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Writers’ Coaching Roundtable: the Daz Succession Plan

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The writers weigh in on where the program should go from here.

Boston College v Pittsburgh Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Well we’ve seen that 7-6 is now the minimum expectation for BC going forward. What do you expect out of a head coach both next year and the next couple of years?

Toppin: I presume the new guy gets three or four years no matter what (don’t want to become Tennessee!). But I think expecting minimum 6-7 wins next year, considering that this team isn’t in a total rebuild and the nature of the out of conference schedule, is very fair. After that, I think one 9 win season in the next three years would be enough to keep BC satisfied, so long as the momentum is shifting in the right direction. I also would say it depends a little bit on the coach’s system - if the new guy decides that the Air Raid is our future, an offensive style hat BC is currently not built for, then I’m leaning closer to 6 wins in 2020 simply due to growing pains.

Grant: If BC ends up with only 6 win next year, I’ll be pretty disappointed. The offense should be loaded next season, and the defense must surely get better. I’m excited for the offensive line in particular -- they return a lot of guys, and I really think that Bailey can be the next big thing after Williams and Dillon (assuming Dillon leaves). The guy looks like a tank and honestly with how good the OL should be, I personally could probably put up a couple 100 yard games behind them.

So, that combined with a forgiving schedule I think should at least lead us to somewhere better than we are now. Plus, as we saw when Daz came in, sometimes getting a new coach gets the team fired up and they reach a new level.

Niraj: I’m looking for 7 wins minimum next year. The makeup of this team should be fairly similar and the 2020 schedule presents a lot more opportunities than in years past in my view.

Addazio set the bar, and there isn’t enough drop off and rebuild-narrative to warrant anything less. Another year for “youths” to develop on both sides of the ball will go a long way. After that, I mostly just want to see the elusive eighth win, but realistically in due time I expect BC to pop off some seasons of 8-10 wins every now and then. I expect to show up against the Clemsons of the world, and I just want to be somewhat relevant. We’re not out here expecting a final four spot, and I know the Atlantic is more difficult, but Virginia is about to go to a New Years’ Six Bowl. So, that’s the football version of the seven-year plan or whatever numbered year plan the school throws out.

Rich: As mentioned above, we should be returning a lot of firepower on offense, and it’s basically impossible for the defense to be any worse, so I expect seven wins next season. Also, I believe the second end of the home-and-homes with both Kansas and Purdue are next year. Those were two of the more lackluster performances in the Addazio era, so future coach could earn a lot of love for wins against those schools.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they win 8 games next season, then regress in year two. That’s fine, get your recruits in, and build a program that spends some time in the rankings and doesn’t roll over against premier teams.

Peter: We need to see what we have been waiting to see from Addazio from the past few seasons. We need to see progress in some way shape or form. As Niraj mentioned, I expect at the bare minimum a seven win season and us to get some big wins against ACC points. Not just nail-bitters, I want to see some comfortable wins for once. In a similar vein, I expect this new coach to develop a completely different offensive scheme than simply the classic run heavy offense that we have grown so accustomed to. More emphasis on throwing the ball, making less-conservative play calls and not feeling that we need to rely on our defense the entire game.

Will: I thought 8 wins this year was realistic. I’m sticking with 8 wins again. Outside of Clemson, there wasn’t a single team in the ACC I don’t think BC could have beaten this year. The defense will get better. We all knew going in that this was a largely un-tested group and I believe they will get better, although we’ll be losing some key pieces (Karafa, Yeargin, and maybe Max Richardson, if he decides to enter the draft). Offensively, Zay Flowers and David Bailey are coming back, hopefully Kobay White, and I imagine Anthony Brown is coming back too, so BC will have some talent on offense. With a coach who actually brings some balance and ingenuity to this offense, this team can play with almost anyone in the ACC.

What characteristics do you want to see in the next coach?

Toppin: I do think that BC should be aiming for an offensive minded coach (or at least a coach who specializes in offense). Good offensive coordinators get poached early by teams looking for talent, and an offensive coach can help mitigate the damage such turnover would cause. Plus I would love to see BC bring its offense firmly into the modern era.

Grant: I’m really not picky, and I’m guessing a lot of others aren’t. We just want to win. But, if we’re naming things, I would say that from a personality perspective I’d like a guy that shows emotion. Maybe not quite the way Daz did, and they don’t have to be Jurgen Klopp either, but I do like guys that look like they care.

As for what I want on the field… I want us to have an identity. If that identity is still running the ball 99 times every game, fine, let’s build around it and get good at it. Daz… kind of did that every year, but it felt like it changed so often.

Niraj: I don’t feel like I’m all that picky. I’m not necessarily looking for someone offensively minded. They just need to be someone willing to admit mistakes and be adaptable. I also think it’s especially important to have someone who can build the right culture, especially in light of some of the stories that have come out and what I’ve personally witnessed. It would be great to have someone that felt more BC too, meaning someone with some energy and positivity, someone who’s going to shake hands and kiss babies to the people. I never saw Addazio make a real effort to connect with the student body, and I think a good coach for us should be able to galvanize the whole community and be someone I’d want to shout out when I see him on campus.

