The Complicated Life of an Offensive Coordinator

By FirstDown PlayBook on Dec 3, 2012

By: Coach Charlie Coiner
I read an article last night by a college Offensive Coordinator discussing how the jump from Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach is a tricky one. It was a great article and I thought the coach made a great point about how successful Offensive Coordinators are well advised to be careful before taking a head coaching job at a school with long odds on winning.  As I was reading the article something kept running through my head.

The Offensive Coordinator position has and always will be the most advantageous way to be considered as a head coach.  Nothing against my defensive minded buddies who are excellent coaches but their job is to make the game boring.  Win 10-7… great!  7-6…even better!  We live in a fast paced, don’t bore me world.  Fans want to win first and foremost but if they had their way their team would score 40 or 50 a game along the way.

Herein lies the problem.  Football is and always will be a team within a team sport.  This is what separates it from all of the other sports.  An offense takes the field and one of three things happen:

1. They score a touchdown

2. They leave the field for the kicking game (punt, FG)

3. The dreaded turnover

The Defense takes the field and one of the same three results happens as they battle the other team’s offense.  Meanwhile the 6 core units of Special Teams (Kick off, Kick Off Return, Punt, Punt Return, PAT/FG, PAT/FG Block) fill in the gaps that usually determine the winner of “hidden yardage” and inevitably the game. All three phases fit together.  If they don’t more often than not the team is doomed for failure.

So as the Offensive Coordinator makes his game plan there can be a conflict of interest.  Is he trying to open up his offense and throw the ball a lot in an attempt to score as many points as possible?  Or is he trying to call an offensive game that will grind and wear down a defense so that by the end of the game his own team’s defense has not been on the field nearly as much?  The score might not be as impressive. His team might win 28-17 instead of 42-34.  In fact, this might be what wins the game for his team because he has kept the other teams’ high powered offense on the other sideline watching instead of scoring.  However, if he chooses to try to “outscore” the other team’s offense it might work but it can be disastrous. The problem is that a couple of three and outs puts your defense back out on the field too much and guess what?  You lose.  The game can quickly get out of hand with little or no chance to win because once you get behind two or more scores now you HAVE to throw the ball and the other team knows it.

If you consider that every time an Offensive Coordinator calls a game it could be seen as an on the job interview for the head coaching vacancies, which will certainly exist at the end of each season, it brings up an obvious dilemma; and that is…what is right for his career might not necessarily be best for his current team.  Most Offensive Coordinators work this balancing act on a weekly basis.  That is unless their defense is dominant which makes his offensive game planning considerably easier. Most coordinators do a great job of modeling their plans to fit the overall strategy and game planning of the head coach.  Often times the Offensive Coordinator is not given enough credit when his game planning and play calling fit the big picture and enhance what the defense and special teams are doing to win the football game.

So the next time your team wins and doesn’t score as many points as the fans or media expect, step back and look at the less obvious stats like field position and time of possession.  Understand that when someone says, “It was a great win. I just wish we could get the offense going.”, that there is a distinct possibility that somewhere up at the football office there is an Offensive Coordinator who sees the big picture and is quietly helping your team win more than most know.



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