Time for a coach by coach look at the FSU game…
Randy Shannon – Head Coach
It’s often difficult to define what exactly a head coach does during a game. He doesn’t have a unit to control, and his success is often defined by the quality of assistants he hired. So, consider the criticisms later in this article as ultimately also landing on Shannon’s doorstep. But a few key areas that a head coach is most certainly responsible for are lack of effort and game management, and he failed miserably in both accords (I will explain the game management bit later, kind of an odd subject in a 28 point loss, but there is some big picture stuff). As for the motivation angle, well, this is just inexplicable. Let’s be real, the players shouldn’t have needed the rah-rah speech for this game. Not with a sellout crowd. But they, for whatever reason, came out flat. Where the blame falls strictly on Shannon is that he NEVER rallied the troops. We see teams come out flat, but to have it stay that way for 60 minutes. Even at half time…it was 24-7. If the score looks familiar, it is because that score is identical to the score 2 years ago, when our team rallied and fought and clawed their way back into a game they ended up losing by 2 points. This year…not so much. I don’t know what exactly happened at half time, but FSU came out and scored before most people had returned to their seats.
On to game management, Randy Shannon exhibited a trait last year that might ultimately be one of the reasons he fails here. And the fruits of that trait proved disastrous at the end of the first half. We all remember the Whipple-Shannon timeout fiasco at the end of the half against Clemson last year. We made a long completion with the clock running down at the end of the half, we were clearly slow to get lined up and Shannon correctly used the last timeout. Not doing so would have basically run the rest of the half out. Whipple lost his mind, started muttering like an idiot…and of course, the fan base sides with “genius” Whipple. Did you see what happened at the end of the half of the FSU game here? Do you now see why Shannon called timeout last year? College players are stupid. This isn’t the NFL where they are going to sprint 30 yards, line up correctly and immediately get the ball snapped. It’s a mess getting aligned and a mess to get the ball snapped. Shannon, having spent the last decade in college football, is aware of this. So why is this Shannon’s fault? Because he is the head coach. Game management is his responsibility. He should have pulled Whipple aside after the Clemson game and told Whipple to go fuck himself, that he is the head coach, and that if Whipple doesn’t like it, he can go right back to jerking off Kevin Kolb or whatever mundane, unimportant task Andy Reid trusted him to do after Mike Tomlin fired him. Instead, he ceded control of that duty to Whipple, and it lead to disaster. If you want to be a head coach, be the fucking head coach. Grow a pair, sack up, and put your assistants in their place. Could you imagine Steve Addazio telling Urban Meyer to stop wasting “his” timeouts? He would be escorted off the field by security. And while we are at it, tell Whipple that if Pat Hill isn’t in the game on 90% of first and second downs next week, then Whipple is fired. Take control of your program.
Mark Whipple – Offensive Coordinator (also serving as DC for FSU)
So, you have a bunch of huge offensive linemen. The opponent has an undersized, but quick defensive front. You have a great blocking fullback and a powerful tailback. Whatever is an offensive coordinator to do? I know…let’s spread them out, run no huddle, not use our fullback, and run our power back east-west. That’ll show ’em! Wow at the fact that this was actually the plan. This with a steaming pile of misdirection plays. He was clearly trying to use their quickness to catch them over-pursuing. The only problem is that if all you are calling is misdirection, it isn’t misdirection, it’s just a slow developing play against a speedy defense. The play-fake bootleg throws that were wide open for FSU were only wide open because they first ran the ball effectively. Had they come out and just run that play, it wouldn’t have worked. It had to be set up. I have never seen a team get in so many 2nd and 3rd and longs. First down was a killer. And this doesn’t even take into account the fact that Whipple flatly will not run power running plays. Pat Hill needs to be on the field a lot. We should have lined up and leaned on them with our massive size advantage, just running power plays at them, forced them to bring 8 in the box to stop us, then we could have killed them with the pass. Instead, we kept trying to “fool” them and ended up with way too many negative plays. But I guess that is who Whipple is. He is pass happy, he is not content to run over teams, even if it is the surest path to success. But, given that you have to live with Whipple for what he is, my next criticism is particularly vexing…
If nothing else, Whipple has been aggressive. We actually had this discussion last week, about 2 possessions in the red zone against Clemson, when most offensive coordinators would not have trusted their QB and would have settled for 2 FGs. We threw twice, 1 was picked, 1 was a TD. 7 points versus 6 points. We gained a point, but 6 points would have been okay too. Basically, the lesson there is be consistent. And Whipple’s MO has been to consistently stay aggressive. That is what he does, that is what our players are used to, that is our comfort zone. Disaster could have been had had he settled for a FG once, then forced the pass another time. That’s how you end up with 3 points or maybe 0. So, what exactly happened here? First drive of the game, 3rd and goal from the 10 (same situation where we threw a TD and INT against Clemson), and we run? 3 yard loss, missed FG…momentum and a chance to seize the early lead lost. In what would turn into disastrous 2nd quarter, we were actually only down 7-0. 3rd and 10. This is where we consistently stay aggressive and throw. Especially when trailing in a game. What do we do? A give up play. Run, then punt…except we fumbled, they returned it to the 1, and scored a TD on the next play, 14-0, and we are chasing the game. Could Whipple anticipate the missed FG or the fumble? Of course not. Our kicker is reliable and that fumble was our first fumble this entire year (an amazing stat to only fumble once in 5 games). But, bad things happen when you go against what you are as a team. It isn’t our personality to get conservative like that, and have to think that did have some effect on the player’s psyche.
