus. Just he and Bump hanging out at the bar. There he has three friends...and Bumpus is a big one at that.

All I'm saying is before you write about his "shortcomings" on and off the field...maybe try to find a bit more info about him as a person.

Now, I am not a Brink Lover, but not a hater either.

But, after all my bitching, I do want to say I enjoy this blog and really hope you don't kick me off...

Anonymous said...

mish, I'm sure you will be a welcome addition to this great site. It seems this Cougar blog has really taken off in recent weeks. Maybe that's just because it's football season. I hope others, like me (personally I just like to read the articles and comment anonymously), will continue tuning in after the football season closes. Congrats to Sedihawk and Brinkhater. It's apparent the both of them work really hard on this blog.

About the comments mish made. It really is nonsense to base your opinions of someone off a newspaper article. I think it's hitting home a point, though. Brink may not be a social outcast, but he doesn't seem like a guy I'd want to rally my troops around. I think fans (especially long term ones, college students didn't really know the QB's of old) are rather harsh on him because of the huge standard set by Wazzu QB legends. Face it, this year's WSU seniors (and not just the football players) have never tasted a bowl game. I have known many, thus fans like me tend to have bigger expectations. Hopefully this will be the year we finally break out of our slump! Go Cougs.

PS I was looking through the archives and I think this may well be the first article to recieve 10 comments. Cool.

Sedihawk said...

It's all good Mish, and welcome to the blog. Clearly you have seen some things first-hand that we have not, so that is appreciated.

I don't want to say that Brink is a bad dude or anything like that, and I really didn't. I think the point I was trying to raise is that he just seems to come up a little short compared to some of the QB's of the past, and there is an off the field angle to it. I was also trying to do what everyone else is trying to do, and that is figure out why he's such a polarizing figure. You hate to always compare players to those who came before them, but, it's the nature of the beast, especially a QB at a school with a strong recent tradition.

I don't go as far as Brinkhater, who truly doesn't HATE Brink, he just doesn't like his game for the one-back offense. Believe me, last year I defended Brink at every turn, especially after the Oregon and UCLA games, but as the season faded into oblivion I finally fell off the bandwagon. But trust me on this, we ALL WANT BRINK TO WHOOP ASS this year, and I want Brink to shove it up Brinkhater's butt beginning this Saturday!!

But also know this - I have heard some off the record things about Brink, going all the way back to his freshman year, that aren't exactly terrible things, but also not real endearing either. We'll just leave it at that, but I did not simply take one single article and proclaim "AH-HAH!" You don't know me or Brinkhater from Adam, but I personally would never just jump to a conclusion like that based on one single article.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback Mish and also anonymous, don't be strangers this year.

Mish said...

I understand why comparisons are made between Brink and the likes of J Gesser or Bledsoe, I think I am really just wishing we had an awesome, really exciting subject in Cougar Football that is not about Bill Doba being on the Hot Seat or Alex Brink not living up to the Quarterback U standard. Maybe i'm just in denial. Anyway, glad you guys are here, I used to favor the spokesman blog, but nobody seems to really comment there much anymore.