The expectations for a college football team are like the expectations for Instagram. People don't want to wait around to see what happens. People want results now, not later. Used to be there were five-year plans in college football. Now there are 5-minute plans.
Lenny Wagner, Santa Rosa JC's coach, resists the temptation to grab the moment like a life preserver. Wagner either has red-shirted or gray-shirted 40 kids this season. It could be for a medical reason. Or a maturity reason. Or getting-used-to-college reason.
"The first year of college for an athlete is always tough," Wagner said. "There is so much change, so much adjustment necessary. They need time to grow."
Of those 40 kids, Wagner said 20 of them could either start or be immediate, significant contributors. That's a lot of quality beef, a lot of instant upgrades, a lot of worry solved. There would be depth at every position. Games, unlike now, would not feel like patchwork quilts for the Bear Cubs coaching staff, as they move kids to fill holes suddenly vacated by an injured starter.
So why doesn't Wagner move all his chips to the center of the table and exclaim, "I'm all in"?
"Because I want long-term stability," Wagner said, "not success for just one season."
The pressure certainly is there for Wagner to push the button now. SRJC football has fallen on some lean times lately, but the program has a solid history. Adam Froman, the 2008 California Offensive Player of the Year, and Scott Ware, the 2003 California Defensive Player of the Year, are among more than 250 ex-SRJC guys who went on to play at Division I schools.
There's a pedigree at SRJC and the school's 4-1 record right now would indicate that Wagner wouldn't have to push the panic button.
But SRJC lost its starting quarterback for the season in Game 2. Up to this point of the season, additionally, it lost its starting right tackle, left tackle, right guard, strong safety and two defensive ends for the year.
There have been concussions, fractured neck vertebrae, separated shoulders and torn ACLs. Injuries are like a virus. They come unannounced, out of nowhere, with literally and figuratively crippling results. As many as four players go both ways, a testament to their talent but also a statement about lack of backups.
That SRJC is 4-1 is a compliment to be paid to the players and the coaching staff for making adjustments without grumble.
Rather, the coaches have had some fun with the situation, if the word "fun" can be applied.
Last Thursday, Wagner and his staff held the Red-Shirt Bowl Game at Bailey Field.
It was a full-contact, nine-man game for players who weren't physically restricted. Wagner worked the public address announcer's microphone.
Said Wagner off the mic: "There's Kyle Lewis (Analy graduate) going off tackle and if he stayed outside he could have picked up some yards but instead he cut inside for zero gain."
The prodding was good-natured and the relief for the players who haven't played in a game was calculable.
"We'd call personal fouls from the press box," Wagner said.
"Personal foul, No. 56, sticking out his tongue at the press box ..." OK, that didn't happen.
Injuries can be very inconvenient for a football team. They can take expectations and reduce them to rubble. Wagner has no answers to why they have occurred.