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 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.
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.