One of the best writers in all of college football today is Paul Myerberg, who writes for the New York Times' The Quad college football blog and pens his own blog at Pre-Snap Read. As an impartial observer of the 2011 Boston College Eagles' football season, Myerberg has been somwhat critical of the state of the BC program and its seemingly downward trajectory.
I wanted to catch up with Paul to get his take on the Boston College football coaching situation and the direction of the program. Below are our questions and Myerberg's answers.
BC Interruption: Throughout this season, you were highly critical of Coach Spaziani and the Boston College football program in your 2011 Locksley series, counting down each week's 10 coaches sitting on the hottest seat. It seems like nearly every other coach in line for the Locksley throughout the year is now unemployed except one. As an outside observer, did Spaziani do enough down the stretch to warrant keeping his job? Was the "improvement" there?
Pre-Snap Read: I think it's important to split the 2011 season into two parts. The first, from Northwestern through Maryland, was an utter disaster. Forget about that Maryland win: that the Eagles only won by 11 points, Maryland comeback or no, is not a reason for celebration. The second part, from Florida State through Miami, was slightly less of a disaster. Not a success: less of a disaster. I guess that's still improvement, based on the meaning of the word.
But it's impossible to look at November, see a 2-2 finish, and ignore the 2-6 start. You have to look at the 2011 season as a whole, and as a whole, this was the program's most disappointing season in more than a dozen years. There's no escaping that fact. There were mitigating factors, like Rogers' strange departure in September, injuries to a few key players and the team's overall youth. But this was ugly. And yeah, I would have fired Spaziani the day after Miami. Then again, I wouldn't have hired him in the first place.
BCI: AD Gene DeFilippo has made it clear Spaz will return in 2012, digging in a bit and backing his 2009 hire of Boston College's long-time defensive coordinator. Fans are clearly frustrated after hearing that "it doesn't matter" what we think and that the future is "very, very bright" for BC football. Do fans have a right to be frustrated with this football program? In other words, would canning Spaz after three-full seasons have been justified?
P.S.R.: Spaziani isn't on a normal three-year tenure. He's been at Boston College since 1997, in varying capacities, so it wasn't like he inherited a brand new roster, instituted new rules or changed the offensive and defensive philosophies. Basically, you could make the case that he inherited "his" team: a roster he helped recruit and coach. So firing Spaziani wouldn't have been the same as firing Turner Gill, who took over an entirely new program and broke it down yet won't see his hard work come to fruition. I can't really justify Kansas's decision to fire Gill; it'd be almost too easy to rationalize firing Spaziani.
Fans have every right to be frustrated. More than frustrated. And the frustration should start at the top, with DeFilippo, and trickle on down to the coaching staff. Better days are ahead, but to stand there, after this season, and say the future is that bright is ridiculous.
BCI: Without a major shakeup in the coaching staff -- except for, say, elevating Dave Brock to full-time offensive coordinator -- and with a difficult schedule that includes Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Miami and Notre Dame, what is your early assessment of B.C. in 2012?
P.S.R.: I can't sit here today and say B.C. is going to be an A.C.C. contender. There's just no reason to think that this team is going to wake up overnight. And yeah, that schedule doesn't do any favors. Each of those teams listed above will be improved in 2012: Florida State and Virginia Tech will be national title contenders, Clemson will be in year two in the new offense, Notre Dame should be stronger and so on down the line.
There are still a handful of reasons for optimism. Despite not having terrific results, promoting Brock to full-time status would allow for some continuity on offense. That's not a bad thing. And as young as B.C. was in 2011, it's only natural to expect some improvement based on the added experience. But the light needs to turn on for Chase Rettig. The offensive line needs to do a far better job on the ground; if you take out the strange Maryland game, B.C. would have ranked 106th nationally in rushing.
And the defensive struggles, lost in the shuffle behind the impotent offense, could continue should Kuechly opt for the N.F.L. Draft. Can you imagine how bad this year's group would have been had he not been in the middle? That's a frightening thought.
BCI: With Clemson (x2) and Florida State making the ACC Championship game in the years since BC made back-to-back trips to the conference title game, the Eagles seem to have lost ground in the Atlantic Division race. What's your thoughts on B.C.'s ability to compete for the Atlantic Division title going forward?
P.S.R.: Florida State should be a real worry. Once that team gains a little experience - the same goes for Jimbo Fisher - it's going to be tough for any team in the Atlantic to keep pace. Clemson's future really depends on two things: one, if the Tigers can get Chad Morris to hang around; and two, if Dabo Swinney does get fired over the next two or three years, who the program hires as his replacement. Clemson, as always, is a program that could win nine games every year.
It's just striking how quickly B.C. has fallen behind. Let's say the Eagles were a step ahead of the rest of the Atlantic from 2007-8 and roughly even with the rest of the pack in 2009; today, it's clear that the Eagles are at least one step behind. Do you have any faith that the current B.C. staff can keep pace with Florida State's staff or Clemson's staff, let alone make up lost ground and regain a foothold in the Atlantic? There isn't a person in the country who'd take Spaziani and his assistants over the staff in Tallahassee. I'd trade the entire B.C. staff to Clemson for Chad Morris. I'd throw in cash if needed.
BCI: Last question. Where does the B.C. head coaching job rank among jobs in the ACC? Nationally?
P.S.R.: You could make an argument for five A.C.C. programs making a coaching move heading into 2012: N.C. State, B.C., Maryland, North Carolina and Duke. On that scale, I'd put B.C. second, behind N.C. State. And not that far behind. It's a better job than Maryland. It's definitely better than U.N.C. at this time, and probably still is even if the Tar Heels aren't under the N.C.A.A.'s microscope. Duke is a non-factor. In short, the Eagles could hire a very nice coach should it make the job available. And not just some hotshot N.F.L. assistant: I think B.C. could get a proven head coach with a proven track record of winning on the college level. That's obvious.
Now, it's not a top 25 job should every program in the country be in the market for a new coach. It's a spot for a certain kind of coach. I know he's not the most popular guy at B.C., but I look at Tom O'Brien and see the sort of coach who can knock it out of the park with the Eagles. It takes a coach with a plan: it's not hard to win consistently at B.C., but you need a blueprint. It always felt like O'Brien always had a blueprint. As quickly as he came and went, I got the impression that Jagodzinski knew what he was doing in the present and what he wanted to achieve in the future. Feels like the current leaders of the football program have no plan.