In my family, my wife's cousin married a woman who insists on something tremendous every day. At the end of each day, regardless of where they are or what they were doing, she has her table do a series of "highs and lows." It allows her (and her family) to level set the day and go back over events. It's kind of a way to reflect on what just happened and take a step back, since life can occasionally fly by at the speed of light. Some days, it's easier said than done. Other times, it's incredibly easy to figure out what was more fulfilling and what were down moments.
This past weekend was prime example number one of a time when it's fairly easy, at a surface, macro level, to determine the highs and lows. During the evening commute time on the east coast on Friday, Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles announced he would transfer to Boston College for his final year of eligibility.
It was a watershed moment for the Boston College program. At the end of a disappointing and disheartening 3-9 season, there were promised changes, starting with a transition on offense. That transition began with roster attrition as players left Chestnut Hill and began the process of transferring out. Under the gun and under pressure, Towles represented the kind of shrewd move a good coach can make when he's trying to do something on short notice.
After all, adding Towles fulfilled a request of pretty much everyone. There's no promise Darius Wade would all of a sudden take this giant step forward after playing limited snaps prior to his injury, and the remainder of quarterbacks on the BC roster just showed what they could do. The revolving door at the game's most important position killed BC last year, and it prevented them from ever forming an offensive identity. It limited play calling, changed the way BC schemed games, prevented development, and overall was a big reason they lost eight in a row to end the season.
Adding Towles instantly gave the offense an identity. He's a big body, the kind of quarterback everyone around these parts drools over, with a cannon arm. Even though Kentucky fans weren't exactly sad to see him leave, he still represented hope and a major upgrade at the position because he's a proven commodity. Despite the anger and resentment at the coaching staff over 2015, there's still hope BC can turn it around immediately in 2016 because it reboots the offense back to a formula for success. Relying on a game manager who can make plays when necessary, BC can take away the air raid assault offense Towles struggled under at Kentucky and effectively utilize him in a scheme that works. All in all it felt like a win.
The assumption on adding Towles would be that the offense would make strides forward while being assisted by a defense that's truly elite. Over the past three seasons, Boston College worked its way into the best defense in the nation, aided by a defensive coordinator, Don Brown, who is credited as the architect. The conversation in 2015 was that any offense, even one that could be called "poor to below average" would have helped this team win eight games. Now, it seemed, BC would be able to turn that corner with the defensive continuity.
About that continuity.
A weekend starting, for the most part, with hope and promise shifted Sunday night. Don Brown is headed for Michigan as the defensive coordinator under head coach Jim Harbaugh. For the 60 year old Brown, it's a no-brainer. Michigan is one of the most coveted programs in the nation, an elite to ultra elite team competing in front of 100,000 fans on Saturday. The Wolverines have a history of national championships, and Harbaugh is recognized as one of the best coaches in the world, having previously led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance.
There's not a whole lot BC has to compete with Michigan. The Wolverines' facilities are ridiculous, and we can assume, although not confirm, Brown is receiving a pay raise. For a guy who has been an FCS head coach and a career coordinator at mid-level to regional programs, he finally gets a break with a national powerhouse-type program - and inherits a unit that just finished fourth in team defense in the nation. It's the long awaited pay off for a coach who helped build champions everywhere he went.
With Mark Whipple, he laid the foundation that took a winless Brown team to the Ivy League championship in 1999. In 1998, the first year Whipple and Brown had departed Providence for UMass, they won an FCS national championship. From 2004-2008, Brown took over for Whipple, posting the best five year period in the history, winning 43 games, and going to another national championship game appearance. At Maryland, he helped build a defense that helped the Terps beat a nationally-ranked East Carolina team in the Military Bowl. After a stopover at UConn, he came to BC - where the rest is history.
But the wake left behind creates a void that sets back the court of public opinion. As Steve Addazio set out repairing the offense this offseason, the assumption would be that the defense, even if it took a step back from last year, would still be elite. The credit for that went to Don Brown. Lack of continuity creates doubt, especially since the offense fell off a cliff (albeit for a multitude of reasons) following the departure of Ryan Day and installation of Todd Fitch.
So Christmas week begins with new questions. It's an unexpected coaching vacancy that Addazio needs to fill. Regardless of who is installed, the question will be if the defense can once again perform. For now, though, the question is more about the who. And a weekend that began with a high ends with a low as the all-important 2015-2016 offseason continues to chug on.