Saturday, November 22, 2008
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: VT offensive coordinator: One job that could take you to the very edge

Let's play pretend for a second.

Let's say Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer walked up to me right now, holding a pen and a six-figure contract.

In other words, let's say he officially lost his mind.

Let's say the conversation went like this:

Frank: "I like the cut of your jib, young man. You've got some fresh ideas flyin' around."

(I know, we're stretching it here pretty badly. And Beamer has never said "jib," to my knowledge. Anyway, back to Pretend Land)

Me: "Thanks, Frank. Very kind of you."

Frank: "I really like your suggestions on fixing the offense. In fact, I think you're certainly on to something. As a result, I've relieved Bryan Stinespring of his duties. I'd like to offer you a job as our next offensive coordinator. It pays 200 grand a year. You'd start today. What d'ya say, sport?"

Me: ...

Frank: "Aaron?"

Me: ...

Frank: "What's the matter, son? Cat got your tongue?"

Me (fleeing): "Gotta run!"

Bryan Stinespring's job stinks right now. It really does. I don't care how much it pays. It's not worth it.

In fact, it stinks so much that I have no idea why he wants it anymore.

If I were Stiney, I'd stand up in the middle of Main Street right now, right across from PK's restaurant. I'd be wearing nothing but a polka-dot unitard and a foam-dome cap equipped with two 16-ounce Keystone Lights. And I would scream the following:

"THE FIRST SIX PLAYS RUN BY MY OFFENSE TODAY WILL BE FLANKER SCREENS! I DON'T CARE IF ANYBODY KNOWS IT! IN FACT, SOMEBODY PLEASE RELAY THIS INFORMATION TO THE DUKE LOCKER ROOM!"

And then I'd run six straight flanker screens to start the game.

A cry for help: Reassign me. Please.

Offensive coordinators have a tough job as it is. But it's even tougher when public confidence erodes, and you're depending on 18- to 22-year-olds to restore any semblance of faith.

Maybe you do have a brilliant game plan. Then maybe your line doesn't block and your receivers drop passes and your quarterback stumbles. And then maybe you whiff on a few calls and you see the team lose and everybody blames you.

Before you know it, you're accepting group hugs on the practice field.

Is this any way to live?

If you're reading this, you probably read the comments from Tech linebacker Purnell Sturdivant about the offense in Wednesday's edition of The Roanoke Times. That article ran as a straight news story and not a column.

Here's why: Sturdivant and I totally disagree!

Not on the offensive woes, mind you. And not on the fact that something needs to change. But here is the big thing Sturdivant said:

"Our offense is pretty much predictable. You know what you're going to see each and every week."

And here is the first line from my column after last week's loss to Miami: "Give the offense this, and only this: It was unpredictable."

He's coming from the Far East, I from the Far West. But we still meet in the middle: Right in the face of the OC.

Sweet job, huh?

The total-offense rankings -- 109th this year, 100th last year, 99th in 2006 -- are miserable. That's Stinespring's main problem. Not his fault alone, but his problem. And there's another problem, too, one not limited to his situation: Everybody has an opinion about offenses in football. It's like Thai food. You might think it's spicy and delicious. I might think it smells like dirty diapers. But neither of us is neutral on the topic.

Georgia Tech's victory over Miami on Thursday just tossed Stinespring a lifeline. Beat Duke today and Virginia next week, and the Hokies are hopping a flight to Tampa. The rankings won't look good at the end of the year no matter what happens, but if he can string together a few solid game plans like he did at the end of last year, and the players can execute them like they did at the end of last year, Tech can reach its stated preseason goal despite all the craziness that's occurred in between.

If the offensive players love Stinespring as much as they say they do -- and there's no reason to disbelieve them -- then they'll bring their best effort today. The linemen, who took a major step back against Miami after a dominant performance against Maryland, will rule the one-on-one battles. Tailback Darren Evans will churn for big yardage. Tyrod Taylor (and Sean Glennon, if he plays) will have solid days at QB, with few sacks.

In short, there's no better time for the offense to win one than today.

And if it can't? Might as well pass the foam dome, baby. See you on Main Street.

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