It's easy to root for Kyle Flood.
He's affable. He speaks his mind clearly and with conviction. He's a family man who truly cares about his players, about academic achievement, about northeastern football. He's a long-tenured coach in the Rutgers football program, arriving just as the program was ascending to its current perch among college footballs upper echelon.
I remember hearing Flood announced as the new coach and being immediately intrigued. This was a guy who had lead Rutgers to have one of the best offensive lines in the country in 2006 and 2007, but one of the worst in the history of the sport in 2009 and 2010. He had been co-offensive coordinator of some terrible offenses, but was widely lauded as an o-line genius and great talent evaluator/developer.
However, what turned me into an unabashed Kyle Flood believer was this article. Specifically, this section had me and other manly man-types near tears:
His second son taught Kyle Flood to value every second.
James Gerard Flood was born Aug. 12, 2010, with a diaphragmatic hernia, a condition that impairs lung development in the womb. Kyle and his wife Amy had known about the condition for months but were hopeful doctors could save their third child when he came into the world.
He died after just 12 hours.
"That day, as sad as it was, was also one of the greatest days of my life," Kyle Flood said. "Because I got to spend a day with my son. The end of it wasn't what I wanted, but I still got to spend a day with my son."
Rutgers University may have its issues. The football program however, is the embodiment of respect, sportsmanship and family. They emphasize athletics. They emphasize character. They emphasize the purity of the sport and bring an attitude to the game that is easy to admire. Having taught a number of Rutgers football players over the years, I can personally attest to the fact that they conduct themselves with intelligence, respect and thoughtfulness. They are the embodiment of Rutgers Men and they are led by Kyle Flood, a man who personifies this ethos magnificently.
Personally, I find it impossible not to root for Kyle Flood. I hope with every fiber of my football fandom that he finds immense success on the banks. I want to see a statue of Flood and Schiano erected outside The Point as he brings the program to new heights and continues what Greg started.
Seriously, if you can't find it in your heart to root for this guy, you clearly don't have one...or you may have an acute case of being a ttfp fan.
While its impossible to hate The Man, Kyle Flood The Coach is a fairly polarizing figure.
On the one hand, Flood has had his challenges. A disastrous year in recruiting, watching a top-25 class full of 4-star prospects fall apart as allegations of abuse by former Defensive Coordinator Dave Cohen, the AD search scandal, and a controversial no-compete policy on commits visiting other schools led to an overall malaise around the program. Crushing late-season collapses in 2011 and 2012 spoiled what could have been landmark seasons. An overall decline in recruiting class rankings and win totals, as documented by SB Nation's Bill Connelly, bring into question whether or not Flood will be the coach to bring Rutgers to the promised land.
On the other hand, Flood did an amazing job holding together the incredible 2012 recruiting class, which will likely be the backbone of the team this year and next. He won the program's first-ever Big East championship in its final year of playing football. He led the team with class and dignity through the absolute shit monsoon of 2012-2013. He was able to bring Ralph Friedgen out of retirement to become the most highly decorated OC the program has ever seen. He did all of this with Rutgers going through massive institutional transformation, both inside the Athletic Department (new AD, two new conferences) and outside (medical school reacquisition, administration reshuffle).
For now, Flood gets a pass. He gets a year, maybe two. This year, he has a young team ready to make some noise in a challenging Big Ten East verse a brutal, BRUTAL schedule. While the Scarlet Knights could surprise us by being competitive on a high level a year early, the prevailing sense is that the team is a year away. In 2015, Rutgers will have a year of Big Ten play under their belts, the incredibly young team will have gained valuable playing time and maturity, and Kyle Flood will truly have his judgment day.
We'll be rooting for him.
Monday: Cocktail Party Preview
Tuesday: Smartest Guy in the Room **You are here**
Wednesday: Potluck Part One
Thursday: Potluck Part Two/Smoking Room
Friday: Keeping the Enemy Close