Tag Archives: Dirk Koetter

No Breaks for Southern Miss Football

No Breaks for Southern Miss Football

After coming off of a nine win season with appearances in the C-USA Championship Game and a Bowl game in Dallas, former Head Coach Todd Monken decided to coach again on the sidelines of the NFL. Monken will be calling plays as the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Bucs under New Head Coach Dirk Koetter. Monken in his resignation was very emotional in the press conference.

After much reflection, we decided that this was a position I couldn’t pass up,” Monken said.
“I have to thank Dr. Aubrey Lucas, Jeff Hammond, Bill McGillis and Dr. Rodney Bennett,” said Monken. “They saw our vision, and where our program was headed, and their support never wavered.”
Monken began choking back tears as he spoke of his confidence in the department in finding a replacement, and thanked the university once again.”

“Thank you for the chance to be a Golden Eagle.”

Athletic Director Bill McGillis was very disappointed in the announcement but is confident that a successor will be found to continue the direction that the program is heading. It is unclear just how much USM offered Monken to stay on as Head Coach.

Eagles will return a handful of starters both on offensive and defensive. One being Senior QB Nick Mullens who passed for over 4400 yards and 38 TD’s in 14 games in 2015. Mullens was only picked off 12 times and had a 63.5 completion ratio.

Junior RB Ito Smith also returns after rushing for 1128 yards and 10 TDs in 2015. Smith averaged 6.6 yards a carry in 2015.

Defensively at Strong Safety is Senior D’Nerius Antoine who accounted for over 100 tackles both assisted and unassited.

It’s hard to believe that a head coach would leave his team when there is so much talent returning. Eagle Fans for the most part were very excited that Monken was getting the opportunity to coach in the NFL.
But the timing couldn’t be worse for USM. There is a chance that USM will not have a head coach on signing day.
You cannot blame a coach for leaving for a lot more money however, USM needs to protect its interests with the next hire. The contract should have a protection clause that says if the coach leaves during the 2 month period prior to signing day he has to pay the university a buy-out.

A coach leaving is one thing, but at a critical time like national signing day, a school has a right to protect itself. Monken did a great job at USM, but USM also gave him his very first head coaching job so it goes both ways…Really tough spot to be in.

Also departed is former OC Chip Lindsey who took the same position at Arizona State. Director of Operations John Carr took a coaching position with Steve Buckley at Jones Junior College as Wide Receivers Coach. Buckley is also a former USM Coach but not under Monken.

Current Defensive Coordinator David Duggan appears to be the leading candidate for Southern Miss head coaching spot and would make some sense. Duggan did work on former USM Coach Larry Fedora’s staff and now Monkens. Duggan is familiar with Mississippi and has had a big hand in recruiting. The defense was better in 2015.

But USM has not had the best of luck promoting defensive coordinators to head coach. Former Eagles head coach Ellis Johnson destroyed the Eagle Football program prior to Monken being hired. Johnson went 0-12 as USM’s head coach in 2012.

Johnson was fired immediately after the last game but was apparently already hired back at Auburn as DC before completing his coaching debacle at Southern Miss.

The Eagles were 12-2 in 2011 and had 18 consecutive winning seasons before the hiring of Johnson.
Hopefully Southern Miss will make the right hire in a short time and not make a hasty hire. Eagle fans do not want a repeat of 0-12, 1-11, 3-9 in 2012-2014.

If all the players return and USM holds on to their recruits, 2016 could be a fantastic year. On the schedule is SEC teams Kentucky and LSU. If USM upsets one of them and cruises through C-USA, another championship game could be in the Horizon. #ToTheTop

Featured image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

What Tampa Bay is Getting with Dirk Koetter, If He’s Named The Buccaneers Head Coach

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t the only team to the play fast and loose with their head coaching position, but the Glazers have certainly made some eyebrow-raising moves since winning the Super Bowl with Jon Gruden thirteen years ago. It began with Gruden, currently ESPN’s color analyst for Monday Night Football, being shown the door after consecutive 9-7 seasons, and there’s been a folly of errors with the Bucs top job, including the questionable dismissal of Lovie Smith earlier this week.

