Chris Graham: Decision time for Mike London?

Let’s just start with what needs to be said. Mike London needs to clean house, or maybe his house will get cleaned for him.

A look at the numbers is a quick indication as to what is going on with Virginia’s come-back-to-earth 4-7 season in 2012. At first glance, it’s hard to figure how the Cavs could be anywhere near 4-7 considering that they are fifth in the ACC in total offense (419.1 yards per game) and third in the conference in total defense (349.1 yards per game) – numbers that would seem to be more befitting a 7-4 team or better.

So you dive deeper. Virginia is ninth in scoring offense (24.8 points per game) and eight in scoring defense(29.3 points per game). How could that be, given the first set of numbers? The Cavs can obviously move the ball, and are also pretty good at stopping other teams from moving the ball.

One logical explanation: The UVa. offense has poor field position to start with, and the defense, conversely, must be facing opposing offenses with relatively short fields.

Aha! Here we go. We’re getting close. Virginia is toward the bottom of the conference (eight) in kick returns, and a woeful 12th (i.e. dead last) in punt returns. Throw in another dead last in kick coverage and 10th in field-goal kicking and, yes, I’m beating a dead horse here.

Anthony Poindexter is in my view the best UVa. football player of the last 30 years, and one of the top three or four all-time. He has no business coaching special teams given the woeful performances of his units the past two years.

Jim Reid, similarly, should be seeing his last days in Charlottesville. For all the disadvantages his defenses have faced with the short fields handed to him by poor special-teams play and an offense prone to the turnover, Reid’s unit hasn’t helped itself out by getting off the field, forcing a league-low 10 turnovers and putting up a putrid 13 sacks all season long.

Bend-but-don’t-break has become bend-but-break anymore at Virginia.

Which brings us to the offense, which like the defense is beset by poor special-teams play with longer fields to work with and then on the plus side of the field without a reliable field-goal kicker who can be counted on to convert stalled drives into points anywhere outside the 15-yard line. That leads to more risk-taking (Virginia is tied for second in the league in fourth-down conversion attempts, and tied for third in turnovers).

The sloppy play evidenced by the turnovers is also clear in another statistical dead zone, penalties, where again Virginia is at the bottom of the conference in penalties committed and second to last in penalty yards.

Back to the critique of the offense for a moment: 11 games into the season, Bill Lazor has yet to decide on a quarterback, to the point of using a ridiculous two-quarterback rotation that was finally exposted as a fraud in Virginia’s 37-13 loss to North Carolina Thursday night, when neither Michael Rocco, last year’s starter, nor Phillip Sims, who briefly replaced Rocco as the starter midseason before Lazor settled into the back-and-forth approach, could get the offense moving against a North Carolina team that five days ago gave up 68 points to Georgia Tech.

London is yet another season-ending loss to Virginia Tech away from his second 4-8 season in three years at the helm. Year four is clearly a make-or-break year for the London regime, considering the scads of empty seats at Scott Stadium for the national-TV game with UNC (more than 16,000 officially, and unofficially, closer to 25,000, when you count the fans who came dressed as no-shows).

Overall, this is five losing seasons in seven years for UVa. football, on the heels of the long-tenured run of success under George Welsh that is a distant memory at this point.

Don’t be surprised to hear after the season that we will have seen the last of the likes of Poindexter, Reid and Lazor in Charlottesville. I doubt that it will be presented publicly as it will behind the scenes as the kind of thing where London is told that it’s either his staff, or it’s his staff and him, but that will be the case.

To paraphrase the though oft-attributed to Albert Einstein, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. And it’s pure insanity to expect the current UVa. football brain trust to be able to produce anything other than what they’ve done consistently dating back to the middle of the last decade.

It’s decision time for Mike London, if not for Craig Littlepage.

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