Does BYU need a different offensive scheme?



The 2017 football season is three games old for BYU. The Cougars have already been shutout once, they have not passed for more than 200 yards in a game, and have no real established playmakers. That is a formula for furious fans in Cougar Nation.

Some fans are calling for a coaching change. Others are preaching patience. A third group wants the offensive coaches to run a different scheme.

It is no secret that offensive coordinator Ty Detmer is not trying to run the same scheme he used as a player at BYU to rewrite the NCAA record book. The offense he wants to run resembles what he learned during his 14 seasons in the NFL.

Lackluster results this year has this approach under scrutiny. After all, Tanner Mangum does not look like the same quarterback who passed for 3,377 yards, 23 touchdowns, and had a 136 pass efficiency rating in Robert Anae's offense as a freshman.

In management, whether football or Fortune 500, a train of thought has developed that to show you are a good manager you have to do something to make your mark. Hire your own people, or have your own management style. Something, anything so that you can point to the results and say, "I did this."

This is Detmer's first college coaching job. I can understand that he would want to prove himself, but I'm not sure he has to completely revamp the BYU offense to do that. After all, that's not how BYU became great 40 years ago.

In 1977, BYU was displaying unprecedented offensive firepower. Gifford Nielsen was a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. Then tragedy struck. Nielsen suffered a season ending injury.

That forced Marc Wilson into action, and offensive coordinatior Doug Scovil didn't use a "my way or the highway" philosophy.

"What people usually do in those situations is say 'You're going to do it my way, and if you're not any good at it, I'm going to find someone that is,'" Wilson says of the transition. "His approach was entirely different. His approach was, 'I have a number of things here. You tell me what you like to do and you're good at, and we'll do those.' ... We stopped doing a lot of the things that Gifford did because, frankly, he was better at it than I was, and from that time on we focused on things that I was good at."

(Editor's note: To hear a great Marc Wilson interview with ESPN960Sports reminiscing about this and other great moments playing for BYU, click here.)

No two quarterbacks, or football player in general, are the exact same. Therefore, it is wise to have a big enough playbook that can incorporate a variety of skill sets.

A square peg still doesn't fit a round hole.

Scovil left BYU, twice. The first time he was replaced by a coordinator who thought he knew better, and set aside Scovil's playbook.

Not a smart move.

That guy only lasted one season, and it was widely considered unfulfilling (even by 1970s standards).

Those who came after Scovil's second tenure were wiser. They had one question for the incumbent quarterback: What have you been doing here? After hearing the answer, their first comment was: I'm not going to change a thing.

Not only was that good for BYU, it was good for their professional careers. The offensive coordinators who stuck with Scovil's playbook went on to head coaching jobs at major college football programs and in the NFL.

Fast forward back to 2017.

Not even in my wildest fantasy do I think I know more about football than Detmer. I am not suggesting, either, that the BYU offense under Anae was a perfect, polished work. BYU may be better off in a pro-style offense, in the long term, but looking at the results it makes me wonder if going cold turkey on Anae's offense is the best way to get there.

I don't know if moving to the pure pro-style offense can be done in phases, but it would be nice to see something that looks more like a balance between a "win now" approach and a transition to what is best for the future.


The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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