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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Snyder’s genius, longevity impresses

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Announcing duos traditionally are granted time with coaches the day before the college football games they call. Roughly a quarter-century ago, Gary Bender and Dick Vermeil were in Iowa City in the office of the Hawkeyes’ Hayden Fry. The head coach introduced the duo to his offensive coordinator. They sat down with the assistant for nearly an hour and the words Vermeil said to Bender on their way down the hall remain as fresh to the play-by-play man as if they were spoken yesterday.

“That is the most impressive offensive coordinator I think I have ever interviewed,” Vermeil said to Bender. “Some day, I think he’s going to be a great head coach.”

After Kansas State hired Bill Snyder as its head coach, Bender called Vermeil to share an opinion: “He may be the most impressive offensive coordinator you’ve ever interviewed, but you can’t win at K-State.”

Forgive Bender for such a woeful miscalculation. After all, he was born in 1940. He was too young to remember anything but losing football in Manhattan.

Counting Snyder just once, K-State has hired 15 different coaches since he was born Oct. 7, 1939, in St. Joseph, Mo. Snyder is the only one of the 15 with a winning career record at the school and has won big in both of his tenures.

Snyder (176-90-1) has a .661 winning percentage, including .666 in the first 17 seasons, .645 during this five-year span. The 14 other men who started their K-State careers after Snyder’s birth combined for a career winning percentage of .263. Most of their winning percentages read like batting averages. Pitchers’ batting averages. Snyder’s first predecessor, Stan Parrish, went 2-30-1, a winning pct. of .076.

How does he do it? Snyder’s relentless attention to every detail plays a huge role in his success. And so does the football genius Vermeil noticed way back when and Kansas University coach Charlie Weis referenced Tuesday in his weekly presser.

“One of the things that coach Snyder does not get his just due for, I think he’s a brilliant offensive mind,” Weis said. “People want to talk about him as a head coach and a recruiter and being like the father or the grandfather of the organization. But in reality, he’s a very, very, very bright man when it comes to offensive football and schematics and everything like that, and I think he does a very good job.”

What does he do best?

“Splits with the offensive line,” Weis said, referring to how far apart the offensive lineman are from each other on a given play. “One time the tackle will have a four-foot split. The next time he’ll have a one-and-a-half-foot split.”

That’s what coaches watch on film when most of the rest of us wait for the ball to be snapped so we can follow it. Snyder varying the splits leads to a guessing game. To demonstrate his point, Weis grabbed the table in front of him and wheeled his chair from the spot a tackle lines up on one play to where he might on the next play, widening by a few feet the distance from the guard. Then he put everyone in the defensive lineman’s shoes (oops, there’s that word again).

“Now what are you going to do?” Weis asked on behalf of the imaginary D-lineman. “Are you going to stay on this guy or are you going to try to shoot that gap? Well, maybe the reason why the split’s up there is because that’s what he wants you to do. Or maybe it’s not.”

It leads to indecision, hesitation. It prevents defenders from playing aggressively.

“I think he’s very creative when it comes to that,” Weis said, adding that what Snyder does with designed quarterback runs differs from what most coaches do.

Kansas and Kansas State are tough places to build winning football programs. The state isn’t densely populated and typically has a shortage of Div. I prospects. Winning requires evaluating well in recruiting players and assembling a staff of assistants. It also requires developing players mentally and physically in such a way that they steadily improve. Instilling discipline so that players don’t make mistakes on game day also helps.

On the part of the administration, it requires selecting the right head coach and showing him enough patience that he can establish his way of doing things.

Snyder went 1-10 in his initial season in 1989 and followed that with 5-6 and 7-4 records. His first back-to-back winning records didn’t come until his fifth and sixth seasons. Those were the first two legs of an eight-year stretch in which Snyder posted an 81-17-1 record.

Kansas State brings a 6-5 record to Lawrence for the 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday. Last season, Snyder produced his sixth 11-victory season. Friends and opponents alike marvel at the man’s ability to stay in his prime at the age of 74.

“First of all, if I’m alive at 74, I’m going to be happy,” Weis said. “I’m certainly not going to be coaching. I’ll be happy just to be hanging out with my wife at the time, to be perfectly honest with you.