And for god sakes, they better be able to manage a game better than anyone playing Madden.

Rich: Someone who’s a little more modern and calculating in their gameplanning. Against better teams, it often felt like the opposing coach was playing chess while Daz was playing...I don’t know, Nok Hockey? The whole Dude thing was cute I guess, but when I think of the best coaches in sports, they’re generally more cerebral/stoic (with occasional, purposeful outbursts).

Peter: Like Grant, I really am not all that picky. I just want a coach that has a track record of winning and knows how to put together a good enough game plan to compete in the ACC. I suppose on a personal note, I would love to see a coach that is engaged with the student body and doesn’t walk around Campus with a smug expression on their face. They need to be amicable off the field which Daz clearly did not have the characteristics of doing such.

Will: Give me a coach who isn’t afraid to adjust to his roster, his opponent, or the situation. Addazio was an O-line guy and loved to show off how good his O-Line was. He rarely adjusted his play calling or gameplan based upon his opponent or even his own team. I’d love a coach who can look at his roster and get the most out of each and every player. I also agree with Peter and Niraj. Can we get a coach that when a BC legend returns, cough, cough Andre Williams, he says, “Welcome, back” or something like that instead of putting his head down and ignoring him?

Are there any non-starters for when you consider potential replacements? (Do you hate the MAC and don’t want to see any of their HC’s here? Do you think BC should avoid an alumnus? Or is everything on the table for you?)

Toppin: I really don’t want a retread that has been tried somewhere else (@Chip Kelly or @Don Brown). Trying that usually doesn’t work, no matter what the Kansas game this year might lead you to believe. If the complaint is that the program was going stale, an older coach doesn’t do much. I see this as a chance for the Eagles to take the risk and go with a rising star.

Grant: I don’t think so. I can be persuaded in just about any direction as long as they’ve got the right qualifications. Limiting ourselves is a bad idea right now. Addazio was the right coach for the right time, I think -- kind of a safe choice, but good enough to get us to respectability. This is a totally different hire: This is a hire that we’re hoping can take us to where we want to be. I don’t care where they come from, but I do hope that we take a big swing at it and don’t go with something safe.

Niraj: Meh, not really. I definitely have preferences, but due diligence will be done, and anyone viable should be considered. But also... not the MAC.

Rich: Like Toppin, I think I’d prefer a rising star, but I wouldn’t say there are any particular non-starters for me.

Peter: Not in particular. As long as they have a proven track record of success in coaching then they should be considered for the job. I trust that Martin Jarmond will do his job appropriately. I guess one thing I can confirm is that I do not think Doug Flutie should be in consideration despite some alumni’s pleas. We are looking for a coach with a plethora of experience and success, not a former Boston College QB who was proven primarily successful as a player and not as a coach.

Will: I don’t want BC to hire a coach just because he comes from a successful program or that he has been successful. BC needs a coach who lives for building winners, whether they are young, old, defense, offense, just give me a guy who wants to build a legacy.

Are there any candidates linked with BC who you have serious reservations about?

Toppin: I’ve already said my thoughts about Kelly and Brown (neither of whom I think are really serious contenders for the job. Kelly’s got a massive contract with UCLA and Brown seems content as a DC). That extends to a few other people linked with the BC job by national media: Butch Jones (per Athlon). I also don’t love the guys who have taken really bad G5 teams and made them respectable; if BC was a total rebuild, maybe. But if those are the qualifications you want, then you should have just kept Addazio. (One exception to this rule: Sean Lewis at Kent State. The fact that he managed to get 6 wins out of that team is nothing short of a miracle. He’s an offensive guy off of Dino Babers’ Syracuse tree and a rapidly rising star in the coaching ranks).

Grant: I guess I just wouldn’t want someone currently on the staff. The current staff wasn’t good enough to get us to where we want to be as assistants, so I’d like to go elsewhere.

But that’s not to say I don’t want someone who used to be on the staff -- if there’s someone who was at BC but got hired away elsewhere, they were obviously doing something right. So I’d be just fine seeing any of those guys who got poached come back if they’ve got the right stuff.

Niraj: I love him, but I would be skeptical of a Don Brown hire. Not that he couldn’t do well, I just don’t see him as the answer to really push this thing forward, and it wouldn’t feel very long term. Not that someone who was probably using BC as a stepping stone would be a non-starter either, of course.

Rich: The Don Brown thing scares me. His last stint as a head coach was at UMass from 2004-2008--does that even count? I liked Spaziani as a defensive coordinator, but as a head coach? Nightmare. I would love to have Don back as a defensive coordinator, but as a head coach? I’m spooked.

