Crowton to Maryland – What happened?

Gary Crowton will become the Maryland offensive coordinator. At one time Crowton was on the cutting edge of offense, namely back in 1997 and 1998 when he was at Louisiana Tech. Famously, Tim Rattay threw for over 3,900 and then for over 4,900 yards in ’97 and ’98, respectively, while leading receiver Troy Edwards had over 400 (400!) yards receiving at Nebraska, at a time before Bill Callahan became the coach. But somehow Crowton went from this:

To this:

Too much Crowton?

The hint, however, may have come from back in his LaTech days, as described in this Sports Illustrated profile of 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. I know our offense is unique, and people are starting to take notice. We had about 200 college coaches come visit last year to learn what we’re doing.”

That’s all well and good, but when Auburn’s Gus Malzahn talks about having only ten base plays — four runs and six passes — maybe less is more. Indeed, when it comes to installing more offense (and defense), there is such a thing as subtraction by addition. But Crowton remains a bright guy, so hopefully he can streamline his system for that Maryland team. Remember, the Maryland fans almost had Mike Leach, and he only has about twenty plays and four or five formations. It worked for him.

  • Dont forget that Crowton went to Chicago for a year and set the world on fire with Marcus Robinson (NFL-E) with bubbles and fades…….which then got him the BYU job. It was at Chicago that then Chiefs DC Guenter Cunningham labelled his offensive approach a “gimmick fad “

  • I remember that season:

    He did do a decent job, I thought, with some terrible players: Quarterbacks Cade McNown, Shane Matthews and Jim Miller (each threw for over 1,200 yards and under 1,700); the runningback was Curtis Enis; and the wide receivers were Bobby Engram and Marcus Robinson, with Robinson miraculously having 1,400 yards that year (he never had more than 750 yards in any NFL season). For what it’s worth, he was the first guy I remember to try to seriously run a lot of receiver screens in the NFL, so that’s something, I guess. Now that Pats and Colts run them all the time.

  • I should say that the question is completely legitimate and may be better served as a afrontline investigation or Leonard Nimoy In Search Of because it certainly doesn’t make sense.

    Crowton IS a sharp offensive mind, a good communicator, and proficient recruiter…..
    when scraping the bottom of the barrel at LTU and Chicago he got production he shouldn’t have. At BYU and LSU he had more relative talent than he knew what to do with. What happened, indeed. Would his (recent) legacy have been different had Ryan Perilloux panned out?

  • chuckduck

    He certainly got run out of Oregon fast…but without Crowton, there would be no Chip Kelly. So, there’s that.

  • Jgordon1

    At time, I wouldn’t say going from Oregon to LSU was being run out

  • steve

    As an LSU fan, everything on here about offense in terms of practice philosophy and executing a few core concepts really well read as an indictment of Crowton. He ran just about everything under the sun very poorly. What’s worse, and what even yr average coonass on the call-in shows will tell you, is that we ran so many formations that it became relatively easy to predict what we would run from a given formation. This had the two-fold disadvantage of making our offense look like it was having a difficult time lining up and giving film-studying opponents the jump on what we were going to do. Did we break tendencies? Rarely. It never felt like we were running something to set something else up. It just felt like an assorted grab-bag of concepts that were multiple for the sake of being multiple. While Crowton could occasionally come up with some very clever play design, I welcome an offensive coordinator with a simpler approach who will hopefully give LSU something to hang their hat on.

  • Coryell15

    Crowton reminds me of Francis Schmidt in his inability to channel his creative gifts into a workable, teachable system.

    Anyone here who is interested in the question of “is less often more?” owes it to themselves to read about Schimdt in “Frantic Francis”. I always get a wry chuckle out of talk of “coaching trees” since Schmidt directly influenced Brown, and Gillman both.

  • cschumley

    At BYU Crowton followed a very similar pattern. The first year – explosive offense as every defensive coordinator saw his offense for the first time and he had Doaker Award winner Luke Staley who would frequently bailed the offense out. Once defensive coordinators had a look at his offense and multiple sets they adjusted. Without the surprise, it came down to execution and with hundreds of plays and formations in the aresenal his teams were sloppy and error prone and the offensive production declined every year until his firing.

