Nick Holt Should Be Fired Right? The Numbers Tell A Different Story…


The Washington Huskies have dropped three in a row and 4 of the last 5. After a promising 5-1 start, they are now just 6-5. Their much maligned defense just gave up 38 points to a 2-8 Oregon State team that had been scoring just 20 ppg, despite getting three turnovers including an interception inside the 5 yard line as the Beavers were about to score another TD. The time has come for Steve Sarkisian to make the difficult decision to fire his close friend and colleague of many years, Nick Holt. It just seems like Nick Holt is not fit for the job of Defensive Coordinator at a major BCS-conference level team.

But, as Lee Corso likes to say…Not so fast my friends!

I am by no means a Nick Holt defender. I do not claim to know anything about defensive schemes, so I am in no position to judge the schemes or play calling by Nick Holt. But I, like many fellow Husky fans, am really getting sick of teams converting 70% of their 3rd downs. It also seems that even when the defense makes a critical stop a couple of yards shy of a 1st down, the other team has enough confidence to go for it on 4th down since it will be an easy conversion. It seems the play calling is always wrong for what the other team is doing. I’ve seen too many missed tackles, too many easy slant routes for 1st downs, too many blitzes called at the wrong time, and too many times where they don’t have enough players in the secondary to cover everyone, too many plays that could go for losses that end up being 30 yard pickups. The statistics tell the tale of a defense that has not gotten better over the last three years, and may be regressing…or do they?

I went ahead and looked at how many points each Washington opponent has scored against the Huskies, as well as, how many they have averaged this season as a whole. I also examined their national scoring ranking and overall record. It tells a pretty surprising tale! At 6-5, Washington is pretty much exactly where they should be in terms of their total offense, defense, and the strength of their schedule. In other words, Washington is a pretty average team.

OpponentResultOppon RecordAve Oppon PPGOpp Offen Nat’l Rank
Eastern WashingtonW 30–27  6-532.4N/A
HawaiiW 40–32  5-632.236
at NebraskaL 38–51  8-331.539
CaliforniaW 31–23  6-528.358
at UtahW 31–14  7-425.571
ColoradoW 52–24  2-1020.0109
at StanfordL 21–65  10-145.04
ArizonaW 42–31  3-829.550
OregonL 17–34  9-245.63
at USCL 17–40  9-234.523
at Oregon StateL 21-38  3-821.996
Washington State  30.641
 Ave. Pts Allowed: 34.456.2 – 4.931.5 
     Ave. Ranking = 44.2
Washington Offense30.9 Nat’l Scoring Ave.27.26

*By contrast to the statistics above, Washington allowed 38.6 ppg during its 0-12 season of 2008 which ranked it ahead of only Idaho, Washington State, and North Texas among all FBS schools.

Looking at the table above what you will see is that the average Washington opponent has been scoring about 31.5 ppg, but they have scored 34.45 ppg against Washington. That means the Washington opponents can essentially count on scoring 1 FG more in the game than they usually do. The Washington offense is scoring 30.9 ppg, which is just above the 27.26 ppg average of all FBS teams in the country. So, Washington is scoring on average one FG more than the average team in the country.

The average record of Washington’s opponents is just above 6-5 overall. Washington is 6-5. The only game, based on records alone, the Huskies should have won is the game against Oregon State, but the only game they should have loss that they didn’t was Utah. In essence, the Huskies are doing exactly what the statistics say they should be doing. It should be noted that I predicted before the season that the Huskies would be 6-5 at this point in the season and would finish 7-5 after beating the Cougs in the Apple Cup.

Now, on the road to recovery from an 0-12 record, maybe many of us expected more by now. Maybe after the 5-1 start, we were just getting a bit too giddy. Maybe the team is making a backwards slide late in the season. Or, maybe the schedule just got a lot harder with games against Stanford, Oregon, and USC and the Oregon State game was just an isolated bad outing by Sark and Co. at a time of inopportunity.

But, if you look at the statistics from a completely unbiased point of view, you will see a defense that is just slightly below average and an offense that is just slightly above average. This together makes for an average team. We expect more, of course. We expect that the highest paid assistant coach in the Pac-12 should be producing a defense near the top of the conference. But, something tells me that unless the defense has a breakdown of historic proportions in the Apple Cup this week, that Nick Holt will be given one more year to get this defense on track.

If, by the end of next year, they are not moving up into the top 25% of the nation on defense, it’ll be time for Nick Holt to go!