The Minnesota offense in 2009 was beyond bad. It was horrid. Last in the Big Ten for points scored, yards per game, rushing, and 3rd down conversion. Blame was cast by fans and critics upon many different people. The cause of the abysmal offense remains a subject of debate, and with the 2010 season fast approaching the outlook for offensive production remains uncertain.
While learning how to clean fish as a child, my grandfather reminded me to always remove the head of the fish. Why? A fish smells first from the head. That same lesson was passed along from generations before me. An old Sicilian saying pertaining to organizations, families, and sea creatures is "U pesci fet d'a testa," or "A fish smells first from the head."
Here's where the cheesy analogy, along with the play on words, comes into play. While there were definitely areas of weakness for the 2009 Minnesota offense, the bulk of the blame should be placed upon the offensive coordinator, Jedd Fisch. Get it? Fisch is a homonym with fish. Clever in a Revenge of the Nerds way.
Tim Brewster definitely threw the dice in hiring Jedd Fisch. Fisch was an accomplished assistant coach in the NFL, but had no experience as a coordinator. There's no doubt that Fisch understood offensive schemes and strategy. Unfortunately, in my opinion he didn't understand the college game.
College football is a far cry from the NFL. NFL players can devote 100% of their time professional to learning plays, studying film, and perfecting their techniques. College players are young (many aren't even old enough to drink), have to worry about keeping up their grades and attending class, and most importantly are transitioning into adulthood. You cannot have the same expectations for NFL and college players.
Rumors were abound last year that Fisch had burdened the offense with a "300 page playbook." While I'm sure that the strategy was sound and the plays were brilliant, it is unrealistic to expect college kids to learn and efficiently execute an encyclopedia of plays. The parking lot is not full of Formula 1 race cars at the driver education center.
I could see the potential in Fisch's play calling. The planned deception, the multiple formations, the unexpected twists. But, he didn't consider the human factor. If the timing were slightly off, blocking not precisely executed, or adjustments not properly made the plays were rendered ineffective. He set NFL-level learning curve expectations for college kids who also had to study math, social studies, and science.
Jedd Fisch could very well become a successful offensive coordinator in the NFL. Only time will tell. But the 2009 Minnesota offense was his responsibility, and it was a miserable failure. I seriously doubt that the talent of the Gopher offense was actually as bad as the statistics indicate.
If the 2010 offense is worse, just as bad, or only slightly better than in 2009, then the talent or head coach was probably to blame and I'll revisit my opinions from this article. If the 2010 offense is much better than last year, than maybe we could all learn something about leadership from old fishermen of antiquity.