My article on Jim Tressel

For those that haven’t already seen it, check it out here, over at Dr Saturday on Thanks again to the Doc.

  • Justus

    Chris, Is UGA’s Mark Richt another coach that you would say has failed to effectively adapt offensively?

  • Luke

    As usual, the guts of the article were great. Good analysis, and very interesting to say the least. Only one *bit* of concern, but its more with writing style then anything. This article was a fireball-definite strong sauce being spread right there.

    I was slightly taken aback by the acrid nature of it. I don’t think it detracted from the article, but it definitely came off as a complete indictment. Your style has changed somewhat, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This article is blowing up right now all over the internet–without the added spice, it might not have had the same reaction.

    If you were looking for a big reaction from the sports world and Buckeye nation–you got it. Just don’t let your prose get in the way of the primary reason you have such a big following–like I said, I think it was good in this situation, just be careful how you use it.

  • Chris, I posted a comment on the article, but it appears it never made it out of moderation.

    I think you were spot on.

    As a USC fan, I was thuroughly unimpressed with the USC offense as well. I’m sure there’s a write up there. Maybe Art will get to that.

    It will be interesting to see what Steve Sarkisian does with Jake Locker this week against USC.

    I wrote up a small critique to add to what you put down.

  • Curious

    I know you probably don’t have time to take questions, but I’m curious about how to separate out the effects of coaching vs. players. Specifically, I seem to recall that Troy Smith had the freedom and ability to make many of the adjustments – to call audibles, throw quick passes, etc. And obviously, Pryor is having some trouble managing the game – he struggled to get up to the line, make reads, and snap the ball on time this game. So are they simplifying the game for him, or is this just too obvious to have been simplified out? Is there a general principle for how I would know?

  • Luke, thanks for the kind words. I picked that style for this one piece; I know my regular readers know I’m pretty even keel. Sometimes you have to shout to be heard. I do hope it didn’t detract from the points, but I think everyone can understand why I wrote it the way I did. And note that it wasn’t borne so much of animosity to Tressel as I legitimately felt bad for the players and then afterward the reaction about how they played, when I thought many of the issues were coaching related. I probably could have focused more on the 4th and 1 on the goal line early in the game too — I mentioned David Romer’s paper. I thought that was a good example of where being “conservative” is very different than “playing the percentages” — the percentages all say you go for it. Worst case scenario you put a frosh QB on his own one, where the data says the offense is sitting on a negative value (meaning the defensive team is more likely to score there). It’s a no brainer play. Bill Belichick would have no qualms about going for it (and Pete Carroll).

  • Luke

    Going back to percentages–is Ohio State’s “conservative” strategy the best strategy when playing teams that aren’t as talented as them? Or is the problem more on “coaching” per se, as opposed to just “conservative”? Do you think Tressel will hand over play calling duties any time soon? Or is that something that won’t be happening for a year or two?

  • Ras

    Nice read Chris.I always enjoy seeing someone speak the truth about OSU.They get to much unjust praise anyway.

  • Tony

    As a lifelong O State fan and graduate, I couldn’t agree with you more! As I told my 13 yr old daughter saturday night during the 3rd quarter, I have seen this movie before and the ending is not going to be good! The 2008 Penn St. game, Texas in the Fiesta bowl, now this nonsense. We need to either get an offensive coordinator, and not a JT insider like Siciliano, or he needs to go back to Y-town St.!!

  • John Z

    Taylor Mays was not going for a “kill shot” on his blown assignment. He jumped the zombie/bubble route by the #3 receiver, and the two outside receivers ran slants in front of it. The play is a common counter to defenses overplaying the bubble, and Pryor was patient enough to read Mays first and go with the inside slant across his face, instead of going to the bubble.

  • Chris S

    Chris, this was a great column….the best I’ve read this season. I think your analysis was spot on. I will be adding to my must-read list. BTW, I didn’t think it was too inflammatory or disrespected OSU. You praised the players and fans accurately and nailed the fatal flaw in OSU’s coaching philosophy and gameplan. I doubt Pryor would consider leaving though. He will have a decent career there just riding it out, even if he doesn’t get a Heisman or a BCS ring.

  • John Z

    Also, USC was ripe for a loss in this game, however if the game is played in LA, the Rose Bowl, or a neutral site USC wins by 2 touchdowns. This was the most conservative offensive gameplan since Carroll’s 2001 first season. Obviously, rookie QB on the road, hostile stadium, loudest and biggest crowd ever had something to do with that. When USC plays at Cal next month, the gameplan will be much more open and diverse, as the “first big road game” tag will be off Barkley’s shoulders. SC played tight to the chest this game; it won’t moving forward.

  • OldSouth

    For Tressel, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

    Even if you have a 90% chance of getting those two birds, and the person with the most birds wins.

  • OURog

    As an Oklahoma fan, can I put in a request for a similar analysis of our efforts against Florida and BYU? I know you are a fan of Kevin Wilson to some degree, but we have some bad tendencies that I would not mind having exposed.

  • Paul

    Great article. Well-written and informative. The most ignorant people are those who do not know what they do not know. Tressel must fall into this category because he keeps repeating his mistakes.

  • Tim

    I’ve passed this article around, read it a few times, and discussed it to the best of my ability. I’m a neutral observer and would love it if you addressed a few over-arching questions I had, Chris.

