If you've read Malcolm Gladwell, you're all probably familiar with the concept of the 10,000 hour rule. It's the idea that if you spend a lot of time learning, practicing and immersing yourself in a particular discipline, you will become a master at it. The Beatles playing in Germany hundreds of times because British people were too busy drinking tea, Bill Gates taking advantage of the lack of YouTube to program on his computer all day, etc. etc.
In college football, the same concept applies, although you can probably dub it something similar to the Three Year Rule. When you're trying to build something that's unique and not at all aligned with the way things were, a turnaround can't come instantly. You have to rid yourself of the rot and instill something that will last beyond one season. It might be painful in the short term, but it pays off in huge dividends in the long run.
It took Chip Kelly just over two years to turn Oregon into an uncatchable spaceship. Ditto Nick Saban at Alabama, Art Briles at Baylor, Mike Leach at Texas Tech, Jim Harbaugh at the Farm, Chris Petersen at Boise State, Urban Meyer at whatever program he turns into his pet project, and any other remarkable coach who knows that to be great, you have to dare to be different. (And yes, even Jeff Tedford needed three years to make Cal a force to be reckoned with).
The key thing to remember: On the way to all that success, all those teams lost. Some lost more than others. Harbaugh had two losing seasons in Palo Alto and lost head-to-head battles with Mike Stoops. Saban got embarrassed by Louisiana Monroe and got creamed by Utah on a national stage. Kelly took awhile to figure out the players he needed to run the system he wanted. Briles had to show Baylor that they could execute forward passes without them being intercepted.
We're still a long way from knowing exactly where Sonny Dykes and Tony Franklin fall on the coaching spectra, but this isn't really a time to judge them. Too much has gone wrong and too much has been taken away from them. Once one part of the team improved, another part regressed.
With the Bears now 1-6 and pretty much stuck in the cellar for the rest of 2013, they know this is pretty much a training wheels season. It's all about the reps now, seasoning these Bears for a step forward away from the abyss.
The past four weeks, we've had to wake up every Saturday and endure some pretty exhausting football. They're trying hard and all, but it just feels like we're spinning the wheels and gathering reps at this point. This whole exercise of pretending this season matters just feels like more practice for 2014, when we can truly figure out what this team is capable of.
We'll just have to hope that as the Bear Raid accumulates all those reps, the breakthrough will be that more likely to come the next game. Right now we're just growing.
(Note: I cannot guarantee that any return to greatness will ever involve beating Mike Riley, Oregon State, or anything of the sort. Divine intervention and 10,000 prayers might be required.)