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Time For Tressel To Step Aside

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Ohio State coach Jim Tressel has come under fire for his playcalling in the Buckeyes’ most recent stumble against a big opponent, prompting Tressel to adamantly state that he is not turning over offensive play calling (of which he does most) to someone else.

Maybe he should rethink that.

Some of the criticism is unfair and really only relies on hindsight for knowledge.  I understand him going for the field goal on 4th and goal from the one yard line.  It’s USC and you can use all the points you can get.  Allowing a goal line stand can be a huge momentum changer.

I also understood opting to punt rather than going for a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.  Yes, it led to USC’s 86-yard game-winning drive, but Tressel knows what his kicker can hit and to that point, OSU had bottled USC up for just 227 total yard of offense.  It makes perfect sense to try and pin the Trojans deep and rely on your up-to-then reliable defense to close the game out.

Those disputable calls stated, there is one thing that Tressel and I can’t dispute – that was the fourth consecutive high profile game he’s lost.  His team got trounced by the Trojans about this same time last year.

Later in the season he had a chance to jump into national title contention with a win over No. 3 Penn State, but his team managed just two field goals against the disciplined Nittany Lions, who had zero turnovers and zero penalties en route to a 13-6 win.

Tressel still got an at-large bid in the Fiesta Bowl, where they were poised to upset the Texas Longhorns, until his defense again buckled under pressure as Colt McCoy picked them apart on a game-winning 78-yard TD drive.  Though I don’t blame his defense when they held Texas to a season-low 24 points.  His offense failed to exploit a weak and young Longhorns secondary, throwing just 10-of-25 for 176 yards and one TD.

Four consecutive high-profile losses.  And those coming on the heels of back-to-back blowout losses in BCS Championship games at the hands of Florida and LSU. (Don’t believe that deceptive 38-24 loss to LSU…it was over early when the Tigers scored 4 unanswered TDs for a 31-10 lead).

Tressel can keep defending his decisions if he wants, but the results speak for themselves.  At this point, we don’t need to know why he made those calls.  Lots of decisions that don’t work out seemed perfectly reasonable at the time.  Unfortunately, logic doesn’t bring crystal football trophies back to Columbus.  The Buckeyes need results, not excuses.

All told, when you look at the results, you feel compelled to say that it’s time for Tressel to swallow his pride and hire a new offensive coordinator who can handle the play calling.  The current system isn’t getting it done.

Tressel has managed to ride his stunning 2002 national championship for a very long time.  Since then he has won a couple of BCS Bowls, but his offense has also been inconsistent, at best.  Since he won that national championship, he has averaged 29 points per game.  Look how that matches up against the last four national championship winners during the same span:

Texas 40.6
USC 38.2
Florida 35.2
LSU 32.6
OSU 29

Dead last for the Buckeyes, and a full two possessions per game behind USC and Texas.  I know they have a lot of turnover, but they replace talent with talent, just like all the other schools.  And yet, he’s sitting dead last, even behind LSU, which is known more for its defense than its offense.

This isn’t to say that offense is necessarily the reason OSU isn’t playing for national championships, why they’ve lost their last four high profile games or why they’ve lost three BCS bowls in a row.  But it is quite clear that they have a problem on the offensive side of the ball, so it is time for Tressel limit himself to preparing his team to play each week and find a good offensive coordinator to whom he can delegate play calling.


Written by Austin Swafford

September 16, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Posted in Commentary

2 Responses

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  1. I think it’s pretty clear that Ohio State’s offense is the problem. Going back 5 years, their total offense has ranked 69th (2008), 53rd (2007), 29th (2006), 30th (2005), and 90th (2004) nationally. For a team with the prestige, history, recruits, and resources that Ohio State has, and considering they are viewed as top-ten material year in and year out, that is plain pathetic.

    While I haven’t liked Jim Tressel’s play-calling for quite some time now, I’m not sure letting someone else do the play-calling is really the answer… and by that I mean that I’m not sure it’s enough. Last year, for example, Ohio State was supposed to be a monster running team behind the Chris Wells/Terelle Pryor dual-threat, but basically they were a 56/44 run/pass team with very predictable and conservative play calling. They couldn’t manage more than 71 yards against USC last year, and 61 against a stout Penn State defense. They ran rough-shot over Texas for 209 yards, but this was against a team that had faced four of the top five passing attacks in the country, and themselves managed to put up over 400 yards in the air against Ohio State in their bowl loss.

    I think Tressel uses a system more than a philosophy, meaning that the players have to do more adjusting to the system than the coaches have to adjust to their players. They might need a whole new system rather than just another (different) hand behind the wheel.

    I’m pretty sure Ohio State will be able to maintain their dominance in the Big 10 for a year or two now, just based on their talent level, but Michigan is probably only one or two classes away from a full rebirth under Rich-Rod, Penn State isn’t likely to get worse before they get better, and the likes of Wisconsin, Iowa, or Michigan State can play over their heads in any given year. A big part of the reason for the Big 10’s bad reputation is Ohio State’s under-performance. Any of those other programs can make a case that with the same talent they would have far more success, and there are scattered classes in the last 10 years that make a strong argument.

    Imagine how bad this will be for Ohio State when they lose a game to Michigan. Tressel has gotten by for most of his tenure at Ohio State largely on his success against the Wolverines, but now I think that is the thread by which he hangs. Something certainly must change before the critics and even many of their own fans will have the confidence that Ohio State deserves to be considered among the ranks of the college elite from here on out.


    September 16, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    • I’m sure his philosophy is the problem. That’s kind of the point I’m making – he needs to stop being such a control freak and let an offensive coordinator run the offense. He’s interested in keeping it a low scoring game and controlling field position. That’s an okay philosophy, but if you’re keeping control of the offense just to make sure that nobody takes shots you don’t like, that’s just ego. I’m saying he needs to let go of his ego and let someone run the offense like an offense rather than running it like a defense. Like you said on the other post, these conservative coaches aren’t getting much done. You need to have a good defense, but coaches like Tressel, Paterno and others who don’t take risks on offense simply are not getting it done.

      Texas used to run a really pedestrian offense. Having Greg Davis turn things over to Vince Young changed that, and Major Applewhite has already made his mark as the running backs coach. Tressel needs to let his coaches and coordinators have the kind of impact they should have rather than being a dictatorial coach with a good record and no big wins to show for it.

      Austin Swafford

      September 16, 2009 at 11:54 pm

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