On paper, it's hard to imagine Maryland landing a better offensive coordinator than they did when Randy Edsall hired old colleague Gary Crowton in January. Crowton was the mastermind behind two of the nation's most explosive offenses of the past 15 years, first at Louisiana Tech and then BYU, and would go on to earn a national championship ring as the coordinator for Les Miles' 2007 LSU team. Speaking in terms of overall resume, only a handful of offensive coaches in the entire country are in Crowton's ballpark.
But if Crowton looks like a big catch for the Terps, it's without noticing the big catch on that resume: his final two years in Baton Rouge, in which his offenses -- despite a bounty of talent (quarterback arguably aside) that would be the envy of nearly any team in the country -- managed to finish dead last and 11th in the SEC in total offense, respectively. Despite Crowton's high-flying history at Tech and BYU, the Tiger passing game was particularly atrocious, finishing 97th in the nation in aerial yardage in 2009 and 107th in 2010.
What went so wrong? Speaking to the press this weekend about what he was looking for out of new coordinator hire Steve Kragthorpe, Miles may have let slip about what he saw as the problem (emphasis added):
"I just felt like [Kragthorpe] could short cut some of the elaborate thought process that was going on ," LSU coach Les Miles said. "I think the reality of it is I need a guy who needs execution. I don't want him to say, 'Boy, that's a good idea.' The 'good idea' that's not executed looks like an ugly play, OK. And so for me, I needed it to be done extremely well."It doesn't even take much reading between the lines to see that Miles believes Crowton's philosophy got too "elaborate," that he tried to incorporate more "ideas" into the offense than his team could correctly execute.
As Chris Brown at Smart Football pointed out when Crowton was hired at Maryland , the kitchen-sink strategy was nothing new for Crowton. From a 1998 Sports Illustrated profile of record-breaking Tech quarterback Tim Rattay:
Rattay also liked Crowton, the mastermind behind what some people in football call a “global offense” for its anything-goes approach to moving the ball. As a journeyman assistant, Crowton studied under LaVell Edwards, Mike Holmgren and Tom Coughlin , among others, and at Tech he has established his reputation as a formation geek who really likes to chuck the ball. Having run out of numbers with which to label his plays, Crowton, who became head coach in 1996, turned to the heavens for inspiration. “We’ve got formations called Moon, Sun, Stars and Mars,” he says. “Something we did looked like a star, so I called it that."Sometime between Crowton's early successes and LSU failures, Crowton crossed the line from keeping defenses off-balance with his offense's variety and keeping his own team off-balance and uncertain (a process Brown calls "subtraction by addition"), with Miles's stinging comments the final, don't-let-the-door-hit-you confirmation. That's in no way meant to suggest Crowton can't succeed and succeed in style at Maryland, but it also seems clear that to live up to his full resume's billing, he's going to have to simplify, simplify, simplify. As Miles said: at some point, putting even the best ideas to use is a bad idea.
HT: Mr. SEC