Sunday, February 25, 2024

Learn more about Bill O'Brien's coaching techniques and philosophies

Yet another difference in hiring Bill O'Brien vs a first time head coach is that he has been prominently involved in numerous coaching clinics over the years. The following series dates back to his Penn State days but also touches on his time with New England, Houston and Alabama. They are very insightful into his personality and how he will run an offense, a coaching staff and work with his players.

It is also clear that he likes empty set formations a lot. That is very exciting with Castellanos, especially if TC has the green light to run if no one is spying him. 

My only concern is that there a lots of reads for the QB and the WRs...certainly more than last year. They will either have to teach a lot in the offseason or simplify he offense. 

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Thoughts on O'Brien's introductory press conference


I've blogged through five new Head Football Coaches' introductory press conferences. I know this doesn't really mean much beyond the respective coach's introduction to BC. But given that, here are a series of thoughts...

1. If we are going by energy and vibes, this was the most even keeled and professional. O'Brien set the right tone. He didn't make over the top promises. He didn't try to sell himself. He wasn't goofy or forced. He showed the right deference to Father Leahy and the people who hired him. Blake James didn't turn it into his show either. And he didn't have to sell the hire or convince BC fans that this was the right choice. We all know it was. 

2. Based on his coaching style and temperament, I don't know O'Brien is trying to be "likable" but there were certainly some charming moments in the press conference. He had his family and extended family, plus numerous friends and former players in attendance and acknowledged many of them. He rattled off so many connections to local towns that he would clearly clean up on SNL's old "What’s the Best Way" sketch. 

3. He mentioned Reggie Terry multiple times and how helpful he has been in the transition. That's good to hear and know. Terry was brought in by Addazio and easily could have been an "Addazio guy." Instead he has stayed on and become a "BC guy" and is now working with his third head coach. Those people -- who get BC and have institutional knowledge -- are invaluable to a new coach who has a lot coming at him. Father Jack was also mentioned. Though his role is very different from Terry's, he also has a long connection to BC football and first hand perspective on different BC coaches. I hope O'Brien leverages that experience as appropriate.

4. This was probably the first BC new coach press conference that didn't mention Jerry York.

5. O'Brien didn't provide many specifics on schemes or staff. He said that will come later. He also didn't hesitate to address (nor whine) about the changing dynamics of college football. He said you have to embrace it and work. Easier said than done, but definitely a good answer.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

A new era

Identities are important...especially for institutions. Institutions need their identities, so as times and people change, the identity carries on and new people can grasp on to something. It provides security and trust. Changing that identity is risky and members of institutions are naturally risk averse. They wouldn't hold onto institutions if they wanted something new. BC established a clear identity for its football program for years. Coaches were part of that identity and most of our hires over the last 40 years have been assistants looking for their shot or smaller college guys looking to move up. Bill O'Brien doesn't fit either mold. He won at a big college program and in the NFL. And now he is the most accomplished Football coach BC has ever hired. 

BC athletic director Blake James deserves the majority of the credit for hiring O'Brien. Too many ADs in the past would just keep to the mold. Keep to the budget. Keep control. James hired an established leader with instant credibility and someone who is likely to succeed. Ever since Coughlin left, we've had a series of mediocre and bad coaches. Most of those guys had some level of success. In theory if they could stumble into six wins and a bowl game, the ceiling for BOB should be much higher. 

One of the selling points to some of the past unknowns is that we might be hiring the next Tom Coughlin, the next Hall of Famer, a guy who is going to unlock something special at BC. Because they were blank slates, we rationalized it to ourselves. "Maybe he is special." Reality would kick in along the way. Sometimes pretty quickly. With Bill O'Brien we don't have to strain to believe. We don't have to fool ourselves. We know he can do it because he has done it before. 

I know it may not work. It is never as simple as "just go hire the biggest name." For this to be special, BOB will have to adjust, he will have to find the right people (staff and players) and BC will have to get a little lucky. But we are trying something different and that is a good thing. We are stepping out of our place in the College Football ecosystem. We are changing our identity.  

It is a new beginning at BC and 2024 is already one of the most important years in BC Football and it is only February. Let's go!

Saturday, February 03, 2024

Don't fall for the BC coaching narrative

Every time BC has a coaching change you hear and read about how bad the BC job is, how hard it is to win at BC and how it is a career killer. With Jeff Hafley's departure, the same canards are back. But they are not true. Let's break it down.

BC is a bad job
Rarely when someone calls BC a bad job, do they ever really explain why. As I say ad nauseam, this is a P4 job. There are only so many of them and hundreds of guys who want their shot. Does BC have challenges? Of course. All jobs do. At BC you have a shallow recruiting base, you fight for attention in a big city, you don't have rubber stamp admissions, and you won't be the highest paid coach in your league. Unless you catch lightning in a bottle or you stay and build something incredible, you won't win a National Championship at BC.

However, those challenges are more than offset by some of the charm and benefits of BC. First the expectations are low. You will be given time to succeed (average tenure since Bick is 5.3 years). You will be able to live in the greater Boston area and you and your family will not be bothered living your daily lives. The recruiting is niche and you will get to work with a certain type of player that most of these coaches seem to appreciate.

