It’s safe to say at this point that Arizona Rattlers coach Kevin Guy is the right guy. But as he explains it, too, he’s just one of the guys.
“It starts with hiring good people, good players and good coaches,” Guy said. “I’m just one part of it.”
A large part.
Arizona, with an Arena Football League playoff berth and first-round home game secured with two weeks left in the regular season, has done an about-face with Guy at the helm. The 4-12 campaign last year is a distant memory. The current squad is 8-6, has four consecutive wins and turned in its best game from start to finish last week in routing Kansas City, 73-34.
Guy has no formula for this instant success, which has followed him as a coach for five years in the Arena League. He arrived from San Jose, the defensive coordinator for the 2007 champs last year.
“There were things I brought from San Jose, things I learned there,” Guy said. “I’m not a big ego guy. I take the approach of being a sponge and soaking up everything I can wherever I’m at.”
A 10-win season is within reach, as is an outside shot at the American Conference’s Western Division title. Those are possibilities that make Guy a viable candidate for coach of the year.
“We’re a young football team, and it took us a while to learn how to win,” Guy said. “We’re making progress in that area. What is amazing is how the team has responded to the injuries we’ve had. We’ve had 20 guys on (injured reserve), and five of them are out for the year. That’s the most in the league. We’re gaining confidence and executing.”
Perhaps the toughest part of the Rattlers’ 2008 journey has been the quarterback carousel, one which has spun often due to injury.
Season-opening starter Lang Campbell suffered a knee injury and is out for the year. Jeff Smoker replaced him. The Rattlers have relied on Matt Sauk the past couple of weeks while Smoker’s injured shoulder mends.
“We knew coming in with everything being new, ownership, coaches, players, it was going to take time,” Guy said. “The stretch we’ve had lately is proof of our learning and maturity.”
Guy’s focus for the Rattlers this week is win No. 9, which would ensure a winning season. Wins in the final two games would make it 10.
“Right now we’re looking at new goals every week,” Guy said.
One goal satisfied is ownership’s money-back guarantee to season-ticket holders if the Rattlers failed to make the playoffs. That’s reason enough in their eyes that Guy is the right guy.
EXTRA POINT: Guy said late this week that Sauk would remain the quarterback even though Smoker is ready to return.
“If I made a change it would be our sixth quarterback change this year,” Guy said. “With Matt playing as well as he is, I don’t think a change is warranted. As the head coach I do have the right to change my mind, but that’s what the plan is now. Matt’s playing well and so is our team. I don’t want to mess with that.”