The team’s improvement to 6-10, from 2-14 in Smith’s first season, apparently wasn’t enough, so the core of Gerald McCoy, Jameis Winston, and Mike Evans will get their marching orders from a new leader when mini-camps and OTAs begin later this year. We’ve heard rumors from the ridiculous to the absolutely reasonable, so you can rule out Alabama head coach Nick Saban, but there are other candidates not named Dirk Koetter interviewing for a job they like won’t be offered when it’s all said and done.

Say what you will about the Rooney Rule, I personally understand the spirit behind it, but I don’t feel the mandate for a minority candidate interview fulfills its purpose, nor do I feel its necessary, given how much we’ve evolved since Art Shell was hired in 19891Shell was the second African American Head Coach in professional football history, and the first since Fritz Pollard stopped coaching the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928. It’s difficult to put a name to this, and I don’t care to insult the man, but with Koetter being the in-house favorite, we’re going to label Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin as the Rooney Rule candidate.

It isn’t fair to Goodwin, available to interview during the Cardinals’ bye week, but all parties involved can get something out of this. Best case scenario, speaking to supporters of the Rooney Rule, Goodwin blows them away, and gets the job. Under this scenario, Koetter walks, which is something of a wash, because Goodwin will certainly want to be the architect of the offense, in his first steps away from the shadow of Bruce Arians, aka “The Quarterback Whisperer”. Bottom line: This is an interview Goodwin deserves, but many will see it as a farce, and only the ones in the room will ever really have a feel for how legitimate the process is.

Until Cam Newton started to make Riverboat Ron Rivera’s offense tick, the strength of Carolina’s game is what you see when the Panthers don’t have the football. Sean McDermott has been coordinating that defensive unit since 2011. Give him credit for knowing how to utilize Luke Kuchely, and how to disrupt in the trenches, his defense is the reason they sit on the 1-line in the NFC as we enter the playoffs. He’s a candidate, but he’d have his work cut out for him with the 7th-worst scoring defense in the game, and that was in Year 2 of Lovie Smith.2This is more about personnel. Gerald McCoy is great, but he doesn’t play around a lot of great talent…not yet.

I could get hit by a bus, but I’ll probably be home for dinner.

Barring a very genuine surprise, the former Arizona State head coach will be promoted by the Tampa Bay brass from Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach very soon, but they have to complete the process. Honestly, what does it hurt to talk to viable candidates, even when you’re 99% of the direction you want to go? In Jacksonville, Atlanta, and now Tampa Bay, Dirk Koetter has received a lot of praise for the way he calls an offensive game for whoever was featured on the Jaguars offense from 2007 to 2011, for Matt Ryan, and for the very talented Jameis Winston.

One area of concern remains; there’s a big difference between being the Skipper and the First mate. The Glazer family, Jason Licht, and everyone involved with this rumored decision to put Koetter in charge of the show are willing to make a leap that no has dared to attempt since failing to elevate the Arizona State over six seasons3Koetter was 40-34, and impossibly bad in the state of California against the four conference rivals who reside there.. Koetter put a few players in the NFL, most notably Terrell Suggs and Zach Miller, but the Sun Devil football program never could conquer the Pac-10 on his watch.

He may be another Norv Turner, a guy who is brilliant until he gets the big whistle and a challenge flag, but I have to commend the Buccaneers commitment to stability for Jameis Winston, even if you might want to denigrate them for pink-slipping Smith after two seasons, and just one with the services of Winston. After all, you usually hear about the head coach/quarterback tandem more than the chemistry between the signal caller and the OC.