And Whipple is also not absolved from the end of half debacle. If you are going to act like a complete asshole because the HEAD COACH called a timeout, you sure as shit better not epic fuck up in the same situation a year later. Then again, maybe our head coach should have known better than to give any sort of clock management responsibility to someone who coached under Andy Reid.
I won’t even discuss his performance as a QB coach, since it appears that he just likes the title but doesn’t actually coach the QBs.
John Lovett – Defensive Coordinator
Well, his unit got roasted. It’s hard to see anything really wrong schematically. What scheme prevents a team from pushing your DL out of the way and gashing you repeatedly up the middle? When that happens, all shit breaks down. In fact, if any team can just beat you with power running plays, you are pretty much screwed (a lesson Mark Whipple hasn’t learned). But my one major criticism here is that he never went for broke. At some point, we should have just said, “screw it, we can’t stop their running game, I am going to send the house”. Put the DBs out on an island, pack the box, and try to at least force FSU to do something through the air other than leaks to the TE. Obviously, their next-to-last TD was against this sort of defense, but we should have gone to it earlier. Pressured them, blitzed, send LBs, DBs, crowd the box and try to make things uncomfortable for them. It never happened. They were just relaxed, ripping off big runs and throwing from play action. At some point, as a defense, you just have to go for broke when that is happening. It might not have mattered (as evidenced by the TD pass they did finally throw), but by calling more aggressive plays he might have forced FSU into some mistakes or at the very least brought some energy to a lackadaisical performance.
Jeff Stoutland – Offensive Line
Whipped up front. Unacceptable. He has been here for a while, he should have been able to develop 5 guys that can work together to be a good blocking unit. They couldn’t open up holes, they couldn’t pass protect. And why the hell do we rotate so many linemen? How are you supposed to establish continuity? All of a sudden Jermaine Johnson starts at LT. Yes, lets take a guy that looked like such shit at RT that we had to start a true frosh, and lets go ahead and start him at LT in a rivalry game. Pick your best 5, and stick with it. Play them until someone gets injured. You can worry about creating depth once you actually have 5 guys that can block together as a unit. Until then, cut the shit with all this rotational garbage. When we had a dominant OL at the beginning of this decade, we didn’t cycle in a ton of players. Even a first round pick like Vernon Carey only played when there was an injury. Now, all of sudden, we need to rotate 8 guys in there to “create depth”. Screw that.
Mike Cassano – Running backs
His unit looked like the best one on the offense. Berry and Coop were 2 of a handful of guys who actually tried, and when there were plays available to be made, they made them. Fumbles happen. If we fumble one time over the next 5 games as well, we can all be happy. I’ll give him a pass for this game. If every unit played as hard and as well as his, we would have won or at least been competitive.
Aubrey Hill – Wide Receivers
The drops are out of control. You have a junior who somehow manages to go the wrong way more than half the time even though he only has 2 options. I also don’t see them blocking well. This continues to be one of the most talented yet underachieving groups on the team. Leonard Hankerson had to go work out with Mark Duper to learn how to catch the ball. What is that? Maybe he should be our WRs coach and teach the rest of the team how to catch. I know Hank had a few drops on critical 3rd downs at the end, but the way he looked having a head injury there, it wouldn’t surprised me if he had a mild a concussion (I don’t think he should be anywhere near the field if that is the case. Time to take away his helmet.) I am assuming if Hill doesn’t actually set the WR rotation, he certainly has input. So, Travis Benjamin’s continued presence on the field in full fuck up mode falls right on Hill’s head. Get someone, anyone else in there. The fact that the coaches publicly acknowledge that he keeps running routes incorrectly or flat out running the wrong route and acknowledge that he is responsible for 44% of our INTs this year, yet we have seen no retribution for that in terms of playing time speaks volumes about the lack of accountability. One of the things the ‘Cane alums talked about was that they always were worried about being injured because someone could take their spot. Well, with scholarship limitations, it’s impossible to build that sort of depth now. But, what does it say when Benjamin can play at this low a level and not see any change to his playing time?
