A critical, fact-based examination of the man in charge of coordinating UW's alleged defense:
Washington defensive coordinator Kent Baer traces his collegiate coaching roots to the early staffs of Bruce Snyder. For those of you who might not know, Snyder is widely regarded as one of the biggest A-holes to ever walk a Pac-10 sideline (I say this because I was living in Tucson when Snyder coached his final game there against UA, then promptly snuck out the back of the locker room to a waiting limousine without talking to the media or his players. This behavior did not go un-noticed by the local Tucson media, which took him to task in the morning papers).
Snyder hired young Baer in 1977 as a fresh-faced defensive assistant at his alma mater, Utah St . Remarkably, following the 1982 season, Snyder parlayed a 5-6 Utah St. campaign into a gig with the LA Rams. Baer stayed behind at USU and was promoted to defensive coordinator under new coach Chris Pella. The Aggies went 5-6 in that magical 1983 season. In 1984, after having the opportunity to fully implement Baer's defensive "system" the Aggies posted a not-so-impressive 1-10 mark. USU followed that up by going 3-8 in 1985. The writing was on the wall. Pella was out, and Baer needed a job.
After landing at Idaho for the 1986 season, Baer caught a break when Snyder was hired at Cal before the 1987 season. Having been out of the college game for a number of years and apparently not knowing whom else to call, Snyder tapped Baer to lead the Golden Bear defense. The Snyder/Baer led Golden Bears struggled early and often, posting a combined 19-22-4 record in the first four years. In 1991, it somehow all came together during a 10-2 season that ended with a Citrus Bowl championship. Snyder quickly cashed in his chips and headed for Arizona St. , taking his defensive coordinator with him.
While the Larry Marmie years at ASU (1988-1991) defined mediocrity (22 wins, 21 losses) the squads apparently had some athletes. In Baer's first season as ASU's defensive coordinator, the Sun Devil defense yielded a mere 17 points per contest--an impressive number to be sure. Unfortunately, the decline that followed was swift, rapid and very Baer-esque. The next year, the defense allowed 23 points per game. The following year: 32. Snyder had seen enough, and he sent Baer packing. Two years later, ASU was 11-0 and in the Rose Bowl.
Baer landed at Stanford as the linbackers coach on the staff of Lionel Tyrone Willingham. In 1999, Baer was promoted to defensive coordinator as the Cardinal won the conference and played in the Rose Bowl. Amazingly, it did so with the nation's 110th ranked defense, allowing 453 yards per game (which is actually worse than this year's UW team allowing 439 per game). In 2000, the Cardinal ranked in the lower half of the country in every major defensive statistical category, with the exception of rushing defense (#55). In 2001, they were the nation's 105th ranked defense against the pass. On to Notre Dame!
At Notre Dame, Baer inherited a defense that finished the previous season ranked #10 in the nation against the pass and #22 in total defense. Although outgoing coach Bob Davie had largely ignored his offense (ND averaged 19 points per game and had the nation's second-worst passing offense in 2001), he had stocked the roster with several future NFL defensive backs (ND had 4 DBs drafted in 2002-2003). Talent notwithstanding, Baer quickly got to work putting his all-too-familiar stamp on the program. The national pass defense ranking slid to 46th in 2002, 48th in 2003, and (after losing those 4 DBs) a second-to-last 116th in 2004. Interestingly, Baer's worst defense against the pass was the 5-7 team that got Willingham fired--not a team that was leading so many games that opponents had to pass. This brings us to Washington .
In Baer's first year on the job at Washington , his defense set out to re-write the Husky record books--and not in a good way. In 2005, statistically speaking, UW fielded its worst defense in school history, finishing the year ranked #106 against the pass and #94 in total defense. It is worth mentioning that this team finished 2-9 and rarely led. Teams did not need to pass against the 2005 UW defense, but hey, when it's that easy....why not?
Just when fans thought things couldn't get any worse, they did. In 2006, UW's Baer-led defense finished #102 against the pass (marking Baer's third consective year of finishing in the +100 club against the pass, and the 4th time in 6 years) and #95 in total defense. The 2007 Huskies are currently ranked #98 in total defense and #85 against the pass. With only Hawaii remaining on the schedule, another visit to the +100 club is certainly within reach.
The 2007 UW defense will finish worse statistically than the 2005 edition, setting yet another school record for defensive ineptitude. UW set a school record for rushing yards allowed in a single game versus Oregon, then came out the very next week against Arizona and set a school record for passing yards allowed. Though I cannot confirm it, I am farily certain that is the first and only time that has happened in the history of college football. Both games were played at Husky Stadium.
In the three years since Baer's arrival, UW has ranked 94, 95 and 98 in total defense, 89, 85 and 94 in scoring defense, and 106, 102 and 85 in passing defense. After next Saturday, that "85" will be a three-digit number.
It is time for a change.