After the Florida State game, I said it was time for Steve Addazio and Todd Fitch to do some soul searching on offenseand figure out how exactly they wanted the Eagles to play this year. In the three games since FSU, BC has only gone backwards, not forwards, in the process of establishing an offensive identity. A significant reason why is the quarterback rotation.
Let me make two things clear as a matter of full disclosure: 1) I have generally been on "Team Jeff Smith" since Darius Wade went down with his broken ankle against FSU, but I am moreso just "team pick somebody" now; 2) I have felt all along, and have stated as such in the comments and on social media, that it's important to realize that with such a young offense, development is going to be a frustratingly slow process. From Andre Williams to Tyler Murphy and a senior laden offensive line, Steve Addazio and Ryan Day have been able to rely on veteran players to power what they are trying to accomplish offensively, and they were able to do so fairly successfully. Now, with a new offensive line, and with the first string QB and RB out, and a new offensive coordinator to boot, it's understandable that there are going to be significant growing pains.
All that said, I think it's fair to say that BC's offensive woes go beyond growing pains. If it weren't for the Howard blowout, BC would be battling with Hawaii, Minnesota, UConn and UCF for the honor of having the lowest average points per game in the nation. Part of the problem is likely the loss of Ryan Day, but I think a bigger part of the problem is a decision that rests solely on Steve Addazio's shoulders - the quarterback rotation.
How is it possible to establish rhythm or familiarity with young players when you have to wildly change your formations and your system to fit two different quarterbacks, both of whom have wildly different skillsets?
Steve Addazio knows how important continuity is in establishing offensive rhythm. He spoke in his press conference yesterday about how "the problem is we need a lot more growth. We've got a lot of new pieces in there and continual shuffling of bodies due to injuries is unsettling, so we are not getting the continuity we need to be an execution offense." He also said, as a defense of his team's conservative playcalling, that it's important to not set young players up to fail so as not to hurt their confidence, but isn't holding off on establishing an identity doing just that?
BC has two imperfect options at quarterback right now. If the season were pretty much guaranteed to be a losing season and the focus was solely on rebuilding, I could maybe see rolling them both out for a while longer to see if one can really develop past their limitations. But it's not. BC can still have a very good season, particularly with a defense that can be pretty fairly called the best in the nation - something Addazio deserves credit for, as he has been blamed for the offense. Additionally, BC's margin for error in having a winning season is very slim, so they can't really afford to throw away another game like they did on Saturday.
The way I see it, Addazio and Fitch need to establish the kind of offense they want to drill into the minds of their young players and pick the quarterback who best suits it. If it's Flutie, BC can focus on power running, play action passes, short passes into the flat, and maybe the occasional trickery like a reverse play. If it's Smith, BC can run something more similar to what they succeeded with last year, using the QB's running threat as a decoy to throw off defenders and keep them guessing as to who's going to have the ball and where they're going to run with it.
What can't continue to happen is things like putting in Flutie and then running up the middle, or bringing Smith off the bench in a key situation Saturday on 3rd & 2 and calling for two passing plays, when a pair of designed QB runs would almost certainly get the job done. As BC was trying to drive for a winning score, they looked like an offense unsure of what they were trying to accomplish.
In his always excellent game review, ATLEagle shared my frustration with the QB rotation, asking how players can be expected to learn anything when BC keeps changing the offense and sort of shooting from the hip with which QB plays when.
If BC is to make the most out of this season, they need to, at a bare minimum, start letting Flutie and Smith play full quarters with an established offensive rhythm. But ideally, they need to use the week's practices to see which style of offense is more effective and fully implement it. The clock is ticking, and there's not much time left to make the right call.