Hard to win at BC?
This argument is the least subjective. Since the DIA-DIAA split there have been three BC coaches who had college football head coaching experience outside of BC. All of them won more and at a better winning percentage at BC.

Jack Bicknell
Win Pct at outside of BC (college only) -- .342
Win Pct at BC -- .517

Tom O'Brien
Win Pct outside of BC -- .533
Win Pct at BC -- .625

Steve Addazio
Win Pct outside of BC -- .425
Win Pct at BC -- .500

Career Killer
Once again, this seems very subjective, if you go case-by-case, it is hard to pin much blame on the BC job. Some guys had great opportunities and a few never came close to the level again. A recurring theme for many is that BC was the highpoint of their careers, not some death trap. Here is the post-BC career of all of our coaches since the DIA-DIAA split.

Jack Bicknell: After a 10 year run at BC, Bicknell served as one of the original head coaches in the World League. He stayed on as the league morphed into NFL Europe and coached another 14 years. He is the winningest coach in the league's history.
Did his career peak at BC? Yes, but it wasn't over.

Tom Coughlin: He left BC to become the first GM and Head Coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had a very good run there. Later, he joined the New York Giants and won two Super Bowls in New York. He will be in the Hall of Fame one day.
Did his career peak at BC? Are you kidding me? If anything BC gave him the shot to stand out from the hundreds of other assistants who wanted NFL jobs.

Dan Henning: After getting fired at BC, Henning went back to his comfort zone -- calling plays in the NFL. In his final years coaching, he was the OC in Buffalo, with the Jets, the Panthers and Dolphins.
Did his career peak at BC? No. We got him on the downside. He had already been part of multiple Super Bowls under Joe Gibbs and had been a head coach in the NFL twice.

Tom O'Brien: He left for NC State and many assumed that unshackled by BC's limitations, he would take NC State to the next level. He didn't.
Did his career peak at BC? Yes. NC State paid more, but he never had the level of success he had at BC.

Jeff Jagodzinski: He had so much success at BC that the NFL came calling. That interview with the Jets and his game of chicken with Gene cost him his job at the Heights.
Did his career peak at BC? Yes. He became a football vagabond after BC.

Frank Spaziani: After getting fired, Spaz went home and happily let BC pay him not to work. When his buyout expired, he went to New Mexico State for a few more years of assistant work.
Did his career peak at BC? Yes. No one expected Spaz to ever be a head coach until Gene tapped him to replace Jags.

Steve Addazio: Immediately after getting fired, Addazio landed the Colorado State job. CSU's quick hiring and firing of Addazio proved how misguided the perception is around BC. CSU saw a .500 record and had Urban Meyer telling them that going .500 at BC was a miracle. We all know how that worked out for them.
Did his career peak at BC? Yes. He had other head coaching jobs, but BC was his most lucrative and successful.  

Jeff Hafley: Left of his own volition. This is still so fresh that you can't make any comments about his post-BC career.
Did his career peak at BC? TBD

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Jeff Hafley: the perfect fit that never really fit


The Jeff Hafley era is over. It ended like most of his tenure -- in an unpredictable manner. He is leaving BC to take a Defensive Coordinator role with the Green Bay Packers. Four years ago that would have been a step back. (Jags left a Green Bay coordinator role to take the head job at BC.) Now with exploding salaries in both levels and the job descriptions changing daily, it might not be. Hafley plugs into a role and team that will likely lead him to an NFL head job within four years. That wasn't going to happen at BC. He puts himself and his family in a better position. I don't begrudge him at all. Plus whatever he had hoped to build and whatever we thought we would see at BC never came together. World, industry and departmental changes probably made every day seem Sisyphean.

Since Hafley took the job, he is on his third Athletic Director. He spent a whole year recruiting and coaching in COVID. Then the NIL hit and then the portal hit. Plus the ACC expanded and is in the middle of a lawsuit against one of its flagship programs. None of those sweeping changes lend themselves to building or shaping a program in your own vision. Instead it is just putting out one fire after the next.

Hafley's challenges were not all external. His staffs have been mediocre to poor. His coordinators have been bad. His reputation as a great talent evaluator never really showed itself with his BC rosters. His gameday coaching and decision making was uneven. He eliminated the culture of fear and built relationship with players, but never really won their respect. (I had a guy who played under Addazio recently tell me he barely even knew Addazio but he was at BC to compete and didn't worry about the relationships. The idea of Hafley being everyone's friend seemed unnecessary to this same player.)

