Time’s up; let’s change

The failures are obvious. They are increasing. They are consistent, they are maddening. And they are inexcusable.

As our cohorts over at the BBC point out, the key sentiment in Carmen Ohio refers to “time and change will surely show,” and argue that we need more time to allow change to take effect. An excellent metaphor for their point, but with due respect, I argue the exact opposite. We’ve had enough time.

The coach must go. He can no longer hide behind the convenient excuse of a program in turmoil. His failures go back much further than Jim Tressel’s resignation, in fact his failures were present throughout the Tressel era at Ohio State.

What, you thought I was referring to Luke Fickell? Of course not. It would be a terrible overreaction to hold Fickell responsible based on eight days of offensive failure. On this, the BBC and the thousands of Buckeye fans blogging and tweeting the same thing are exactly correct.


Not the problem.

No, I’m referring to the coach at the root of the problem: Jim Bollman.

Buckeye bloggers and writers like myself have been critical of Bollman for the past decade. But because Tressel was the type to keep details of his management style “close to the vest,” we were unable to criticize Bollman with reasonable credibility. Our criticisms were mitigated by the fact that we trusted Tressel, and he obviously trusted Bollman, and he was winning all those conference championships… so we’ll yield the floor to the one that clearly knows better.

Yet we should have seen this collapse coming. Ohio State’s offensive line problems were maddeningly inexplicable through the mid-late 2000s. Despite several classes of high-star recruits, OSU consistently failed to develop the squad with the same level of success as the defensive line players, or linebackers, or WR corps, or any other squad on the team. (Somewhere out there Boone is still whiffing on easy blocks.) The responsibility for the high-profile losses of the era (LSU, USC, Florida) were largely placed at the feet of the underachieving O-line.

In fact, it was the consistent underachieving O-line that was the primary driver for Tressel’s pursuit and use of mobile QBs like Pryor, Guiton, and Miller. With a better O-line, Pryor would have likely redshirted as Boeckman cerebraled (yes, I totally used the word ‘cerebraled’) his way to another title shot a’ la’ Krenzel.


The problem.

The day after the 2008 beatdown by USC, I ran into Dimitrious Stanley, former OSU WR currently serving as an analyst for a Columbus TV station. I asked him what he thought of the shame of the offensive gameplan and whether or not it would ever improve. Stanley said that the weaknesses were well known to everyone on the inside, but that Tressel had also made it clear that he would never dismiss Bollman, regardless of performance, and that the two would work as a tandem for as long as Tressel had a job.

Loyalty was Tressel’s most dominating personal attribute, for better or for worse.

But that horse has been beaten, shot, buried, dug up, and beaten again. What does that mean for 2011 and beyond?

Put simply, for a decade it’s been quite impossible for us to pinpoint where Bollman started and where Tressel ended. But whatever mystery remained on the issue has been exposed and clarified for us in Tressel’s absence.

What has become clear to us now is that Tressel’s strengths were largely able to overcome Bollman’s weaknesses.

The two old friends, frankly, were a good team – a single good offensive coordinator in a two-coach body. Now that Tweedledum’s gone, we’re left with one-half of an offensive team coach in Tweedledee.

(An aside: while this post concentrates on the offensive coordinator, similar concerns should be raised about QB coach Nick Siciliano, whose weaknesses were apparently also hidden by a hands-on Tressel.)


Former video technician for the film room, now the QB coach. Also a problem.

But all we need is “time” for the changes to work, right? After all, Tressel also inherited a program in shambles, and turned it around into a national title contender in two years. Right? Wrong.

The comparison between Fickell’s and Tressel’s situations stops when you consider that Tressel installed a new coaching staff. Tressel was not saddled with underachieving Cooper leftovers.

Also, he was able to give himself the best opportunity to succeed by putting together a staff that complemented his strengths and mitigated his weaknesses. He was a coach who spent his career on the offensive side of the ball. He coached quarterbacks like Mike Tomzcak, and running backs like Keith Byers. After being named head coach at OSU, he recognized that he needed help running a BCS defense — and thus the legacy of Dantonio and his successor Haecock were established.

Luke Fickell is not in that situation at all. In that sense, Fickell is the anti-Tressel. He’s spent his playing and coaching career on defense, and enters a situation with a world-class defensive staff already in place. Fickell and Vrabel are the new Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Fickell needs to recognize that, just like Tressel needed defensive minds in 2000, he needs offensive ones in 2011.

