Halfway through his first year as a head college football coach and it’s easy to understand how Jim McElwain could be disappointed in his team.
Colorado State started the season with a win in the Rocky Mountain Showdown over intrastate rival CU, but they’ve lost their last five straight games to fall to the bottom of the Mountain West Conference.
“I’m not going to hide my disappointment and the humbling experience we’re going through from a win-loss situation.” McElwain said to open his weekly press conference Monday. “I’m not, in any way, shape or form going to deny that part of it. But you know what, I asked out guys to come out after a very disappointing performance, lackluster emotionally, the week previous. And, as I told them, I’m with them no matter what.”
McElwain comes from a winning tradition at Alabama, he hasn’t had to suffer through losing like his Rams are currently experiencing. Still, he’s not going to quit on them or change his all-important process of preparing and learning to play winning football.
Each and every week Coach Mac comes into his press conference smiling, joking and charismatic as heck. He could show signs of being beaten down, he could come off as being angry and upset, but he doesn’t.
McElwain is undoubtedly serious about turning this program around and he continues to explain it’s a long process to take this team to where they want to be.
“As you change a culture, as you drain the negative and pour in the positive, a lot of times people deal with adversity in a defiant manner,” he explained. “In other words, you know what, they really want the authority figure to be pissed at them. They really are looking for that, because it’s an easy way out. But you know what? I’m not leaving these guys one bit. And I’ll be here for them for the rest of their lives. And I’m going to fight to the bitter end.
“I’ll go to battle with these guys. They’re my guys.”
And every week, McElwain is quick to explain the positives that his team is taking away from each game. He’s steadfast in saying that his team is improving all the time, and even if they are incremental improvements, he’s right. The defense has shown flashes of brilliance, and they’ve held some high scoring teams below their averages. The offense has hit some big plays, now they must become more consistent in their approach. And special teams are learning, though they seem to be lagging far behind the other two units.
How will Colorado State become consistently great in all three phases of the game?
“I don’t have a magic wand, but I’m showing them the path to life, and some of them are getting it. I just know that the process, the reality of everyday detail carries over in your life (points to media), my life, and if we want to be successful how do we do it? We take care of the details everyday. So, if you just keep pushing the details aside, it becomes a mess. This is part of doing what we need to do to build that foundation.”
Coach Mac preaches the everyday attention to detail, something that he admits is extremely difficult to get through to young men. But he also knows from championship experience that attention to detail is crucial in becoming a great team.
“There’s not a doubt (that this is the right process), there’s not a wavering moment. The disappointment is in the tangible result, because I live in a result-oriented business. The result is win and lose. How do you approach that tangible win-loss? I believe you do it in solid foundation, attention to detail, do what’s right, make sure your everyday is committed to being great.”
Yes, McElwain and his team are struggling to find ways to win in this, his first season as head coach. But Coach Mac is insistent that he’s with Colorado State for the long haul, that he’s teaching his young men the way championship-caliber teams approach everything from practice to game preparation and even class work.
This is no quick fix, it’s a complete overhaul of the program and while fans may not see results as quickly as hoped, winning football will come, in due time.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. You can follow Rich on twitter or facebook for all your CSU Rams news and opinion columns.