In the end Hafley did BC a favor by leaving. If his heart wasn't in it, then a lame duck season would have been painful for everyone. He saved BC money by not having to fire him and now someone who knows what this job entails can take on the challenge. Good luck and thanks (I guess). I still like Hafley, but do think this is best for everyone. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

BC-SMU preview

It should come as no surprise that in the lead up to the Bowl game, Hafley is saying all the right things. He always does. His mood seems good and the players speaking with the media seem to be buying in. BC's success in the transfer portal confirms that their message is working and they are committed to getting better. But what about the actual game? Can BC pull off the upset right down the street at Fenway? BC probably deserves to be an underdog, but this game is not unwinnable. I would love to see that with a month to prepare and with a maturing team, Hafley is able to beat a ranked team in a quasi-home game.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
Hafley's bet on the Transfer Portal solves one problem: improving the roster. Even it all the guys don't turn out to be super stars, it seems pretty safe that the talent coming in is greater than the talent leaving. But all our issues are not talent. BC lost games -- Pitt and NIU -- when we made very questionable play calls. Until he gets things rolling, Hafley is unlikely to bring in ace coordinators, so it is on him to get more involved and intervene in-game it things are not working. Hafley seems willing to adjust. Will he do it well enough before his time runs out?

Three Simple Keys
1. Control the clock.
SMU has an explosive offense. We won't be able to hang in a shootout. If we want to win, we need to run and keep possession. 
2. Turnovers. When things were rolling midseason, BC was winning the turnover battle. We need that sort of luck this week.
3. Contain the explosive plays. Even bad teams had big plays against us. It was usually a mix of missed tackles, lack of speed and being in the wrong position. This extra bowl time should be a reset and have the guys focused on what they need to do and to make better plays.

Gambling Notes
-- SMU leads the series 1-0
-- Hafley is 1-11 vs ranked teams
-- SMU has lost three straight bowl games
The current line is BC+10

BC and SMU have a lot in common when it comes to recent bowl games. Like BC, they qualified for bowls in 2020 and 2021 with nothing to show for it. Both games were cancelled. 

Scoreboard Watching
Michigan vs Alabama in the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl is always must see TV for me. Throw in these two programs and make it a playoff and it becomes a game I won't miss. 

BC is in trouble if...nothing has changed. Hafley promised a few wrinkles and a few new faces. If none of it is noticeable, then why did he bother?

I hope to see...a complete game from TC. Hafley's future is in TC's hands. If he is going to be more than a runner, it better start showing soon. This would be a perfect time to take that next step.

Bottom Line
It is a long shot, but I think BC can do it. We just need to control the pace and pound away and TC needs to make a few things happen.
Final Score: BC 24, SMU 14

Thursday, November 23, 2023

BC-Miami preview

The most interesting reaction to last week's loss was from the neutral parties. We know how the diehards feel and even the casual BC fans. But due to playing during a national spotlight, you saw more of the regular football fans and football media paying attention to BC and Hafley for the first time this season. And while not a consensus, many were very critical. BC should have won that game and should be better than getting by with six wins. That is why I said that game was so important. This one is too. Hafley needs to get over the hump. Injuries, some of the inherent challenges at BC, bad luck...none of it matters. Every team has similar handicaps. It is up to him to overcome those. Lots of guys can win six games at BC. We've proven that over the past 30 years. We need someone who can do more. The Miami game is a chance to do more. 

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
Syracuse fires Dino Babers and many of Holy Cross' best players enter the portal. Seems more than coincidental. Perhaps the Chesney to the Orange thing is a done deal and the media are ignoring it to promote their preferred candidates. I would be disappointed if Chesney does end up at Syracuse because I think he will do well there. I think he would do well at BC. There is no foolproof path to football coaching success, but I do think winning at every stop is a great sign. While a promoted coordinator has to adjust to hiring, leading, game management, someone who has been a head coach at a lower level has done all those things before (presumably successfully). For a guy like Chesney the adjustment to a higher level is instead about finding the right players and I think in the portal era that is less about selling to high schoolers and more about piecing your roster together on an annual basis.

Three Simple Keys
1. Stopping the run.
We have been terrible against the run the past few games. Miami has a good oline. This is the key to the whole game. If they run at will, we will be toast.
2. No turnovers from Castellanos. I like TC and realize you take the good with the bad, but he has to get better with the ball. 
3. Get some INTs. If BC pulls down a few of those 50/50 balls last week, it is a different game. 

Gambling Notes
-- Miami leads the series 24-6
-- Four of BC's six wins in the series have come at Alumni
-- BC has won three of the last four in the series
The current line is BC+10

For those few remaining BC fans still longing for the Big East, I would like to point out that BC played six former Big East teams this year. Current Big East school UConn played two.

Scoreboard Watching
Michigan-Ohio State. For members of the Ryan Day Fan Club, this is sort of a big deal. 

BC is in trouble if...We are down late. I have zero confidence in pulling off a two minute drill late in the game. Last week killed my belief in being able to go the length of the field without pounding the ball.

I hope to see...a BC win. Forget about Chesney or Ryan Day or anyone else, I want Hafley to win and succeed at BC. He is safe for now, but I want hope. I want progress. We need to pull off a huge upset to get out of lame duck status heading into 2024.

Bottom Line
I hate to be the guy to ruin your Thanksgiving, but I don't see us winning this game. Miami is a bad matchup and I fear our team is checked out.
Final Score: Miami 35, BC 21