And Bollman is not an offensive mind. If you still disagree with my assessment of the impact of his weaknesses, consider this:

One hallmark of any decent OC or DC is the manner to which they are pursued by other schools. We can mentally tick off the numerous Tressel assistants that have been pursued by other schools and hired as head coaches: Dantonio, Treadwell, Hazell, and of course Fickell. But nobody’s come calling for Bollman. And when OSU needed a head coach, he was immediately ruled out in favor of Fickell. Sure, I will concede that his closeness to Tressel may have been a factor, but I’m also certain that the powers-that-be were nervous about whether he could pull it off.

Potential offensive coaches would be clamoring for the opportunity to work with a team with the prestige of Ohio State, not to mention one as stacked with talented players and recruits as OSU seems to be. Fickell would have his pick. Consider Muschamp’s first hire. Regardless of what you thought of Weis as a head coach, Muschamp’s action in hiring him exemplifies one of the most important duties of a modern-day head coach: surrounding himself with the talent he needs to succeed.

I believe that it’s clear that Bollman, along with many others in the offensive staff, will not be around next year. But if it were up to me, I’d have them gone by this weekend.

It’s “time” for “change to surely show” how weak thy OC is, Ohio.

Comments

  1. MaliBuckeye says:

    Nice thoughts, Monkey… I’d love to see what a team with a Fickell chosen staff might look like on the field.

  2. Boom. Knocked this one out of the park.

    Also bothering me is the trendy new reminder of the 2001 UCLA game that we’re supposed to believe is the equivalent of the 2011 Miami game because we only scored 6 points.

    But that UCLA team was probably better than this Miami team and even if they weren’t, we only lost by 7 points – the same 7 points that can be accounted for on 2 missed field goals and a PAT. Please find me where in Saturday’s game we were in position to make up the eventual 18 point deficit…

    I understand the urge to defend Fickell and I’m right there with everybody on that one (although I’m super worried about his decision-making abilities with his OR-laden depth charts and all). But Bollman HAS. TO. GO. NOW.

  3. Not surprisingly I disagree with you on this post lol. Unfortunately I am in the less then vocal minority of the 3.2 million Buckeye fans (according to a new NYT study). Maybe this fire Bollman strategy would be taken more serious by me if when the offense was doing great over the last decade Bollman got the same kind of praise as he does criticism when things go badly. He makes for a nicely wrapped package of a scapegoat for most fans. Which is fine we all need someone or something to blame for failures and no one wants it to be Fickells fault or the players.

  4. Fickell doesnt have a long term contract and there was no time for him to make any coaching changes even if he wanted to or was allowed to do which I dont think he was. Be honest though no one other then your BFF (insert Vrabels name) would be willing to take a job in June to become the OC for a team with a HC with a 1 year contract and possibly huge violation penalties forthcoming and the offensive stars of the team suspended or gone.

  5. Luke Fickell is not a head coach….and won’t be at the end of this year.

    He is not ready. Not even close.

    Last year when OSU scored 38.8 ppg, did Bollman get a lick of credit? So why is he getting killed this year? It’s his fault a Heisman candidate is in the NFL and his staring LT, RB and WR are suspended 5 games?

    If Pryor, Herron, Adams, and Posey could put their love of tattoo’s on hold till graduation and Duron Carter could read a book, OSU would be averaging 45 ppg and we would be talking about why Pryor is a douche bag during interviews.

    But no, here we are bashing Bollman because he has a God awful QB and WR situation. The line and the backs are producing. OSU basically doesn’t have a passing game and might not all season long.

    I don’t like Bollman and can’t wait for him to be gone…but then again…is this really his fault?

  6. sportsMonkey says:

    Yes – it’s Bollman’s fault. Entirely.

    If you note my main point, that Tressel and Bollman together were a good OC tandem, that addresses the “…but …but Bollman never got credit for OSU winning” argument. In JT’s absence, Bollman’s true limitations are being exposed.

    Fact: without Bollman’s terrible O-line, OSU would likely have won at least two or three more national titles in past decade. For sure it would have meant the difference in the USC, LSU, and Fla games. And it might have won Beanie the Heisman, too.

    Sorry, but I get super annoyed when folks blame Tressel and Pryor for the loss at Miami and struggle against Toledo. Those are bad defenses that even a crippled OSU team should have beaten, had its offense been properly coached, prepared, and developed. Nobody is expecting 45 ppg in Pryor’s sudden absence, but competence? Yes, that is a reasonable expectation.