    I attribute the sloppiness and inability to make game time adjustments to the players not getting enough reps in practice and the lack of identity.

  • DrB

    I would say its because he spends so much time trying to trick the opponent instead of focusing on a few plays and getting the execution down.

    In a sense, its overpreparation on his own part. You just confused your own team by throwing so much crap at them Mon-Thurs that tney really don’t know how to run the simplest plays.

    And I think this is where Miles jumped in and said something to the effect of “We’re going to pick some stuff and do it right”. Miles changes the focus, and they pick it up well enough to win.

  • Joe in BR

    It is a bit frustrating to see what has transpired with Gary at LSU. He led an offense in 2007 that set school records at LSU. It seems what others have said may be true, as the years go on and he tries to make the kids learn so many plays they cannot execute them. I think he would have lasting success if he would develop a base set of plays and only expand as the kids allowed.

    Good luck with the Terps.

  • 4.0 Point Stance

    I agree with everything steve and DrB said. Some time ago I said “Crowton’s problem is that he values being difficult to scheme over being easy to teach.” I recognize that he’s a brilliant offensive mind, but sometimes brilliance on paper doesn’t transfer to brilliance on the field. I’m not to sorry to see him go.

    That being said, I still remember that Troy Edwards game like it was yesterday. I was maybe 16, just really getting into college football, and I liked to watch the Huskers (bandwagon indeed). Just a tremendous performance. The La Tech defense couldn’t stop Nebraska to save their lives though.

  • Ruddy

    Crowton is a great coach. His offenses have set school records at La Tech, BYU, Oregon and LSU. He has been national coordinator of the year and directed the 2007 national champion LSU tigers in both the BCS championship and the SEC championship with a young inexperienced quarterback. He has put 7 quarterbacks in the NFL. Every school at which he has coached still uses his offensive game plan and Maryland is lucky to get him. The Terrapins offensive numbers will be huge in 2011 and the ACC defenses shoul really FEAR THE TURTLE. Great hire

  • Mark

    I was on the inside when he was at BYU. It came down to 1) Crowton’s offense was too complicated (a point made a couple of times on the board)and relied on all-stars to bail him out and 2) He didn’t relate well to recruits. Not to mention BYU kicked out seven players for an incident involving an allegation of gang rape on Crowton’s watch. Thus Crowton seemed out of touch with team mojo and more of a gambler than a genius.

  • coach mick

    Coach Crowton is a very good coach. He has been an innovator for decades.
    I have clinic notes on the 4 vertical passing game circa 1992. Gunter Brewer and the other coaches you pump up here are all running things he did decades ago. Chip Kelly at Oregon and UNH got his passing game from Gary Crowton who was the OC at UNH. Not only that he is unbelievably generous with his knowledge. He spent an hour on the phone with me (a DIII OC)discussing the vertical passing game. He will be an asset at Maryland and is a coach that should be held in high regard.

  • Brian

    I like Crowton’s offense for what it is: something really exotic that doesn’t really form much of an identity. Then again, I say that, but in 2007 LSU most certainly had an identity on offense which is exactly why all his cute plays and wacky formations worked so well. At its heart that was a power-I team, and when they needed a big drive that’s what they’d go to. Crowton seemingly lost this identity the last few years and I can’t really put a finger on why..maybe it was shoddy talent at QB (which I’m pretty sure he had a hand in evaluating), or maybe it was that the offensive line fell off..I’m not sure.

    The one thing I DO know is that things got way too complicated, and about as far away from a concise, conceptual passing game as you will ever see. Nothing really made sense in his offense.

    I still like the guy and think he’s an incredibly bright coach, though..maybe his issue is that he can’t teach the game. He can scheme, but he can’t show.

  • BiGGFroGGy

    correction for Rudy. LSU had a very bright 5th year senior in 2007. He is now Aaron Rodgers back up in GB. Matt Flynn.