MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons took 10 minutes out of his morning Friday to give his football coach, Neal Brown, a vote of confidence on MetroNews' Talkline. But a lot of what he said needed some interpretation.
And so it is we will take about 10 minutes of our time to step into the Lyons den and try to read some thoughts of our own into the athletic director's views following a 6-7 record in Brown's third year that ended with a Guaranteed Rate Bowl loss in Phoenix to Minnesota in which the Mountaineers scored only six points.
The lack of offense wound up being front and center in the conversation that was held between Lyons and Brown a day following the return home, that resulting in Brown hiring former USC offensive coordinator and one-time Texas Tech record-breaking quarterback Graham Harrell as the OC and QB coach while Brown took on more of a role of CEO in an alphabet full of changes.
Friday's Talkline interview began with Hoppy Kercheval asking Lyons if his level of confidence was as high in Brown as it was when he brought him in from Troy three years ago.
LYONS: Yes, it is. In all fairness. I knew there was a lot of work to be done. A lot of time out there in Mountaineer nation, they don't get to see the sausage being made. I get to be involved in it every day and see how that program is continuing to build. It's a process, not an overnight process by any means.
I have complete confidence in Neal. I absolutely do.
INTERPRETATION: Brown doesn't have to worry about his job right now.
When he came in, there was a lot to do ... but obviously what he has done to date hasn't worked.
Hence the change in Brown's approach to coaching the team and the move of bringing Harrell in as the Doctor of Offense.
LYONS: Here in the past couple of days we've made some adjustments to help us get better on the offensive side of the ball. I see everything that's happening and how he's continually trying to move the different pieces of the puzzle around to make this thing work.
INTERPRETATION: Lyons believes that things are now in place to make offensive strides and he expects to see results next season.
Kercheval asked, too, about the level of satisfaction or lack of satisfaction with the recently completed season.
LYONS: Overall, I can say I was disappointed. I was expecting us to play a lot better on the offensive side of the ball than we did.
Overall, not only myself was disappointed, but I know the coaching staff and Coach Brown and the fans wanted more wins. I'm glad we made it to a bowl game, but at the same time we finished with a losing record after losing the game in Phoenix. Our job is to get better, and that's what we're trying to do.
INTERPRETATION: That almost doesn't need any interpretation. Score more points and win more games this year or there could be some bigger changes ahead.
Kercheval next was interested in if maybe Holgorsen had turned the program over to Brown in worse shape than people thought it was in, a reasonable assumption considering the three-year results, especially the first year.
LYONS: "That's a tough question."
INTERPRETATION: Yes, but I really don't want to talk about it.
LYONS: There are pieces we have to put together to move forward as a whole. It's taken a little bit longer than I and our fan base anticipated. Everyone wants to use the time base of three years. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.
I'd say remain patient while we continue to build this, but it's a process. There's very few programs that you can look at and say, "Hey, this is what that coach has done in three years and now's the time to either continue to have them as your coach or fire them.
"In this case, it's just a matter of our program being on the right track. It's just not as fast as we'd like it to be."
INTERPRETATION: Expectations are one thing, reality another. Fans are always impatient. As the person who made the decision to hire Neal Brown, I have to let it play out and give him every opportunity to succeed. We have set things up for success, but now it's on Brown's shoulders to deliver.
Kercheval next asked Brown to go through the process of hiring Harrell as offensive coordinator.
LYONS: It's a matter with all of my coaches being evaluating after the season. I think it was the day after we got back from Phoenix that Neal and I had planned on talking. Part of that discussion was how do we continue to make our program better. Jointly we talked about the offensive side of the ball and that there needed to be improvement. It was something we felt was not working. A new voice was needed.
He and I, we ultimately looked it as how do we improve on the offensive side of the ball, give him the ability to be more of CEO as a head coach and have the ability to multitask with a number of different things. That's how we arrived at saying, 'Let's hire an offensive coordinator to free you up as the head coach and make you more of a CEO overseeing the program as a whole."
INTERPRETATION: Brown agreed with the decision, but it really didn't matter. The other way wasn't working, and Lyons wasn't going to let it continue.
LYONS: This doesn't happen overnight. He's the practitioner and knows the people out there who could have an interest in the job. Neal gave me several names and Graham was one of the names. After his initial conversation with several people, he came back to me and said this is who I want to key in on.
We keyed in on him, had a lot of conversations and felt he's the right guy and made him an offer to join Mountaineer football.
INTERPRETATION: The choice was Brown's, with Lyons' backing. Now it's up to Brown to make it happen on the field.