1987-1991: Player, Penn State University (Tight End)
1992: Player, New England Patriots (Tight End)
1993: Red Bank (NJ) Catholic High School (Offensive Coordinator)
1994-1996: University of Virginia (Graduate Assistant)
1997-1999: Boston College (Linebackers)
2000: Penn State University (Linebackers)
2001-2005: University of Virginia (Defensive Coordinator)
2006-2010: Temple University (Head Coach)
2011-2015: University of Miami (Head Coach)
Al Golden is probably the biggest name candidate on the coaching market right now, which makes him someone Boston College fans crave. It would be a big splash hire, a guy who would return to being a coordinator after a stint as a high profile head coach. For Eagle fans hoping for proof that Boston College is serious about contending, bringing in Golden would be that signal.
What's not to love about him? He has Boston College roots, having been a linebackers coach under Tom O'Brien and helping to oversee the renaissance of the program between '97 and '99. When he was handed the reigns to the Virginia defense in 2001, Golden helped the Cavaliers through one of its most successful eras under Al Groh, going to four consecutive bowls between 2002-2005 with three victories and two seasons inside the Top 25. While there, his defenses took the 'Hoos from 108th in total defense his first year to 18th in total defense by 2004. In terms of scoring, Virginia dropped from 74th to 17th while shaving 10 points of their allowed points per game.
In 2006, Golden was hired to help steward Temple into respectability after they were kicked out of the Big East. His first year, Temple's last as an independent, laid the foundation that helped the Owls win nine games in 2009 as MAC East Division co-champions. In 2010, the Owls won eight games again but were the only team in college football with more than six wins not to be invited to a bowl game. This came despite another 5-3 in-conference record.
With no fear, Golden went to Miami to pick up the pieces of a once-proud program. With the NCAA snooping around Coral Gables to pin the Hurricanes in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro booster scandal, Golden kept a steady hand. In 2012, the Canes won the Coastal Division but were ineligible for postseason play. The next year, they finished tied for second but upped their win totals to nine games. They fell apart in '14 and '15, resulting in Golden's termination, but ultimately, he's the guy who just held on long enough to get Miami through their NCAA sanctions.
Why Golden? Because he's a proven commodity with a trail of success. Miami aside, he's young, energetic, and good. He's flashy, splashy, and he's got the name recognition to make people take notice. He has BC roots, so he knows the university's landscape, knows Boston, and knows what to expect out of the school. He has ACC roots, so he knows what other schools bring to the table. And he could easily slot into the DC coordinator job as a "head coach of the defense." That type of appeal has to be something for Eagle fans to dream about.
Why Not Golden:
To be honest, BC doesn't need a splashy hire. The problem with Al Golden is that his name may actually dwarf his head coach, and that's a dicey predicament. Golden warranted consideration for some of the bigger named job openings this offseason, and you have to hire him knowing his name is immediately going to come up for any job openings in the future.
That's a big risk in trying to hire an expensive, flashy defensive coordinator whose style is different from his predecessor. Don Brown ran a base 4-3 defense predicated on penetration by the front four and a fifth blitzer coming from the linebacking corps. The remainder of the linebackers stood out in coverage, with a lot of moving parts, while the defensive backs played a physical, tough style built on bruising wide receivers and runners.
Al Golden runs a 3-4 defense, which means BC would need to change their defensive mindset completely. There's one less attacker on the defensive line, meaning the front seven players need to be bigger and defeat more blockers. With the three defensive linemen engaging the defensive line, the linebackers need to be big enough to rush the line and get to the quarterback or running back while being fast enough to get out into coverage. There's a lot more zone blitz coverage, a lot more spying on the quarterback, and a lot more reliance on coverage style sacks. That's a huge departure from the 4-3 defensive mindset, which is built on 1-on-1 domination of a man and a "attack to kill" mentality. It's very difficult to do, especially if you've been recruiting a certain way with success in that methodology.
To switch to a 3-4 defense also means to implement with a guy who may be gone within a year or two. Remember that Golden is still a head coaching commodity, even if he's failed at Miami. He was a rumored target for jobs at both Maryland and Rutgers, and he's still incredibly respected within the coaching ranks. So there has to be an understanding that a guy like Golden would be gone very quickly. And while I understand that even Don Brown wasn't a lifetime commitment to BC (which is fine), you want someone capable of being here three or four years, not one.
On top of all of that, that's under the assumption BC could afford Golden. Golden is going to be making a good paycheck wherever he goes, having made $2.25 million in his last year at Miami. Coordinators at BC aren't going to make what they could make at a place like Alabama or Michigan.
And if that's not enough, bringing in a guy like Golden could undermine the current regime. Golden has no ties to Steve Addazio other than that they followed one another to Temple, but it ends there. They've never coached together. If Addazio's season starts going south, there's going to be clamors for a clean break to go to Golden, and that's not a controversy BC really needs this season.
The Bottom Line:
I think Al Golden is a great football coach, and I think he's a solid commodity who could do wonderful things. But I think the downstream impact of bringing in a guy like him is too much to bear. Golden would be too expensive and likely wouldn't be here that long. So I would avoid that much of a departure from scheme on defense. BC was a great 4-3 defense; I wouldn't screw it up by switching to a 3-4.
At the same time, I don't like the idea of bringing in an ex-head coach who has name recognition when your head coach doesn't have the same strength to his brand. Lane Kiffin was brought to Alabama because there was no way he could undermine Nick Saban with the fan base. Steve Addazio doesn't have branding that strong, so bringing in Golden potentially undermines the coach in the court of public opinion. Regardless what happens in the locker room and no matter how well they work together, this is not the time to be bringing in a guy who fans could potentially believe would be a better head coach than the current head coach. There's way too much toxicity associated with that, and you better believe people will call for BC to replace Addazio if the Eagles start with even a hint of slowness.
I'm aware that none of that is a knock on Golden, and people may want that to happen because they want to get Addazio out anyways.
I also don't think Al Golden is a realistic choice for defensive coordinator. This is a guy who should probably still be a head coach. If the stars aligned perfectly, then sure, why not go for it? But I can't feel this is a logical, rational DC that would turn out to be a good decision by Boston College. It just seems too far fetched, which is maybe why it would work.
Al Golden is the guy people are going to want, but is that the kind of guy BC will need?