Rick Petri – Defensive Line Coach
His unit has been pretty strong this year, but this was a disaster. They got their shit pushed in. I honestly don’t know enough about what we were doing in terms of gap fills and techniques to levy much criticism here. The long and short of it is that FSU moved us out of the way up front and ran over us. We allowed them to break contain on some bootleg throws as well. All in all, an awful performance, but I don’t know how much of this lies on Petri and how much on the actual players. He hasn’t really been here long enough to know for sure if something is a player specific issue or a coaching issue.
Michael Barrow – linebackers
I am wondering if Randy Shannon just needs to coach these guys. He did coach LBs in the NFL. How is that we can’t find a single guy to play MLB on this team? McCarthy gets hammered for his play, but he is absolutely playing out of position. We could stick Spence at MLB, and he would look just as bad. But this is one of the positions that we have really recruited well, and the fact that out of all those recruits, we can’t find one stinking MLB to hold down the fort is ridiculous, and land squarely on Barrow’s shoulders. I will obviously be proven wrong if Kelvin Cain actually comes in and contributes at this spot, but wait and see on that. If we can get a MLB, we can leave Spence at WLB, move McCarthy to SLB, and actually have a top quality unit. The FSU was another disaster for McCarthy, failing to fill gaps and making a mess of things in general.
Wesley McGriff – Defensive Backs
I’ll give him an incomplete for this game. This unit didn’t really play well or poorly. They were a non-factor. FSU was so successful running the ball, that passing never really was necessary. And, since Mark Whipple isn’t their OC, they just stuck with the run right down to the end of the game.
Joe Pannunzio – Special Teams & Tight Ends
How is it possible that we are still having this discussion? This holdover from the Coker Era continues to have some of the worst performing units on the team. The highlights for him were that Chase Ford had 2 catches. That’s it. The TEs didn’t block well or do much of anything else well.
And the special teams…atrocious. Our kick coverage continues to be some of the worst in the country. And can you imagine how many TDs we would have given up the last 4 years if Bosher didn’t tackle like a LB (and by LB, I mean like a LB on another team, not a LB on our team)? He should have been fired years ago, and every time we go out there and continue to make asses of ourselves in kick and punt coverage, we pay for retaining this guy.
In closing, this thread got me thinking about how far we have fallen off staff-wise. The one thing Coker did very right, maybe the only thing, was assemble an outstanding staff. When you look back at that now:
OC/TE – Rob Chudzinski – went on to become an NFL OC and TEs coach, and ended up as one of the highest paid OCs in the NFL before being let go. He was even interviewed for NFL head coaching jobs and actually convinced people that Derek Anderson doesn’t suck.
DC – Randy Shannon – say what you want about his head coaching skills, but he consistently had Top 10 defenses, even when the talent started to drain, and the offense completely stunk, giving his unit no help at all. Even as late as 2006.
OL – Art Kehoe – an excellent teacher and motivator, he ultimately got so full of himself that he thought he could turn anyone into a star, and that lead to his demise. It was the recruiting. Still, as a coach, he was very good.
QB – Dan Werner – say what you want about his OC abilities, but he could definitely coach QBs. He coached Dorsey, and was largely responsible for Brock Berlin’s Year 1 to Year 2 improvement. He went on to Ole Miss, where he was fired with Ed Orgeron. I know he was supposed to coach at a small school in Louisiana, but his wife suddenly died so he stepped away from coaching for a while, I don’t know where he is now. Frankly, I am not entirely sure he wouldn’t be a better OC than our current one, given that at the very least he would run the football, and if it worked, he would continue running the football. As a QB coach, though, he was excellent, until he failed where 3 other coaches would later fail, trying to make Kyle Wright not suck.
WR – Curtis Johnson – went on to be a Super Bowl winning WR coach.
RB/STs – Don Soldinger – I ultimately don’t have the slightest idea what got him dismissed. Our STs were outstanding, and at the time of his firing, he had just turned Tyrone Moss into the leading rusher in the ACC and made Charlie Jones look like he had a future.
DL – Greg Mark – excellent coach ultimately done in by off the field issues.
LBs – Vernon Hargreaves – not much there. He is now the DE/STs coach at USF. He wasn’t really good or bad. Shannon got him fired and coached LBs himself for a year. Maybe he should have kept coaching the LBs.
DBs – Mark Stoops – he was on the field on Saturday, destroying our “genius” offensive coordinator.
Compare that staff to our current staff, and you see a huge problem. One staff is what a championship staff looks like, the other has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.