Peter: I agree with Grant on this one. We should not be looking for any internal hires at this point. Martin Jarmond’s job is to scrap whatever it is that does not work. Granted most of Addazio is to blame for BC’ lack of progress on the football field, but it is important to continue to look at the coaching staff as one big unit. I do not think there is anybody on this current staff that can manage coaching a full season in the ACC successfully. I am sure Rich Gunnell will do an OK job during the bowl game,.but despite the result of the contest he should not be considered. If he is, I will lose a little more faith in Jarmond’s decision making. We need to have an external hire and re-shape this program from the ground up.

Will: I agree with no internal hires. Willie Taggert, Chip Kelly, both of whom I don’t think would be on Martin Jarmond’s list anyway. I like Don Brown but hiring him would be in line with maintaining the status quo than progressing as a program.

Who’s your first choice for next head coach?

Toppin: Dream coach? Norvell. I think he’d immediately inject an energy and urgency into the program and even if it didn’t mesh right away the Eagles would be really fun to watch. He’s got the game management and recruiting chops to succeed anywhere, so why not BC?

Grant: Can I say Ryan Day? I’m still pretty annoyed that we missed the boat there. How much money would we have to throw at the guy to get him to come here? Sigh. Okay, fine -- let’s go crazy but not lunatic-crazy and say PJ Fleck. Let’s go.

Niraj: Mike Leach

Rich: I’m with Grant on PJ Fleck, but I don’t see it happening.

Peter: I think it would be kind of fun to have someone like Ron Rivera on our staff. A lot of present and former Panthers players spoke very highly of him post-firing. Again though, I think the money situation would certainly be difficult in trying to persuade someone of his caliber to come up North to coach a subpar college football team. With that being said, I think Al Washington would be great for the program and is definitely a more realistic hirer than Rivera.

Will: Matt Rhule. He turned Temple into a winner, has turned Baylor into a winner, and because of his time at Temple he’ll know how to recruit the northeast. I also think he’d maintain the level of toughness we’ve come to expect from BC while being a bit more progressive offensively. I don’t know if we can compete with Baylor financially, but the ACC is very similar in terms of parity to the Big 12 and it wouldn’t be hard to convince he’d be able to achieve the same success he’s had at Baylor, perhaps in an even shorter amount of time. Yet, if Lincoln Riley leaves Oklahoma we have no shot because then Baylor would become a favorite to win the Big 12. I’d go nuts if we got PJ Fleck but I think Fleck that hire would be Ryan Day level of crazy.

Who do you think is the most realistic choice for the next head coach?

Toppin: Right now I would say it’s Al Washington due to a mix of Jarmond’s OSU connections, Washington’s BC past, and perhaps a scared feeling of not wanting the next Ryan Day situation. Say what you want about Addazio, but he had a penchant for finding assistants who could get players to buy in and play at a higher level than their recruiting rankings. I do worry about his lack of play calling experience, so my comfort would really depend on the OC he brought in.

Grant: I would be fine with Washington as the Head Coach but I think there’s a lot more that’s “realistic” than we might be thinking. It’s been pointed out plenty, but BC is a really good college football coaching job. Aside from being ACC, it’s a school that’s going to give you a long leash and doesn’t have crazy-high media pressure or expectations (aside from some of you folks in the comments -- no disrespect). BC’s goal of being ranked every year or most years is very attainable.

So, having said that -- I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think BC would have a shot at a Luke Fickel or a Mike Norvell, coaches who big programs have their eyes on for the future. I think either of those would be good and reasonably high-level hires, the level that we should be able to expect here.

Niraj: I think Jeff Hafley is a great option. I like the OSU connection and his northeast ties. As much as I love Al, I would prefer to see him get some good coordinator experience first. If Hafley is hired, I know of two schools that would be in need of a defensive coordinator. I’m sure both would want Al, but one could be looking at Al as a succession plan if the head coach moves on soon thereafter (I’m talking about BC).

Rich: Also going with Washington here. The guy’s Wikipedia page is only 4 sentences long, so it definitely wouldn’t be the buzziest hire, but it would feel like a fresh start. He’s spent a lot of time in meetings with exceptional coaches, and having an alum at the helm would be nice.

Peter: In agreement with Rich on this one. Having a former Alum who I am sure has been tracking the progress of BC athletics on the back-end would be a fresh start for the program. Plus, he is on the younger side which I feel like would play a huge role during the recruiting process. It just seems like it would really help in building a stronger, and more contemporary, kind of chemistry with potential recruits. Not to mention, he has had fantastic recruiting experience at the likes of Michigan and OSU.

Will: The more I think about it the more I like Matt Rhule, but it’s just inches beyond what I’d call “realistic.” I think Fickell, with his northeast coaching background, is a better fit but I think Mike Norvell strikes the right balance of a realistic hire and a good fit. I think after only two seasons Fickell will want to stay at Cincinnati while Norvell, after three seasons at Memphis, will maybe be more attracted to a power five job. Norvell has also proven he can build upon a past coaches success. His up-tempo, yet balanced, style of offense is something BC tried at times this year but never fully implemented.