Kelly vs. Canzano on Oregon discipline

February, 24, 2010
2/24/10
12:05
PM ET
This is great radio: Oregonian columnist John Canzano and Oregon coach Chip Kelly engage in a spirited debate over discipline within the Ducks' program.

Here's Canzano reviewing the debate a day later.

Couple of things.

Both guys score points.

Canzano makes a valid point -- Kelly admits as much -- that running back LaMichael James should be suspended after he was charged with domestic violence last week.

Canzano notes an inconsistency that backup linebacker Kiko Alonso was suspended for the 2010 season after being charged with DUI early Saturday morning.

Not sure if I agree. Alonso's and James' cases are substantially different. There's no field test for truth with James' case.

Clearly, Kelly believes that there are two sides in James' case. "I believe my player," he said. So Kelly is withholding judgment until the case goes forward in court -- a questionable but not indefensible course of action.

Canzano talks about public perception and how Kelly needs to send a message to his team.

"I don't speak for the public, but I speak for this team," Kelly replied.

That's an interesting assertion in a way that might not be immediately clear.

While Kelly's program is getting trenched by the media -- and rightfully so, by the way -- Kelly's handling of events is almost certainly playing well in the locker room.

And it will help Kelly in recruiting.

Players -- and players' families -- want a coach who's got their backs, even when they're in trouble.

Know who first told me that? Bobby Bowden, who was often accused of being lax on discipline.

Zero-tolerance discipline makes for a good sound bite. There are plenty of people who love its seeming righteousness.

It's just not the only -- or necessarily most effective -- way to manage people in the real world, particularly when many controversies have significant gray areas.

Speaking of the real world, some have pointed at a potential double standard. Kelly has suspended or booted three backups and a walk-on but no starters involved in off-field problems.

First, that's only a superficial take. When reviewed on an individual basis, Kelly's logic for handling each player is defensible. For example, dismissed backup receivers Garrett Embry and Jamere Holland are completely aware of why they are no longer with the team. I -- and other reporters -- inquired about both of their statuses in advance of their recent headline-making transgressions.

But, beyond that: Of course there's a double standard! A walk-on plays by different rules than a star quarterback. Sorry that assertion won't end up on a coaching Hallmark card, but it's true.

Where in our society aren't there double standards? You could start with economics, but let's just put it this way: Does a typical boss favor highly productive people over less productive ones?

Don't take this as a ringing endorsement of how Kelly's handled Oregon's recent off-field problems. It's only that it seems fairer to give him an "incomplete" rather than an "A" or "F" at this point.

Managing a group of people -- particularly 100-plus men ages 18 to 25 -- is complex and delicate. Things can go haywire quickly, and it never helps to operate in the media glare, particularly in our age of "citizen journalism" -- Twitter! Facebook! random blogs! -- where, er, standards of measuring rumor versus fact are a bit looser.

Things could go haywire at Oregon, a team that at present seems determined to take a hammer to high expectations for the 2010 season.

What's great is hindsight is (typically) 20-20. It's likely we will be passing ultimate judgment on recent events next December, when Kelly and his Ducks either celebrate a great season and a second consecutive Pac-10 championship -- and a locker room saturated with character! -- or mourn what-might-have-been amid a whirl of further controversies.

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