Thursday, February 19, 2009

Some Perspective on Coaching Turnover

Shit! Tedford, you fuck... you fucked it up!
You fucked it up! The offense was in your hands, man!

Nothing is fucked here, Dude.
Come on, you're being very un-Dude. We'll find another coordinator

The loathing contingent on the message boards are having a field day with the Cignetti resignation. Thought I'd debunk some of the arguments.


"We are never going to be any good if we can't keep our offensive coordinators!" "No one else has these problems!" "What is wrong with us?"

These seem to be the favorite arguments of the Tedford Bashers. Let's look at who else in the conference has had some turnover at OC:

Oregon (Since 2002):

Andy Ludwig
Gary Crowton
Chip Kelly
2010 - Whoever takes over for Kelly when he becomes head coach

USC (Since 2001):

Norm Chow
Lane Kiffin
Steve Sarkisian
John Morton

Notice anything in common among the three schools with the most OC turnover: USC, Cal, Oregon? You guessed it. They are the winningest programs in the conference from 2002 forward under the same head coaches (Riley started at OSU in 2003).

What does that tell you? First, successful programs lose their coordinators. That's why Oregon lost Tedford. I don't see anyone banging down Wazzu's, UW's, or Stanford's door to hire their OC. Same for Stoops before he hired Dykes, or UCLA under Dorrell. Why? Because their offenses stink.

Second, the longer a head coach stays somewhere and has some success, particularly on offense, the more likely he will lose coordinators. UW, Wazzu, Stanford, UCLA, ASU - since Tedford came to Cal, these programs haven't had coaches stay long enough to have anyone hire away their OCs.

Look at it differently. Either the team sucks and the whole staff gets canned, or the team is good and its staff gets snapped up by other schools.


Did it ever occur to anyone that the coordinators Cal has had may have had their best days as coaches while they were at Cal? It's not like Mike Dunbar went out and took Minnesota to a Rose Bowl after he left Cal. At Minny, the guy got the total control he never had at Cal, and what did he do? Had a middling year and then "resigned."

And Cortez, god bless him, left coaching altogether for a while, and then recently went back to...Calgary to coach the Stampeders. No BCS schools ever showed interest.

The jury is still out on Cignetti, and he did go to the easiest BCS conference of them all so he just might win there, but I don't see him turning Pitt into a top 10 offensive powerhouse. He certainly wasn't highly coveted prior to coming to Cal - Fresno State fans were never happy with him, and neither were 49er fans.

What's my point? Regardless of who's in there, Cal's offense has been good because of Tedford, not because of the coordinators. Tedford is not running off great talent here. He's elevating no-name guys to better jobs because of his system and his offense. Cal was good before these coordinators, and it will be good after they leave.

I mean uh... hasn't that ever occurred to you, man? Sir?


Why, so the new guy can change the offense completely and then springboard into a head coaching job in a few years? As long as you are successful, you will more than likely lose your coordinators if they are young guys with their whole career ahead of them. If you intend to be successful, and Tedford already is, and thus expect to lose coordinators, you might as well stick with what got you there, to ensure your success continues after they leave.

For Tedford, what got him success is his offense. That's his ticket, and it's the cornerstone of his success at Cal (and Oregon). Cal is not a school that recruits itself or can afford to just buy the next big name coordinator. Thus, it makes sense to mitigate the loss of the guys you hire by keeping the offense constant.


Tedford has three options:

1. Hire someone new.

2. Promote from within and hire a new position coach to take over for the promoted coach.

3. Tedford takes over the OC role (or shares with another coach on staff).

I think it is too close to Spring ball for #1. Plus the table is set for a run this year. Cal gets USC early, at home, breaking in a new QB and lots of new faces on defense. Cal has almost its whole defense coming back, including all conference corner and d-lineman. It has a heisman candidate RB, talent at the skill positions, and a returning QB in his fourth year in the system. I don't know if you want to monkey around with integrating a new guy into the system with that much on the line.

#3 could work, but there are concerns about a leadership void with Mack, Ta'ufo'ou, and the linebackers all leaving. When you have a leadership void, it is more critical than ever that the head coach stay on top of his team mentally to keep them focused. It is hard to do that when you are buried in game planning and play calling.

For that reason, I like #2 or #3 + splitting and turning over play calling with another staff member. Riley needs continuity, not a new guy teaching him new things. Tedford is a QB guru, and it's his offense. He needs to work closely with Riley and the offense to tighten things up and get it humming.

The logical choice is Daft. He is a former QB, and he has coached the o-line, QBs and WRs since he's been at Cal, so he knows the reads, the blocking schemes, and the formations from multiple angles. He was up in the booth in 2007, so he is comfortable in that role already. He has also coached Riley for three years. And he called a nice game in the Armed Forces Bowl. I have suspected Tedford has been grooming Daft for this position anyway, moving him to different positions over the years and then letting him call the plays in the bowl game last year (rather than Coach M).

And I don't think you can blame Daft for Longshore 2007 or WRs 2008. Longshore played hurt in 2007 and the team had bigger problems mentally. The WRs in 2008 had zero experience, suffered from poor QB play, and did improve as the season wore on.

If he were promoted, I see Daft game planning and calling plays, with lots of input from Tedford. I also think Tedford needs to work closely with Riley and bring back a little of the Tedford QB magic that some of his past pupils have shown. That has been absent for too many years. Riley needs some tightening up in his mechanics, reads, and attitude.

Why not Gould? Because first, he is a huge asset at RB coach, both in practice and games. He is always talking to his players on the field, and is very hands on. If he becomes OC, we lose that. We are young at RB, and this is a big year for Best, so Gould is too important to lose. Second, I am not sure being an OC is really where Gould is at his best. He seems very passionate about molding his young RBs and having a connection with them, not puppeteering the whole offense.

We shall see what happens.


Anonymous said...

great article! If i were an OC I'd come in and reap the benefits of a good tedford offense. After that, i'd jump ship somewhere else

danzig said...

very well said.

SD said...

thanks - course now he went and hired Ludwig, so that's that.

Anonymous said...


"And he (Daft) called a nice game in the Armed Forces Bowl."

Wasn't that just a rumor floating around on message boards or did somebody in the know confirm that?

Awesome blog, btw.

Blog Post Archive