    There is no excuse for a team like OSU to not have a competent QB. No excuse. Again, I’m not expecting 45 ppg in the wake of a Heisman contender’s departure. We are expecting, over the course of the past several years, that the coaches at a school with the prestige of OSU would have been able to locate and develop a QB that could play even mediocre ball. That we wouldn’t be seeing coaches at an elite school making mistakes that coaches on lowly MAC teams make.

    Bollman’s failures go back a decade, and all of our current problems are caused either by his own incompetence or his failure to manage the offensive coaching staff and their personnel properly.

    His failures are not excused because Pryor got tattoos.

  7. @SM- Would OSU have played better against Toledo and Miami if the tattoo scandal never happened and we still had JT and TP and the other guys?

    The truth is in these first 3 games OSU has had to play a ton of freshman and career back-ups. The OL itself in the 2 deep has 2 freshman and 3 walk-ons. Yet this has arguably been the best OL play OSU has had in a long time. During the first 3 games OSU has had up to 33% of their scholarship players unavailable to play in each game due to suspensions and injuries. Again OSU has been using their 4th and 5th string RBs the first few games as starters.

    Joe Bauserman was a horrible QB 2 years ago. He was a horrible QB last year. OSU knew he could never be the starter so they went out and recruited players like Justin Siems and Tyler Grahm and Braxton Miller. Until June OSU thought that TP would be the QB this year and that Braxton would learn while watching for a year while maybe playing the first few games sparringly with Joe while waiting for TP to come back.

    I don’t know if Bollman is the problem. Maybe he is. He isnt out there throwing the ball erratically all over the stadium. He isnt out there dropping balls that hit him in the hands. The bad gameplay is much bigger than just Bollman IMO. It is just easier to find a scapegoat and put the jist of the blame on them. When in reality it is the fault of everyone for not being prepared to play or for not being able to play. All the coaches take part of this blame as do those no longer with OSU.

    It sure is a lot more fun when OSU fans put their anger towards Mark May or the NCAA or anyone not a member of Buckeye Nation. OSU fans aren’t use to dealing with adversity and when it happens we tend to think the world is coming to an end and we need someone to sacrifice to the volcano. Bollman is the easy target to push in first. If he was gone people would just move on to blame someone else eventually.

  8. @SYR – holding the responsible one responsible is not the same as finding a scapegoat.

    OSU’s weakness over the past decade has been Bollman’s inability to coach his line and manage his offense. Tressel made up for that.

    Now that Tressel’s gone, Bollman is left. This isn’t about injuries, this is about (for example) Bollman pulling Miller last week after he fumbled the ball to himself. Or saying “yeah even though our team is built for power rushing, lets keep ‘B-deck Bauserman’ in there and have him throw bombs all day.” Incompetence.

    I agree that OSU is fragile now… so why are we letting a bull loose in a china shop to sabotage and make things worse? Between the depleted personnel and the absence of Tressel, we don’t have the margin for this kind of error anymore. The longer things continue to spiral, the longer it will take to get OSU back to where it belongs.

  9. Sorry to monopolize the comments in my own post! :) But I just saw a very cogent comment on a Buckeye message board and have to paste it here. (I had forgotten that JT had relieved Bollman of O-line duties a couple years ago… right around the time OSU’s line started to finally improve.)

    Via Mr. Buckeye 2004: “First, Jim Bollman has coached what is annually the weakest link on the team. He cost OSU at least one national championship, Todd Boeckman his starting position, and will be a major contributor to Luke Fickell’s demise at Ohio State. If he was fired or left the program today, no major college football program would want him. As one poster mentioned yesterday, JT took over coaching the offensive line a few years ago due to Bollman’s incompetence. You better believe that JT overruled Bollman on a regular basis.

    Second, Nick Siciliano was unqualified for the position when JT hired him. Not even Findlay College would have hired him to be its quarterbacks coach. Terrellle Pryor never improved last season under Siciliano’s tutelage. Bauserman and Miller look horrible. It is doubtful that Siciliano ever will make these guys better. The only way these guys improve is if Drayton is mentoring them.

    If you look at the Tressel era, how many coaches on the offensive side actually were promoted? I count two and one of them was a Cooper hire. With the exception of Drayton, the offensive coaches would be lucky to find employment at even a MAC school.”

  10. I was going to write another long post debunking what I think is wrong in your replies then I realized I doubt either of us is going to convince the other one to come to their way of thinking lol.

