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Truffle Fries, The Da Vinci Code, and Arizona State's QB

Ralph Amsden Avatar
September 14, 2023

In this week’s Monday Press Conference, Kenny Dillingham explained the offensive struggles of Arizona State by using the metaphor of… truffle.

That’s right, truffle- the edible subterranean fungus known worldwide as a culinary delicacy. When truffle is added to olive oil, you can make yourself some delicious french fries. Those fries became the basis of Kenny Dillingham’s defense of quarterback Jaden Rashada. 

“You know, truffle’s elite,” Dillingham said. “But you can’t put truffle on everything.”

If that sentence doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will.

“You may have an elite guy at some place,” Dillingham continued. “But the truffle may not make it better, because the recipe is different now, because you don’t have these other ingredients.”

Dillingham went on to make his point by saying “Everybody wants to treat it as it’s one person… no, It’s a recipe of success. One person may be so great at all these things, but because you don’t have these other things at your arsenal now, this person may not be as successful with this current recipe. You’ve got to be able to adapt to what you have, and then be as successful as possible with it.”

His overall point, if you didn’t follow, is that the issue with Arizona State isn’t the play of Jaden Rashada. It’s the recipe that Jaden Rashada has been part of. 

So that bad taste in your mouth from a three point win over an FCS school, and a lack of second half offense in back to back weeks?

Don’t blame the truffle. 

As I metaphorically digested Coach Dillingham’s truffle metaphor (anyone else hungry?), I spent time about what it means to have a fundamental disagreement with someone you’re invested in keeping around. 

To put it as simply as possible, I don’t want truffle fries. I want steak fries covered in melted cheddar, or however you’d describe the second half of the 2022 season that saw one-time walk-on Trenton Bourguet beat Washington, and subsequently throw for over 340 yards on three different occasions. 

I understand that it’s not my choice. I’m a fan that writes and talks about the team on occasion. As I tell my own kids at dinner time, you get what you get, whether or not you throw a fit.

But even if my kids eat what gets served to them, it doesn’t mean they don’t want something else. 

Look, I trust Kenny Dillingham. I want him to be the coach at Arizona State for as long (or longer) as last Saturday’s opponent has had Mike Gundy at the helm. If that is to be the case, this might be the first of a thousand issues that I look upon from the outside with skepticism. The thing I’m having a hard time reconciling, however, is that it is the first major decision I’ve disagreed with- which brings me to my own strange metaphor, The Da Vinci Code.

Back in May 2006, the film adaptation of the hugely popular Dan Brown novel, The Da Vinci Code, was released in theatres. It had everything a moviegoer in 2006 was looking for in a major motion picture. First, there was Tom Hanks in the starring role… and come to think of it, that was really all you needed to sell a movie ticket back then.

My wife and I had just returned from our honeymoon, and were looking for something to do to calm our nerves in the days leading up to the game 7 playoff showdown between the “7 Seconds or Less” Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns, and the Los Angeles Clippers. Thinking back, maybe that’s the reason we were both on edge. Anyway, my wife was a big fan of the Dan Brown novel. I, on the other hand,  had never read it. As we walked out of the ice cold Harkins theater into the blazing desert sun, I turned to my wife and expressed how much I enjoyed the film.

“I hated it,” she replied. 

Thinking that I’d misheard her, I reaffirmed my enjoyment. 

“No,” she said curtly, cutting me off. “I read the book, you didn’t. This was a terrible adaptation.”

I could feel a burning in my chest and a creeping dread start to cloud my mind… you see, we had never disagreed about anything before. Our first fight was about to be in a movie theater parking lot, two weeks after we’d made a permanent commitment to each other, over a matter of opinion

So we fought. And because we didn’t know how to disagree, and even more so because we were caught up in the emotion of having never disagreed, this bizarre interaction remains one of the touchstone moments in a relationship that has continued on for 17 more years. 

In that moment, my wife had information that I did not, which informed her personal experience and opinion. I, on the other hand, was just trying to have an anxiety-free afternoon- and for some reason I thought a fictional film about 2,000 years of religious cover-ups would do the trick. 

We had every intention of being together for the rest of our lives, and so the gravity of a disagreement as simple as whether or not we corporately enjoyed a movie stopped being about the moment we were sharing, and instead became about our future.

That brings me back to Kenny Dillingham’s commitment to Jaden Rashada.

In Jaden Rashada’s first two starts, he’s shown promise. His two combined first halves are phenomenal, going 20/29 for 290 yards and three touchdowns. His two combined second halves (14/31, 113 yards, 1 INT) are what have him as Pro Football Focus’ second-lowest rated Pac-12 QB behind Utah’s Bryson Barnes, who has since been replaced with Nate Johnson until Cam Rising returns from injury.

I would understand moving forward with Jaden Rashada on a permanent basis if the move were being sold to fans as a three-year build for the future in the wake of a self-imposed bowl ban, but that hasn’t been the case in Coach Dillingham’s public comments. The goal, for the seniors, and for the players like Jalin Conyers and Elijhah Badger, who were sold on the idea of staying in Tempe, was to put the best product on the field as soon as possible. Through two weeks, Conyers and Badger have 12 combined catches. Neither on pace to outpace last year’s production, and both staring down a future schedule that includes seven teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25.

I want to win now. I’ve been an Arizona State fan since Kenny Dillingham was in kindergarten. I feel like I’ve read the book of this movie adaptation, and in my years following Pac-12 football, I’ve watched incredible coaches like David Shaw and Kyle Whittingham have to double back on starting Charlie Brewer over Cam Rising, and Jack West over Tanner McKee. It wouldn’t be a failure in my mind to take a page from Chip Kelly, who let his quarterback competition go on into the 2023 season so that when freshman Dante Moore got the nod, it was because he earned it against live competition. Even ASU’s competition on Saturday was rotating three quarterbacks to try and find the right combination, and as silly as that strategy sounds, the Cowboys left Tempe with a win. 

At the end of the day, no matter how much I feel my opinion has a basis in experience and data, It’s my opinion. The coach is the coach, and I’m all in on Kenny Dillingham for the long haul. I trust him to make these decisions, because it’s his team, and his future at stake. Like me, he grew up loving the Sun Devils, he graduated from Arizona State, he married someone from Arizona State, and perhaps more important than all of that, he likes truffle fries. 

And when they make the movie about Arizona State’s ascent to national prominence, I guarantee none of us are going to be fighting about it in a Harkins parking lot.

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