I'm not in the business of getting coaches fired. I know it's a natural reaction for fans after seeing their team struggle to look for the scapegoat, and more often than not the coach is the easiest to find. That's generally not how I operate.
However, after seeing last night's performance, I just don't see any scenario in which Tim Beckman can afford to bring Tim Banks back as his defensive coordinator.
If you just look at the statistics from Saturday night's game, the Illini actually did a relatively decent job against Wisconsin in comparison to other teams. The Badgers finished with 478 yards of total offense and averaged 7.1 yards per play, but while those numbers aren't exactly something to brag about if you're the Illinois defense, they're actually below what the Badgers had been averaging coming into Saturday night's game.
However, those stats don't tell the whole story. It's nice to hold Wisconsin under its averages, but you also have to remember that Wisconsin spent most of the night with great field position. The average starting point of Wisconsin's 13 drives on Saturday night was its own 40-yard line. And while you can't blame the defense for that, what you can look at is the fact that eight of Wisconsin's 13 drives ended in touchdowns.
It's eight of 11 if you remove the drives that were cut short by halftime and the end of the game.
Generally if your defense allows an opponent to score a touchdown 73% of the time it gets the ball, you aren't going to win a lot of games.
Now remember that this was a performance in which the Illini were coming off a bye. You'd have to be an idiot to think that the Illini would fix all their issues on defense during the week off, but you would also expect to see some kind of improvement. We didn't see it on Saturday night. Try as they might, the Illini still couldn't tackle last night.
Unfortunately it was nothing new for the Illini last night. After last night's game the Illini defense is now allowing 454.5 yards per game (105th nationally), 6.51 yards per play (112th), 5.17 yards per rush (113th) and 32.3 points per game (98th). They also have five sacks (tied for LAST IN THE NATION) on the season and have forced only five turnovers (only Troy and Texas-San Antonio have forced less).
You can't blame Tim Banks for all of this, even if he wants to.
"Got to coach better, I guess," said Banks after the game. "Got to coach 'em better. It's my responsibility to make sure we're tackling. We didn't tackle well and didn't get off blocks well.
"Doggone right, it's me. I got to coach them better."
And Banks basically explained why he's likely to be the victim of this team's failures following the season. It wouldn't be fair to expect Banks to work a miracle with what he has. We all know -- and the coaching staff is always quick to remind us in case we don't -- that this Illini defense has a serious shortage of talent and depth when compared to the rest of the Big Ten. And there's nothing Tim Banks can do about that this season.
What he can control, though, is whether or not the unit improves. And we just aren't seeing any improvement from week to week. We certainly didn't see any real improvement last night, and this was coming off of a bye.
Now, Banks and the defense still have six games left in the season to show that improvement, but we haven't seen anything through the first half of the year that would have us expecting it to happen. Odds are that this will be a season in which the Illini offense is going to have to continue trying to cover for its defense. Which means the offense will have to play perfect games, and that's a lot to ask of anyone.
Which means that come the end of the season, while we aren't going to see the kind of coaching turnover we saw following last season, we are going to see a change at a key position on the staff. That's just the way this business works. You can't expect to keep your job when the unit you're in charge of performs as poorly as this Illinois defense has through the first half of the season.
Tim Beckman simply can't afford to go into his third season at Illinois -- the year that's generally considered make-or-break for a head coach at a school -- with a defensive coordinator who simply hasn't shown the ability to improve a defense through the first two seasons. If he did he'd likely find himself on the firing line next.
As for who the Illini could get to replace Banks, that's another post for another time. Though it needs to be mentioned that Tim Beckman nearly hired Jon Tenuta as his defensive coordinator when he came to Champaign last year, and there's a good chance that Virginia -- which is where Tenuta is serving as defensive coordinator -- will be firing its coach, Mike London, after the season. Which means Tenuta will be available.
Odds are that he'll be getting a call from Tim Beckman.
As will Tim Banks, but it'll be a call he won't want to answer.