    So instead I think we will just have to agree to disagree :)

  11. I wasn’t blaming Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor for the Miami loss.

    But I’ll say this…if OSU had Pryor, Posey, Adams and Herron vs. Miami and still didn’t have Tressel…OSU wins by 20….easily.

    Again, I’m no fan of Bollman…BUT I don’ think there is a OC or QBC that could coach up Bauserman to be any more than what he is right now.

    So the question is…what is wrong with OSU’s QB recruiting? Why is Bauserman the best OSU has to offer? Tajh Boyd….OSU nearly got this recruit, another 5 star QB. He nearly signed 1 year after Pryor’s freshman year. He ended up going to Clemson instead because he wanted more playing time. He is now starting for Clemson and he threw for over 380 yards and 4 TD’s in a comeback win vs. Auburn.

    Pryor scared away top flight recruits. Joe Montana’s kid was another one.

    Everyone I talk to was terrified of having Bauserman as the starter and here we are 3 games into the season and everyone’s fears have come true…and worse.

    Sometimes….like in Bausermans case….the player is just really, REALLY bad. Not much a coach can do with that.

  12. “Terrellle Pryor never improved last season under Siciliano’s tutelage.”

    Really?

  13. @Kade – I also thought that “Pryor didn’t improve” statement from the commenter was a big exaggerated. Think he got carried away with his point there.

    But regarding Siciliano, there is no question that he failed to develop Bauserman, Guiton, and Graham into competent QBs. He gets credit for Pryor, but Pryor deserves a lot of that credit to himself and his innate talent. But as regards the rest of the QB corps, it’s a complete mess. These guys were good recruits, have been in the program long enough to be competent.

    Perhaps Guiton and Graham are competent, but the wrong decision’s being made. Who knows? At one point we had enough trust to assume that if the coaches said someone wasn’t ready, he wasn’t ready. But now, who knows for sure. If they thought Baus was ready, and he’s not after 5 years, how do we know whether they’re correct in that Guiton or Graham are not?

    Jury’s still out on Miller, but let me ask you this: how good do you think Miller would be if he were coached by Urban Meyer, or Steve Sarkesian, or even (shudder) Charlie Weis? I think that makes the point. Maybe that’s what’s scaring away the Boyds and Montanas.

    I’m certain that Clemson told Boyd the following during recruiting: “Hey, check out how terrible Bauserman was. Check out how his line was so terrible he was running for his life the entire time. Now, do you want to play there, coached by an A/V tech, or do you want to play quarterback, coached by a QB coach to prepare you for the NFL?”

    @SYR: Ever the MotSaG optimist, you’ll probably be proven right as usual. :) I guess I’m just impatient. I know the team will improve, but I’d rather have one 7-5 season followed by a 12-0 one than three frustrating 8-4s, which is where I’m worried the team will head if we don’t get some decent offensive coaching in place.

  14. What this program needs is an enema.

    Come off the money and pay da man. Let him clean house. Resurrect, “What it means to be a Buckeye”. There’s no one better knowleged with the “Woody Ways’, and experienced with winning and losing. That has made mistakes both on and off the field. And, my last point, will out recuit ScUM, UW, UN, Penn ST., must of the SEC. bring The Ohio State University, Buckeye Nation another National Championship than…..Urban Meyer

    Get this man in there! period.

  15. Is it possible that Bauserman, Guiton and Graham aren’t all that great? I mean, none of those guys were highly regarded. And Guiton was a throw in after Boyd went to Clemson.

    Guiton and Graham were 3 star recruits and Bauserman was a 2 star recruit who chose baseball and came back to OSU as a walk-on.

    Miller will be outstanding….it’s just hard for a true freshman to grasp how to play QB in college. It’s not easy.

    This year will be a “waste” as far as Big Ten and National hopes goes. Next year OSU will have a whole new head coach and offensive staff.

  16. German Buckeye says:

    So where does this all leave us? A blip of a down year THIS season, or a continued spiral down to mediocrity over the coming 3-4 years. God help us if we turn into Penn State or Iowa.

  17. OSU desperately needs a stud head coach or recruiting will suffer and OSU will turn into a PSU type program instead of the elite program it’s been.

    Meyer is the absolute best college coach in the country and can recruit like no one’s business.

    Get the big name and the ship will be righted.

  18. I’ve always been an execution guy. There isn’t a single play in the OSU playbook that is designed to not gain yards. Even the simplest ISO or Dave play has a plan to account for everyone on the defense except one defender, on which it is the responsibility of the ball carrier to make a play.

