Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: In defense of the offense ...

A skunk, a hamster and Virginia Tech's offensive coordinator walk into a bar.

"Hey!" the bartender says. "Who let YOU in here?"

"Sorry," the skunk says, turning to leave.

"Not you," says the bartender. "You can have a seat."

"I get it," says the hamster, scurrying for the door. "Back to my wheel, I suppose."

"You're OK, too," says the bartender.

The barkeep glares at Bryan Stinespring.

"Did I stutter, Stiney?" he says.

"But ... but ... we just won the ACC championship!" Stinespring pleads.


Amazingly, a lot of people still want him gone.

At least my e-mail inbox says so. On Monday, the day Virginia coach Al Groh announced that he was shaking up his staff and parting ways with offensive coordinator and son, Mike Groh, a day Tech fans should have still been savoring an ACC title and an Orange Bowl bid, here are a few of the questions I received:

"If Al can fire his son, don't you think Frank could jettison his buddy?"

"Stiney's offensive rankings are similar to Mike's. Think he gets the ax?"

And the always popular: "Is Stiney gone after this year?"

Here is the answer to all of those questions:


Not a chance.

No way.

Not happening.

And frankly, the Hokies would be crazy if they made a change now. How do you possibly revamp a staff when a team has won back-to-back ACC titles?

Hey, I've ripped the offensive rankings, too. They're extremely rippable. Tech's offense was 99th in 2006 and 100th in 2007. It's 107th this year.

Let's all take a moment to point at those numbers once again and, depending on your allegiances, laugh or cry.

Then let's get real. Because this is a bottom-line business, and the "win as a team, lose as a team" axiom applies here.

Mike Groh is out of a job today not because of his woeful offensive rankings. He is out of a job because the Cavaliers did not win.

Tech continues to win despite the rankings. That means Stinespring is a part of the success, whether some of us want to admit it or not.

Take last Saturday's title game. Tech put up 234 total yards against Boston College, a paltry sum that won't help the offensive rankings. But this was a good 234 yards.

Stinespring set the tone with his first-half play-calling. The Hokies were determined to prove they could run the ball, so Stiney put it in Darren Evans' belly and asked him to do what most running backs couldn't this year. And on his first eight carries, only once did Evans fail to gain at least four yards. Half of those totes gained six yards or more. One went for 30.

No cuteness required. A statement had been made.

Although they didn't break any huge plays, the Hokies controlled the ball and the game. They finished with nearly a 12-minute edge in time of possession and won going away, 30-12.

Afterwards, when a reporter asked if it was personally satisfying to win this way given the criticism he's taken, Stinespring did what a savvy coach does. He deflected all credit to his players.

"For them to do what they have accomplished is gratifying and satisfying in and of itself," Stinespring said. "It's all the satisfaction as a coach that I'm concerned about."

Tech running backs coach Billy Hite wasn't as diplomatic.

"I personally think it's bull[bleep] what he's gone through this year," Hite told me after the game Saturday, fully aware that I've been one of the critics. "Bryan Stinespring is a hell of a football coach, and we've won 10 games the last four years with him as our coordinator, and we have a chance to win 10 again this year. Tell me another coordinator in the country that can say that besides Texas and USC?

"People have the wrong impression. They really do. It's unfair to him. It isn't right. We lost 13 seniors to the NFL last year, and then we lose Kenny Lewis, we get rid of an all-ACC running back, we have our best wide receiver who tears his Achilles tendon, we have another wide receiver that had played that we suspended ... You think about all that and see what we've done."

I have thought about it. And I'm impressed with the end if not always the means.

If you still think Stinespring needs to go and want to blame somebody, don't blame head coach Frank Beamer. Here is who you blame, in alphabetical order: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, N.C. State, Virginia and Wake Forest.

They're the ones who have failed to turn Tech's poor offensive rankings into anything less than back-to-back ACC titles.

Stinespring might have to give up his seat at the bar on occasion. But unless Tech starts losing, and his offense is the reason for it, he shouldn't have to give up his job.

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