Well, that was quick. It was announced today that Jeff Horton has been hired, after an "extensive nationwide search," to replace Jedd Fisch and become Minnesota's third offensive coordinator in four years under Tim Brewster.
Brewster's reaction to his hire is, as usual, full of plaudits, and he would know how to fill in the cliches on these press releases by now:
I'm thrilled to have Jeff Horton join our staff," he said. "He brings tremendous leadership and experience running offenses and coaching quarterbacks. I think he's a tremendous teacher in all aspects of quarterback play and offensive football. His overall knowledge will help make this a seamless transition for our players."
I have a bone to pick with Brewster's comment above, and perhaps you'll figure out what it is as we fisk Horton's resume:
(1) Graduate Assistant - UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA (1984) - Hey, he's one of us! Well, kind of. He graduated from Nevada, but he began his career working for Lou Holtzh (sic).
(2) Assistant Coach - University of Nevada (1985-1989) - This is a tough school. One of its seven mens' intercollegiate sports is "rifle." Horton went back "home" (he's really from Texas. That's right OMG TEXAS RECRUITING) and worked for head coach Chris Ault. However, I cannot find any more detailed information about the position that Horton coached. Presumably, it's the QBs. If so, Eric Beavers and Jim Zaccheo were his proteges, and they had several 300 yard passing games over a 5 year period.
During this time Nevada was in I-AA and was 11-2, 13-1, 5-7, 7-4 and 7-4.
(3) Assistant Head Coach - UNLV (1990-91) - This is the first evidence I have ever seen that UNLV had a football program at a time when Jerry Tarkanian was flipping through the NCAA rulebook by using his middle fingers. Although UNLV was the home of Randall Cunningham and Ickey Woods, in 1990 and 1991 the football Rebels went 4-7 each year, averaging 21.7 and 20 ppg, respectively. If those offensive numbers sound eerily familiar, they range close to the Gophers' output the past two years.
(4) Wide Receivers (1992), Head Coach (1993) - University of Nevada - Not much information here, but Nevada went 7-5 in 1992, and as head coach, Horton went 7-4, including a loss to Wisconsin (uh, that's not-subtle foreshadowing).
(5) Head Coach - UNLV (1994-98) - UNLV went 7-5, 2-9, 1-11, 3-8 and did one better than '07 Brewster, going 0-11 in 1998 (oh, I remember reading about this guy now). During that time UNLV averaged 23, 20, 23, 25 and, er, 14 ppg. Yes, he was let go after the donut.
What does that coaching trend mean? Well, he did well with the predecessor's players, but as time went on, he things went severely downhill (Steve Kragthorpe and Charlie Weis are your recent comparables).
(6) Quarterbacks Coach - University of Wisconsin (1999-2005) - obviously this is where Horton had his greatest success, coaching Jim Sorgi, Brooks Bollinger, and John Stocco to the requisite "plodding and maddeningly effective Wisconsin QB" role during Barry Alvarez's last seven years as coach. Bollinger remains the school's all time winningest QB with 30 wins.
Interesting note, which might tell you a lot about this hire: also on Wisconsin's coaching staff during these years were Kevin Cosgrove, Ronnie Lee, Tim Davis, and Thomas Hammock. Yeah, we're turning into West Madison.
(7) Special Assistant/Offense (2006-07), Assistant Offensive Line (2008) - St. Louis Rams - bler.
(8) Quarterbacks Coach - Detroit Lions (2009) - uh, there's a reason the Lions are only televised 3 times a year in Minnesota. This year, Matthew Stafford, Drew Stanton and Daunte Culpepper helped contribute to that stellar 2 win improvement over 2008.
So, there's the resume. Here's the assessment:
(1) This was no national search - yet again, a national search turned into Brewster asking his coaches for a recommendation. There's nothing really wrong with this - after all, Kevin Cosgrove ended up a competent hire (this year will prove whether that was the result of having 9 senior starters with about 200 games of starting experience between them.) Again, we've tapped into the NFL for a hire, with a coach who has been really in purgatory positions since 2006. Speaking of that, and this is the big problem with the hire:
(2) BONE TO PICK: Has this guy ever called plays? Wasn't this the identified problem with Jedd Fisch last year - he'd never called plays and the team would amble along while he learns how to do it? Yes, Horton will be provided Fisch's playbook and expected to use it. Yes, Davis will remain from 2009 and undoubtedly will order Horton to POUND THE ROCK.
HOWEVER, in all those jobs listed above, the term "coordinator" has never been appended to his job title. If this guy has ever called plays in his life, the last time he did it was on November 21, 1998 against TCU. More likely, however, as head coach of UNLV he didn't call the plays (full disclosure: also, Nevada's media guides do not signify his position on staff). Whether he's ever called plays or not, however, he hasn't done it since Bill Clinton was getting over his impeachment fight - over 11 years ago. This leads to the next problem:
(3) Going back to #1, who maybe did not get a call? Well, unless more information comes out, recently deposed offensive coordinators from South Florida (Canales), Tennessee (uh Mitch Browning was there too right?), Louisville, Texas Tech, and available coaches from those schools in addition to Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Marshall and East Carolina were not interviewed or considered. In addition, Mike Leach and Mark Mangino were wild-card "reach" options.
At the end, there was talk about Josh Heupel and.....the coach from Bethel. And Brewster hired a guy he interviewed last year. Granted, we'll never know the answer to this, but given Brewster's hiring history, this makes me wonder how "extensive" the search was, and who was not contacted who should have gotten a call. Leading to:
(4) What are the NCAA requirements on a job posting and interviews? I don't know the answer to this, but as a public university, isn't the University of Minnesota required to post an open job position (you know, Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity)? When was this job made available, on Tuesday or Wednesday, and finalized Friday? I know that Michigan publicly posted its Defensive Coordinator position earlier this year. I don't know the answer to this, but my attempts to find the job posting on the Minnesota website turned up empty. If anyone has better luck please let me know in the comments.
(5) Finally, recruiting? What does this do for recruiting? Is Parish happy a QB guy is in the fold? Will the recruits be inspired by this choice? Most importantly, will this hire make a person walking the halls in a school off Randolph Avenue happy? In addition, WR Chris Hawkins, one of the top recruits of the class, officially visits TCU this weekend. We'll see if the Horton hire registers. Hawkins is a trial balloon to watch.
Bottom line: We have a Madison-centric staff, and this hire doesn't deviate from that theme. Problematic for me: part fo the allure of Brewster was bringing in the explosive spread offenses he promised from Texas. His pivot to the pro-style, and now his reversion to the boring, ploddng Wisconsin offenses of the Barry Alvarez years, is somewhat depressing, especially because there is no Anthony Davis, Ron Dayne or John Clay on the roster or even on the horizon (where are you Hasan Lipscomb?) While Alvarez's offenses were boring but effective, in 2009 Minnesota was only regularly the former and sporadically the latter. I hope the talent increases on the offense, because when it doesn't work, it's depressing and boring to watch.
As for Brewster, he has retreated from hiring hot hands (Withers, Roof, Dunbar) and instead is bunkering in with guys he and his staff knows. Ultimately, Horton has been given the biggest job of his career (yes he has, UNLV) and his performance will in all likelihood be a major factor in whether Brewster gets to coach a talented roster in 2011. If this team starts slow in September on the road playing a 10-win Middle Tennessee State team, and then at home to a resurgent, talent-laden USC and 7-win Northern Illinois, 2010 will get ugly and the fights between fan and coach that happened in the SDSU game this year could increase when Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa bring their talent and experience to the Bank.
Hang on, 2010 is going to be dramatic for Golden Gophers football.