Caleb Williams was an emotional wreck who just needed to be held. The Trojans lost their third game of the season because they couldn’t stop a Pop Warner team. Head coach Lincoln Riley fired the worst defensive coordinator in college football with two games left on the schedule. USC is a Hollywood drama.
It wasn’t just that we had to watch Williams cry in his loved ones’ arms in the stands — as it felt like we were invading a private moment in a public space — it’s that it wouldn’t have happened if Riley had done what he did a long time ago.
Riley’s decision to fire USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch on Sunday wasn’t just too little too late — it was the latest example of how Williams’ probable last season in college has been wasted, as his preseason chances of trying to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winner’s hopes ended weeks ago.
“I want to go home and cuddle with my dog and watch some shows,” Williams said after the Trojans 52-42 home loss to Washington. “Like, we lost the game. I work hard throughout months, years to have big games like this, try and go win and play your best, each and every one of us. We came out with a loss today, so emotionally I want to go home and I want to play with my dog.”
The No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft is broken, and it’s all Riley’s fault.
According to Steve Berkowitz of USA Today Sports, Riley brought Grinch along with him from Oklahoma and USC had to pay $1.08 million to Oklahoma to cover Grinch’s buyout. And according to Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic, “Iowa OC Brian Ferentz out last week, and USC DC Alex Grinch out today. No head coaches have been fired for on-field performance yet this season, but the two hottest-seat coordinators now have been.”
Head coaches keep escaping accountability as if the poor performance of the coordinators they hired and employed aren’t notated in their files.
“A wasted brilliant offense. A wasted Heisman Trophy winner. A wasted full Coliseum. A wasted revival of Trojan pride,” is how Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke described it, as Grinch’s defense gave up 572 total yards and 52 points to Washington, along with allowing the Huskies to rush for 316 yards while being the 117th-ranked rushing team in the country. “Wasted, all of it, because of coach Lincoln Riley’s refusal to fix an indefensibly bad defense that, in a single, frightening word, has forever chiseled itself on to this season’s tombstone.”
In their last two games, the Trojans have given up 101 points. They’ve allowed teams to average 34.5 points per game against them this season. From his time at Oklahoma to the last two seasons at USC, Riley has proven that he only cares about out-scoring his opponent, even when it’s to the detriment of his offense.
Riley is an offensive genius who has coached three of the last six Heisman Trophy winners. If you’re a quarterback who wants to win a Heisman and be the No. 1 overall pick, he’s the guy you want to play for. But if you want to win College Football Playoff games and not deal with perpetual letdowns, go somewhere else.
A few months ago, Williams made headlines when his father told GQ that his son could return to school for the 2024 season depending on how the NFL’s draft order panned out. “The funky thing about the NFL Draft process is, he’d almost be better off not being drafted than being drafted first. The system is completely backwards,” he said. “The way the system is constructed, you go to the worst possible situation. The worst possible team, the worst organization in the league — because of their desire for parity — gets the first pick. So it’s the gift and the curse.”
A few months later, and a breakdown in his family’s arms due to his head coach’s unwillingness to do what’s necessary to win, has all but nixed that idea. Caleb Williams is headed to the NFL to likely play for one of the worst teams in the league because Lincoln Riley took too long firing the worst defensive coordinator in college football. If you’re going to deal with disappointment, at least get paid for it.
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