You might hear conversations about Brady and Weis, McDaniels, and O’Brien, but none of them roll off the tongue like Brady & Belichick or Belichick & Brady do. Things tend to change over time. Maybe under the guidance of Jack Del Rio and Mike Smith, he understands the head coaching role better now, as well as the NFL game. There’s a precedent for that with the aforementioned Belichick. He didn’t get it done with the Browns, spent more time with Bill Parcells, and quickly took the Patriots to the promised land with his first second chance. I might believe Josh McDaniels was on the verge of that, but he’s got some work to do if he ends up in Nashville.

If any of these jobs were easy or “good”, there probably wouldn’t be vacancies, so they’re all difficult undertakings. Keep in mind, there are no exclusive rights to Koetter’s service, despite the Bucs being his current employer. He’s talking to San Francisco and perhaps Philadelphia, but probably isn’t the favorite to land either of those jobs. The move makes sense, and honestly, Goodwin and McDermott are logical targets, but potentially giving Jameis Winston the same voice for the foreseeable future carries a value that can’t be matched. Sun Devil fans won’t believe they’re watching the same guy when they see the pewter, orange, and red on their screen on Sundays.

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1. Shell was the second African American Head Coach in professional football history, and the first since Fritz Pollard stopped coaching the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928.
2. This is more about personnel. Gerald McCoy is great, but he doesn’t play around a lot of great talent…not yet.
3. Koetter was 40-34, and impossibly bad in the state of California against the four conference rivals who reside there.

It's Always Sunny in Tempe, Arizona

Not many people spend much time thinking about Arizona State University. In fact, if you aren’t a local, whether or not you’ve seen Jerry Maguire probably influences how much or how little you know about the game of football in the Grand Canyon State. I’d go as far as to say that the school in Tempe gets confused with its in-state rival, Arizona, more than any other “State” in the country, and not in a “let’s keep referring to the Buckeyes as Ohio to be a jerk” sort of way. For many years, the Sun Devils didn’t really deserve much recognition in the College Football world, but maybe that’s beginning to change.

Though I’m sure it’s mostly forgotten by now, it was only 18 years ago that Arizona State was mere minutes from claiming an undisputed National Championship at the 1997 Rose Bowl with Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman, and company. An undefeated season was taken away from an Ohio State team led by their former head coach on the sidelines and a quarterback who went to high school down the street in Mesa on the field. It stung, and the locals, mostly ASU alumni in Phoenix, reminded my happy Ohio-born ass of this any time I wore my scarlet and grey around town, even five years later in 2001, when I first arrived in the Valley of the Sun.
By then, the program had faded into obscurity. Jake “The Snake” was still around and playing his home games at Sun Devil Stadium, but he was literally always a day late, playing for the even further obscured NFL chapter in Phoenix. Gone was Bruce Snyder, the head coach that took them to Pasadena after the 1996 season, but was let go prior to the 2001 season, after 3 straight 6-loss seasons. Enter Dirk Koetter, the offensive genius from Boise State, stage left. He put together some nice seasons, but he was 2-19 against ranked teams in his six seasons in Tempe, and an incredible 0-for-12 in the state of California, where four of his nine conference rivals reside.
Though I lived what some would consider walking distance from Sun Devil Stadium from campus, Saturdays that you’d find me at Sun Devil Stadium were few and far between. As a die-hard football fan, albeit one with very casual allegiances to any team in my new hometown, the fact that I didn’t want to throw the cost of about four 12 ounce Bud Lights at a ticket might tell you all you need to know. One notable exception was the big game with the big, bad USC Trojans in 2005.
The sports network from Connecticut decided the #1 Trojans and the 1-loss Sun Devils were worthy of a site visit, so Chris, Kirk, and Corso set up shop in a parking lot north of the stadium for their uber-popular College Gameday show. By the way, that incredible tailgating parking lot no longer exists, having given way to new corporate office building being erected between Tempe Town Lake and Sun Devil Stadium. Back to October 2005, Gameday airs at 7 AM out west, so that meant a 5:30 AM wakeup call for a noon kickoff. I try to take the “act like you’ve been there” attitude with most things in life, but I have to admit I was overwhelmed with how cool this experience was.
We stood to the left side of the stage, our signage viewable over Herbstreit’s right shoulder on close-ups in orange hard-hats with the logo of the show’s title sponsor, Home Depot, on each side. Now, I know it looks like chaos and near-anarchy on TV, but there are rules to being a part of the pep rally. The show was doing a feature on a terminally ill boy that called Notre Dame’s first play for Charlie Weis, but didn’t survive to see it, so Chris Fowler asked for quiet and decency while that ran. The fun police were there too, making sure our signs weren’t inappropriate.
Back then, Trev Alberts was the muck-raker that Mark May is now, though probably a lot more mild than the constant troll-job we see from May these days. He was replaced by Lou Holtz for the studio show with May and Rece Davis, beginning in that 2005 season. Signs noting this, “Why Does Trev Alberts Look Like Holtz” and “Trev Works at McDonalds Now”, were against policy. The sign comparing alumni, specifically with the faces of Pat Tillman and OJ Simpson side-by-side, was held proudly and without objection from ESPN. I was given a sign with a picture of Sean Penn and Ray Walston from Fast Times at Ridgemont High that read, “USC is Bogus, Mr. Hand”.