    That’s simplistic, but my point is this: coaches prepare, teach and practice their players. Repetition and study are part of that preparation, but you need players to execute, no matter what the defense throws at you. That’s been my stance.

    But recently, it has become apparent to me (at least) that we have little or no creativity. That is also a key component of coaching, knowing what play to call and when. We are severely lacking in this department.

    Whether that’s Bollman or Fickell, I don’t know. But something has to change. In the game against Akron, we ran on first down, passed on second at least 4 offensive series in a row. It looked great because Akron, but it failed miserably against Toledo. No creativity.

    I heard an interesting interview about how the older, established coaches (Paterno, Mack Brown) were getting out-coached by younger guys because they didn’t have the fire and excitement that the younger ones did. They didn’t fire the kids up, they couldn’t “relate” to the players. I wonder how much of that is happening with Bollman.

  19. @Kade – I think everyone is jumping on the Miller bandwagon too quickly. He might be great. He might be Justin Zwick 2.0. I don’t think anyone can say with certainy yet what “he will be”. Let’s just see him play more than two series in a row before we declare him the next Troy Smith.

    This year is also “not a waste”. Yes, we’re not going to the NCG and probably not to the BTCG. But we can still have a solid season, go to a solid bowl game and get solid game experience for the young’uns.

    But yes, I agree: Get Meyer (to the choppa!)

  20. If there are two wagon’s:

    Bauserman wagon

    Miller wagon

    I’m jumping on the Miller wagon…why?

    To make sure he gets what you said…solid game experience for the young’uns. Miller needs MORE practice and game reps…not less.

    They already burned his red shirt…so let him learn.

  21. I am on the Justin Seims Wagon just so I can screw up spelling Siems or is it Seims like I do Thier or is it Their?

  22. “They already burned his red shirt…so let him learn.”

    +10000000

    There is no reason that he cannot be successful. Other teams can have inexperienced freshman come in and have an impact. There is no reason why OSU has to be so risk averse that they wont play a freshman right off the bat and just run with it. Bollman did this to Fickell and really Fickell doesnt have much of a choice anymore.

  23. I’m talking Miller Bandwagon in general terms. There is a lot we don’t see (practices, film sessions). Heck, for all we know Miller drools on himself and it’s all he can do to not trip over his shoelaces. Let’s just give it some time. Like the next 9-10 games. Then we can all load up the Miller Bandwagon to National Champion City.

  24. Just promote Drayton. We know Urban will keep him on the staff!

  25. SYR,
    I think that you & I are in an ‘agree-to-disagree’ situation, but;

    “.. When in reality it is the fault of everyone for not being prepared to play or for not being able to play.”

    I lay this at the feet of Bollman & Siciliano.

  26. @Ken- The buck stops at the top. You cant blame Bollman & Siciliano without blaming Fickell even more so.

    For that matter even more blame should be put on Tressel for recruiting these players and for hiring such awful coaches. Not only did he hire them he didnt make sure they did their jobs. He recruited players who didnt practice hard enough to be any good either.

    This is why when I hear someone putting the blame on an OC or DC instead of the HC it turns me all shades of puke green.

    I understand it is hard to blame Fickell as he was forced into this and got a bad hand dealt to him. That doesnt excuse him completely though.

    All this blaming Bollman talk reminds me of scUM fans in the first 2 years of Rich Rods tenure. When scUM was losing games all their fans kept saying is it was Lloyd Carrs fault because he “left the cupboards bare” As if he didnt recruit anyone in the years before he was “fired”. scUM fans needed to put the blame on someone and they werent ready to put the blame on Rich Rod yet so Lloyd took the blame.

    To me that is all that is happening here. After the USC game we lost at home all I heard from people was it was time for Tressel to be fired and how sick they were of Tressel Ball. CFB fans more than anything else I know are fully on the side of What have you done for me lately. They will turn on a player or coach in an instant if they believe the grass might be greener on the other side.

    I just wish occasionally fans would relax and take a deep breath and look up to see the sky isnt falling. Thats my only point in this whole discussion really.

    I have the National Championship memories I always wanted. If I die tomorrow I will die happy and content as a member of Buckeye Nation and will wait patiently in heaven for El Kaiser to roll up so we can discuss our fond memories of the time we watched OSU win a NC together. Then we will laugh as we look down and see Mark May and Trev Alberts and Craig James burning in hell for all eternity.

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