|Dominic Valente, Daily Herald|
BYU football has been pretty hard to watch in 2017, particularly on offense. After game two, a 27-0 loss to LSU, Head Coach Kalani Sitake said, "I know I am coming down hard on the offense, but, man, let's be honest, that was the issue." The offensive production hasn't gotten much better since, and Sitake hasn't changed his rhetoric.
Who would blame him? BYU is averaging 9.8 points per game, 4.3 yards per play (3.2 yards per rush and 5.2 yards per pass), and 221.75 total yards per game. The Cougar offense has converted just 34 percent of third downs, has averaged 23:47 time of possession, and has a 93.7 pass efficiency rating.
That has some fans speculating that one or more coaches will be fired before the end of the season. That is madness. No one on the BYU coaching staff will be unemployed before the game at Hawaii on November 25.
Making a coaching change midseason is reserved for exceptional cases. Either something happens off the field, or the same problem that has persisted for several years hasn't gone away. Neither exception applies to the BYU offensive coaching staff.
A coaching change would also create a hard to fill vacancy, so before firing someone, Sitake would need a plan to fill the void. In this case, that means more than a solution for how to make it through the season. He needs to know how to make working for him look attractive. Sitake is a first-time head coach. He has no track record for dealing with unsatisfactory assistant coaches. If he fires coaches midseason, that becomes the precedent, and raises a red flag for potential candidates. They are going to want to feel they are going to get a fair chance to get the job done.
Here are four reasons potential replacements won't feel that way.
1. Besides tight ends coach Steve Clark, the entire offensive staff is former BYU football players. They each have a strong legacy as a player. If their alma mater isn't even willing to let them finish the season, what does that say about how someone without that playing legacy will be treated? How quickly would they be let go just because they got off to a slow start?
2. The BYU offense lost its top two playmakers from a year ago: Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams. Both are in the NFL right now. That makes this a transition year. Even during the best of times for BYU football, the Cougars had a transition year with a future college and pro football hall of fame quarterback, in which, they lost to Utah State and Air Force (BYU dominated both programs at the time). Who is going to want to coach somewhere that, after losing NFL talent, he isn't allowed a few bumps at the beginning of the season?
3. Starting quarterback Tanner Mangum is injured. Compounding the issue of replacing Hill and Williams is the injury to Mangum. Quarterback is the most important position on offense. Having a revolving door at QB usually brings unkind results. Firing coaches now will create the perception that it is being done because the starting quarterback got injured. Who is going to jump at the opportunity to coach at a place like that?
4. BYU is facing the hardest part of its schedule right now. That doesn't completely excuse the offensive performance, but it should be taken into account before taking away somebody's job. How can coaching performance be fairly evaluated without a full body of work? How can it accurately be determined if a coach can do his part to get the offense playing better without seeing a full season with results from both good and bad opponents? Every year in college football there are teams that start slow, but finish hot, and vice versa. Who is going to want to coach where he isn't given a chance to show exactly where he stands and demonstrate if he is able to take the next steps?
Fans have every right to want and expect better, but keep in mind the big picture. Better results on the field might require better coaches. However, firing coaches midseason will not attract the best candidates. It might be hard to endure, especially with games against Boise State and Mississippi State on the horizon, but no heads will roll on the BYU coaching staff, so don't lose yours.
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