The students had to get creative, and some of them took it seriously, making sure to poke at Mike Stoops, the head coach at Arizona, citing it being about recruiting. Nine years later, I’m not sure that Gameday signage serves as a recruiting tool, but whatever. I had to scalp a ticket for $90, which is a lot of 12 ounce Bud Lights for a nose-bleed seat in a section that was torn out of the stadium last summer. Predictably, ASU lost, the consensus prediction on the show, but they hung for a half. If you take a few Sun Devils miscues and a lot of LenDale White on the ground, it explains how 21-3 halftime lead turns into a 38-28 defeat for their second loss of the season.
Koetter would last one more season, but in 2007, it was time for the big name hire. He went by the name of Dennis Erickson, who won at Miami and even won at Oregon State. He did his fair share of winning right away in Tempe too, but you tend to remember the disparaging losses more. Erickson technically led the school to a Pac-12 title in his first season, but they lost, and lost badly, to their co-champs on a nationally televised Thanksgiving Night game at home, so I’ve always believe that 2007 Conference Championship banner is held up with a grain of salt, but it’s there. Erickson took them through a couple of unremarkable seasons, but was on the right track in 2011, where the local media was lobbying for him to get a contract extension after a 5-1 start. Then, they pooed the bed.
Enter Todd Graham, a head coach who’d earned a reputation as a mercenary for leaving Rice and Pittsburgh after just one season, but he claimed that this was his dream job. You know everyone took a wait and see approach to that line, back in 2012. He has since put his money where his mouth is, quite literally. While his first season in the desert wasn’t spectacular by most standards, he came up one win shy, a heart-breaking, last second field goal loss to UCLA at home, from winning an admittedly weak Pac-12 South and reaching the conference championship. A year ago, it came down to taking down those same Bruins in the Rose Bowl, and they got it done with 38-33 victory.

Returning to the Pac-12 Championship is obviously a goal for the Sun Devils, who currently sit at 3-0, but their #15 ranking headed into Thursday evening’s contest with UCLA is probably more about the 2013 Sun Devils than this year’s team that has only played Weber State, New Mexico, and Colorado. The good news for ASU is that the Bruins, despite their #11 ranking, haven’t looked like world-beaters in their route to 3-0, with wins over Virginia, Memphis, and Texas. The bad news is, it might not take a national championship contender to take down the Devils, who will be without their dynamic three-year starting quarterback Taylor Kelly. On the other hand, it might have been tough to picture their opponent taking down Texas without the services of Brett Hundley, who will start against Arizona State, but their backup got it done.
There is a reason they play the games on the field, and not on paper, so we shall see. The sun is shining, Tim Brando and Fox Sports 1 are here, and we’ve got a couple of Top 15 teams dueling it out, in what could be the de facto Pac-12 South Championship for the third consecutive year. For a couple of hours, Tempe should be the center of the sports universe. I wouldn’t want to miss it.