There are a few important questions we need to consider when imagining a post-Addazio world. Who’s stepping up to take over and what can we reasonably expect from them results-wise? There are some compelling candidates, but that’s for another post. So what should we expect?
BC hasn’t exactly had the most exorbitant success in its history. With about a .560 winning percentage from Coughlin to Spaz. How much do we realistically believe that someone else could improve, if at all? Seven wins in five of six seasons for most is actually a major accomplishment. Save one disastrous 2015 season, and BC has been in the middle of the pack in the clearly more difficult side of the conference. And no, the conference has by no means been the worst in the P5 this entire time. For many, I understand it’s really more about needing a change of pace, someone to inject some life in a jaded fanbase.
In the landscape of college football, consistent high-level performance only happens for a handful of teams. The rest are roller-coasters. You see so many programs cut bait from an established coach that had some measure of success, and opt for a rebuild. A new coach comes in and eventually has one or two breakthrough seasons. Eventually, they either find a better job, or live long enough to see themselves become the villain. They have one or two sub-par seasons from what fans have now come to expect. Fanbases are fickle, and they run that guy out of town at the hopes of greener pastures. The cycle starts anew, but it’s not easy finding a replacement. There are the storied programs that can find someone new in minutes and turn everything around, but for the vast majority, it’s slim pickings. There are diamonds in the rough, it’s a difficult task and no one stays long enough anyways.
Let’s do a quick, lackluster recap of the Addazio era:
2013: Turned 2 wins into 7, Heisman finalist, lost bowl game, 7-6
2014: Lost most of offense production, still 7 wins, beat #9 USC, lost bowl game, 7-6
2015: OC Ryan Day left, revolving door of quarterbacks, dazzaster, 3-9
2016: Don Brown left, an average road to redemption, but a bowl win, 7-6
2017: Improved play, Dillon first year, Anthony Brown injured late season, bowl loss, 7-6
2018: Felt like it would come together and be beautiful, disaster ending, bowl game cancelled, 7-6
2019: In progress, 5-5, backup quarterback, TBD but will be 7-6
Did Addazio peak too early? If he hadn’t had the immediate success, would the conversation around him be different? There would still be completely warranted questions of play calling and game management, but I don’t know if people would say he had a seven win ceiling [yet]. In an alternate universe, he might followed a similar script to other successful head coaches.
Remember, Addazio inherited a two win program, and immediately turned it around. For many, it’s the stagnation sinces that draws ire. Our fanbase is unruly, our stadium feels empty, and we’re tired of the same excuses. But what if Addazio had more of a steady rise? Dave Clawson in his six years at Wake Forest is a fitting comparison. He started off with two 3-win seasons, but since moved up to the seven win range. Yes, Wake is now on the cusp of a really special season (record-wise), but I think you could argue it’s the steady improvement that actually helped his case. Six win teams getting bowl wins at the end of the season is good for morale and keeps fanbases in check. Coordinators don’t leave and continuity sets in. That’s what coaches like Clawson and Dabo Swinney had. Wake hasn’t exactly beaten any ranked teams either, save for some NC State teams that were temporarily ranked. Not sure how much that really counts. Or look at someone like Dino Babers at Syracuse. Two 4-win seasons, a magical 10-win season last year, and now a hot mess once again. I’m not sure I’d consider that more successful because of one great year (I do like Clawson, though).
Coaching turnover isn’t an easy thing to deal with by any means, especially for someone who is more of a culture-builder than an X’s and O’s kind of coach. Addazio brought in a very young Ryan Day and Don Brown when he arrived at BC. Day had success in two years, but departed for the NFL and now leads Ohio State. Don Brown ushered in a historic defense the following season. It was going to be tough to replicate that output even with him at the helm (see Michigan football), let alone without. This past year, defensive backs coach Anthony Campanile did the same. Since people seem to believe we can find the next Dabo Swinney, Clemson has had the great fortune of coordinators staying put for years. Swinney himself was never a coordinator, but built an incredible program. Two of his first three seasons were worse than Addazio’s, but he wasn’t cut loose. For BC, that early success in Daz’s tenure, led to too much turnover. Some are even shocked that we’ve even maintained this seven win output because this [yearly] consistent performance is no small feat.
In the revolving door that is the college football top 25, maybe ten teams are legit. Everyone else is the product of a good schedule, a fortuitous bounce here or there, or media narratives. Would a hot sec in the top 20 make us feel any better if there really was any consensus in the jumbled mess below? Purdue nabbed themselves a top-25 win last year as we sadly remember. If BC had a different schedule, Addazio might very well have had a few more added to his two win tally. You can’t fault him for not having beaten juggernauts in Clemson and Florida State in past seasons because literally no one does.
On to recruiting:
People keep talking about how we have so little to show for some of the most talented teams in BC history. How do you think these classes became that good? Steve Addazio took recruiting classes that were not at all highly touted and over-performed. Every single class was ranked in the bottom five of the ACC. And yet, BC managed to exceed expectations both in record and in talent production. He brought in unheralded recruits and developed them into NFL caliber athletes.
Say what you will, but our players seem to respect him, play for him, and genuinely care about him. He coaches up kids, molds them, and has created a strong culture [inside the locker room].
BC has 11 NFL draft picks in the past four years. That’s the fifth most in the ACC, and no, they are not all late-round fliers. And even for those who are, that’s still an enormous accomplishment and puts them in the top ten percentile of college athletes. We’ve had 18 drafted players since Daz took over, seven of whom had their names called on the first two days. Many others have seen work as undrafted free agents. Just this past year, the Eagles had some of the most players invited to the NFL combine with seven, a school record. We still have some semblance of O-Line U because that’s what Steve Addazio understands and he knows what he’s looking for. There are some pretty solid Eagles in the NFL, and Joe Tessitore will continue to remind us and the world of that whenever they play on Monday Night Football.
There have been some tangible changes to the program as a whole too that should be encouraging. For years, BC has lagged behind its counterparts in terms of facilities and amenities. These other schools have such a strong allure because of it, but now, we’ve barely broken in the turf in these new facilities. Given the bureaucracy that is Boston College, what makes anyone believe that a new coach is going to come in here and get the state-of-the-art everything that does attract top-tier talent? Eliminating Addazio might be a band-aid on a hemorrhage. It’s not addressing the real issue, and I am reluctant to believe someone that isn’t established at the school has any leverage or sway when it comes to making effective changes. Well, maybe unless Tom Coughlin pulls a Mack Brown.
Seven-win Steve. That’s a moniker that’s stuck, but it didn’t have to be that way. So many things could have gotten us over this barrier, and not all of those fall on Coach Addazio. Maybe we could have overcame these bad fortunes that plagued us these past few years with better coaching, but so much of it was out of our control.
You have to ask whether one Tyler Rouse catch would have made the difference? Or one extra point after losing the greatest [college] kicker ever? Or clear skies on a cloudy day? That’s your prerogative, but just remember: