When we look back on it, could be that Dave Doeren’s tenure at NC State peaked in November of his second year. That was Jacoby Brissett’s debut season, and the Wolfpack closed with wins in four of its last five, including a road blowout win at UNC and a bowl game victory over a good UCF team.
Those UNC and UCF wins were easily the best of his tenure up to that point. Two years later, those are still his best wins. The only two pretty good teams he’s beaten. (You can toss in this year’s Wake Forest team if you’re feeling generous.)
It’s been a day since I traveled to see in-person the mountains this Wolfpack team builds for itself to climb. That’s something to behold, lemme tell ya. NC State is Keanu Reeves from Speed, somehow stuck flailing around on the underside of a bomb-laden bus and stabbing a screwdriver into the gas tank just to get dragged down the road instead of being run over quickly.
As difficult or overwhelming as it can be for me at times to try to find the right way to approach everything that’s happened this season, the majority of it comes down to one very straightforward problem: not executing basic football things at key times. I don’t know where else you lie the blame than at Dave Doeren’s quite lovely office door.
I’m not upset today; maybe I just had to see this mess for myself, in person. But I’ve had enough Dave Doeren football. This year has been enough for a lifetime. Judging by the Carter-Finley crowd on Saturday—and it was a damned gorgeous day for tailgating and football—a lot of people have had enough. Students, alumni, everybody.
You remember those “good wins” I was talking about earlier? None happened in Raleigh. Doeren has won three ACC home games in nearly four seasons, and at some point, that takes a severe toll on the fan base. It’s deeply demoralizing. If you approach every theoretical toss-up game with an attitude of “why should I go, we’ll just screw it up,” that would have paid off for you a lot more often than not.
These sentiments are working against Doeren right now, and we’re just months removed from setting a record in season ticket sales. The fans delivered, but Doeren and his program did not. And he’s never approached difficult questions with hard answers; it’s always been excuses.
Either he doesn’t have enough all-conference players, or he’s playing in a tough division, or blah blah blah. That’s the stuff I can tolerate in the first couple of years, but at this point I don’t want to hear anything about how you play in a difficult division.
The Atlantic Division didn’t have any impact on Doeren’s decision to punt from the 39-yard line, it has nothing to do with the team’s undisciplined effort, and it has nothing to do with his waning recruiting efforts. Those are symptoms of a larger problem.
Doeren may well end up with another year as the head coach at NC State. I don’t know what’s going to happen on Friday or how that might alter his fate here. I do know that I’m ready to move on. One more year of Doeren, I have a pretty good feeling, would be a waste of time.
If we were trying to hold together a great recruiting class, I think this would be a completely different discussion. Job No. 1 for Doeren was recruiting better than his predecessor, which generally he has done, but his current class ranks 45th overall and 10th within the ACC. That’s not good enough. That’s not a recruiting class that is going to turn the corner for a middling program.
Both fan support and recruiting suggest that the life is draining out of Doeren’s efforts here. You almost certainly can’t pull a turnaround out of these circumstances, and I think I’ve seen enough of Doeren’s in-game coaching to rule one out. We pretty much know what we’ve got by now.
I understand that this couldn’t possibly be an easy decision one way or the other for Debbie Yow. I get it. If Dave Doeren gets another year, I’m not going to be furious. Disappointed, probably, but not furious. Kinda like how I felt as we again handed away a football game on Saturday.