“It’s just amazing. It isn’t like his energy is any less. He’s still grinding away, there all day, and hitting Taco Bell or whatever it is for his one meal at midnight. It’s amazing the staying power some people have.”

Vermeil, who by the way recommended Andy Reid to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chiefs to Andy Reid, might want to start a coaching search firm. He saw what was in Snyder based on one conversation.

Comments

Robert Brown 8 months ago

You can't help but admire what Snyder has accomplished at K-State. I admit I am a fan. This shows how extremely important hiring a good head coach is. K-State hiring Snyder as a young assistant is equivalent to KU hiring an unknown Roy Williams. I thought it was a mistake for Snyder to come back but I was wrong. I do believe he would be able to take KU's talent and be much more competitive.

I always wondered if Snyder was ever considered for the KU job given to Glen Mason which was open a year before he started at K-State.

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Len Shaffer 8 months ago

It truly is a testament to how great a coach he is that he could do it a second time. How many times have we seen coaches try to repeat their success a second time and fail? Even the legendary Bill Walsh couldn't repeat his success at Stanford when he tried to go back there after he left the 49ers.

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Joe Joseph 8 months ago

Nobody does more with less than Bill Snyder.

The fact that he can win (a lot) at Kansas State proves that someone can and should be able to do it at Kansas.

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Al Martin 8 months ago

Which makes it all the more annoying that we consistently don't.

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Doug Cramer 8 months ago

Was at KU from 96-2000. I couldn't stand Snider.

Now I absolutely root for the guy. Here's to a lot of respect for Coach Snider...oh and I love his pressers...funny as heck.

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Robert Brown 8 months ago

I am 20 years older than you having gone to KU in the late 1970s. As bad as we were then, I always knew that things were worse at K-State which is why what Snyder has done is borderline miraculous. I do expect that the program will fall after he retires which again supports the premise that most important factor in having a successful athletic program is to hire the right coach.

KU appears to have made two bad hires in a row.

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Waylon Cook 8 months ago

I bet KSU fans are always cheering for our coaches too............

Seriously people......

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Robert Brown 8 months ago

It is more about respect. I am sure K-State fans have a lot of respect for Bill Self and Roy Williams before him. I am sure they respected Mangino. They are probably cheering for Charlie Weis to finish out his contract.

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Jim Jackson 8 months ago

With only one full recruiting class behind him of his own, it is premature to think that Weis is not the man for the job, in my opinion.

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Al Martin 8 months ago

Fair enough, but you also have to admit there's no obvious on field evidence that he is the right man for the job, either.

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Robert Brown 8 months ago

Were you saying the same thing about Turner Gill at this time in his tenure?

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Jim Jackson 8 months ago

Al, there has been much improvement on defense in regards to turnovers forced, pass deflections, interceptions, sacks etc. feel free to look it up and compare.

Robert, no I was not. Gill was horrendous. He was not a Big 12 coach; team lacked toughness, endurance, organization, discipline, academic standards etc.

Our main need is for Big 12 caliber talent. Weis is going about it the right away with going after juco guys who are ready to compete immediately. We have some good juco players redshirting right now, let's see how he does with this recruiting class and let's see what our record is next season before we call for Chuck's resignation.

I am just as disappointed as everyone else but the talent disparity is significant between us and most of the league; let him bring in better players.

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Al Martin 8 months ago

Note that I limited my comment to on field improvement; academically, we're clearly much better now.

And I'll buy into defensive improvement, but only so much. When you have to go poking into those kind of statistics to justify improvement, that says things aren't going very well. Wins, losses, and scoring margin are not improving in any meaningful way. And why doesn't the regression in offense matter to you?

Again, I'm not saying he should go. You said it was premature to say he wasn't the right man for the job. I'm saying it's also premature to say that he is the right man for the job. He's 4-19 and just lost 34-0 to a Big 12 bottom feeder. He hasn't proven anything positive on the field yet.

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Jim Jackson 8 months ago

What I can deduce is that next season will be the determining factor for both of us. Anything less than 6 wins, Zenger will need to seriously evaluate if he should stay or go.

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Len Shaffer 8 months ago

"Most of their winning percentages read like batting averages. Pitchers’ batting averages."

Good line!

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