Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Head Coach James Perry, And Other Stuff

As happens often, TigerBlog heard a familiar song yesterday afternoon and then found himself singing it the rest of the day.

The song is "Wildflowers." It's the title track on an obscure solo album by Tom Petty, one of three albums he did without the Heartbreakers or anyone else. It was nominated for a Grammy for best album, but it's not one of Petty's more famous works.

TigerBlog has liked the song since he first heard it, in the women's basketball office back when Richard Barron was head coach. As he sang "you belong among the wildflowers; you belong somewhere close to me" all day yesterday, it dawned on him that it might have been the first time he actually heard the song on the radio, instead of on his iTunes.

Yesterday was definitely the first time he saw Jon Kurian and Craig Sachson, two of his Princeton colleagues, play ping pong. It was another first-round Jadwin tournament match, and Sachson topped Kurian in two games. After the match, Kurian had the same reaction as TigerBlog did after his loss to Mitch Henderson - "that was fun."

It wasn't as good as Kurian's pre-match comment, as he warmed up, when he said simply "I am awesome."

Kurian isn't a bad player. He actually made some really good shots. The problem is that he took too many chances, and most of them backfired. Sachson, for his part, is very consistent and mixed in some winners. If he and Henderson win their next matches, they'll meet in the semifinals. That would be a good matchup.

TigerBlog was more tuned in to the ping pong match yesterday than he was to the NFL Sunday. In fact, he was only half paying attention to the Cowboys-Eagles game when there was a break to go back to the studio for an update for another game.

This one was from the Browns-Steelers game. TB glanced up enough to see Robert Griffin III roll out and throw a touchdown pass to No. 87, and it wasn't until then that his brain actually focused and spit out this thought: "No. 87 on Cleveland is Seth DeValve, right?" Yes. It is.

DeValve was finishing his rookie season with the Browns after a career at Princeton that was marked by periods of greatness and other periods of injuries. If you've ever stood next to DeValve, you would think that he was either Rob Gronkowski or Rob Gronkowski's younger brother, due to a facial and physical resemblance.

The touchdown that DeValve caught Sunday was his second of the year, which ties him with Caraun Reid for career touchdowns scored in the NFL. Yeah, so what that Reid is a defensive lineman, right?

DeValve, who as a fourth-round draft choice last spring became the highest draft choice for a Princeton alum in the modern era, finished his rookie season with 10 times more receptions than his team had wins, as he caught 10 passes for the 1-15 Browns. Those 10 passes accounted for 127 yards, as well as the two touchdowns.

The game ended up being a pretty good one, as Cleveland took Pittsburgh into overtime before losing 27-24. It was one of those really weird Week 17 games, where Pittsburgh was locked into its playoff seed (and so rested its starting quarterback) and Cleveland needed a loss for the No. 1 overall pick.

The Eagles-Cowboys game was similarly meaningless, with the Cowboys locked in as the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the Eagles long since eliminated from playoff contention. Perhaps the game mattered for where the Eagles drafted; TB isn't sure.

Dallas, of course, has TigerBlog's favorite coach (Jason Garrett) and least favorite owner (Jerry Jones). Garrett is a Princeton alum and former Bushnell Cup winner, and you'll have to trust TB when he says that there are few people in this world easier to root for than Garrett.

The Cowboys tied the franchise record with 13 wins this year, and they did so with a rookie quarterback and rookie running back. The rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, became the starter only because Tony Romo was hurt most of the season, but Romo looked really sharp when he played briefly against the Eagles.

So now what does Garrett do if Prescott struggles for a quarter or a half in the playoffs? Will Jones order Romo back onto the field? It's not a great spot for the coach to be in, even if he will be home for every game prior to the Super Bowl if he can get that far.

In other football news close to home, it's time to say goodbye to James Perry.

The offensive coordinator of Princeton's football team during all seven seasons that Bob Surace has been head coach, Perry will be leaving the Tigers to become the head coach at Bryant.

There are a lot of great college football coaches and only so many head coaching jobs, so anyone who becomes a head coach on the Division I level has accomplished something extraordinary. TigerBlog would like to congratulate Perry on his first head coaching position.

TigerBlog thinks the last Princeton assistant coach to leave for a head coaching job was Joe Susan, who went from here to Davidson (head coach) to Rutgers (assistant) to Bucknell (head coach). Have there been others?

Perry helped build one of the most unique offenses that college football has ever seen. Seriously. How many teams out there play with two or three quarterbacks on the field at once?

The result of the offense that Surace and Perry put together was a record-setting 2013 season and an Ivy League championship. When teams adjusted to what Princeton was doing, Surace and Perry tweaked it enough to put another high-powered offense together this past year, when Princeton won another Ivy title.

Perry was the all-time leading passer in Ivy League history after putting up 9,294 yards at Brown before graduating in 2000. His record has since been bettered by Cornell's Jeff Matthews, by the way.

Perry also has won more Ivy League Player of the Week awards than any other player in league history (nine), and he was the 1999 Bushnell Cup winner as the Ivy League Player of the Year.

The team he inherits went 5-6 a year ago, including a 4-2 record in the Northeast Conference.

It'll be interesting to see what he does as a head coach. Will he immediately use the multiple quarterback style? The starter from this past year, who threw 388 of the team's 390 pass attempts, was a senior.

The first task is to build a staff. Perry was introduced yesterday at a press conference at the school, in Smithfield, R.I.

Perry has left an outstanding legacy at Princeton. He has a great football mind, and he also has brought a great presence and stability to the Tigers offense.

He will not be easy to replace.

But hey, that's how he got a head coaching job in the first place.

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