    1. Is this even a condemnation of conservative football? We’ve all heard the joke (sadly still true in many programs) about how the stodgy coach is going to sit on a small lead with three quarters to go, but wasn’t the problem here more like a really bad gameplan and player coaching than conservatism in general? Perhaps even if they had addressed those gaffes and won, it would only be delaying the inevitable?

    2. What does the Bill Walsh quote have to do with anything? Just that there’s more sophistication in gameplanning and playcalling these days than merely pounding away at the run until it works? Like the bootleg fake, for example. Is he talking about constraint plays in general or something?

    3. Someone in the comments noted that Tressel awkwardly tried to “be aggressive” by passing at the end of the second quarter, which allowed USC enough time to drive for a field goal before halftime. I expanded on that by recalling the bad adjustment you pointed out in the bowl game against Texas when the defense suddenly played up at the wrong time. Is it possible that Tressel mechanically tries to switch things up because he heard that’s what you’re supposed to do to keep a team honest, but does so in such a bad way that it usually fails? His obvious bubble screen formations are a similar example of this that you noted.

  • OURog

    I don’t think you need to be an offensive genius to know that if you play a running QB, you should let/make him run. Texas just reverted to a high school zone-read team when they had Young, and it was unstoppable.

  • stan


    It was an awful game to watch because USC was pulling its own version of WTF? scheming. I kept thinking that Mustain must really, really suck in practice. Why start a freshman QB, if it means running that restrictive mess? Are the backups THAT bad?! The USC offense looked like what you’d expect when the first two or three QBs go down and there is no other choice, but to play the inexperienced kid.

  • Matt

    Does anyone remember the game in ’02 when Clarett was hounding Tressel to call a certain play, and he called it and it scored a TD?

    Clarett’s problems aside, I think that team had a better understanding of the game and keeping the other team off balance and guessing. Remember 4th and 13 at the end of the Purdue game?

    Sun Tzu: “The art of war is deception.”

  • Matthew

    That was one of the best articles I’ve ever read on the subject of football. Possible the very best. Simply wonderful.

    As a Buckeye fan, I have to thank you for this. It cuts through the bull with insight and clarity, and I think, with as popular as this is becoming, that Buckeye nation might owe you a debt of gratitude when the dust settles.

    There are things Tressel does well, and I don’t want to see him go, but as an OC he is hopeless, stubborn and utterly clueless. Your analysis confirms this to a greater extent than I realized.

    Thank you and congrats!

  • Mike

    Did you watch the 2006 Michigan game?

    I’m just curious, if you did, what you thought of the offensive sets and playcalling Tressel pulled out for it.

    It’s been a bit of a mystery to buckeye fans why exactly our offense was so good in 2005-2006 and so weak now. Was it just the talent, or was Tressel more willing to open things up when he had that talent?

    I’d also like your opinion on why USC’s offense failed to move the ball much better, despite the fact that they were facing a similarly young defense, and had a much better O-line, running backs, and wide receivers (at least according to the various accolades last year). Or why Penn State barely managed 13 points in a very similar game against OSU but managed a bit of a shootout against USC in the rose bowl?

    Does Tressel bring out the conservative coach in those he plays? Was the playcalling for USC nearly as bad? Or was the OSU defense just that much better than the USC defense (since you seem to be saying that the OSU offense was spectacularly bad)?

    I’m not trying to argue with you here – it’s just a few questions that your arguments seem to have raised that I’d like to hear your take on.

  • John S

    Chris – Very informative. Thanks. What is particularly maddening is in the Navy game just one week earlier, the Ohio State offense should a variety of formations and creativity. I thought teams were supposed to be “vanilla” the week before a big game, then show the new formations. Apparently, Tressel had it the other way around. But in fairness, Tressel can only call the plays – Pryor has to execute them and he did a poor job doing that. Sentiment in Columbus is that 30% of the blame should go to Tressel, 30% to Pryor, and 40% to offensive line coach Jim Bollman.

  • Scott

    Hey Chris,

    I have to say, at first I figured this would just be another mindless Buckeye Bashing article by another writer just jealous of all Ohio State’s successes…and chomping at the bit to kick Ohio State when they are down.

    But not so, and thankyou for actually writing a real article about this. I think you were spot on with everything you said, and I even made the comment during the game about the slot receiever not being covered and wondering why TP doesnt check to a bubble screen. It’s elementary…a 10 year old who knows nothing about football could look at the formation and say, “daddy…why dont they throw it to the guy no one is looking at?”. I love the Buckeyes and I still have faith in Jim Tressel becaue of what he did with the offense in the Troy Smith days…but my patience is starting to run very thin. The guy is a great head coach and there is no one else I would rather have as the face of the Buckeyes…I think he is even a good defensive coordinator…but it is time to bring in an offensive mind. Hell…as much as I hate the guy…when ND fires Charlie Weiss…bring him in to run the offense…our schedule sets up nicely next year for an undefeated run at a title game appearance…but what is going to happen when we face man-for-man equal talent in that game again?

    I legitimatly am scared Terrelle Pryor might consider transferring if the gameplans are holding him back.

  • It’s funny how Tressel is lambasted for losing the big ones, and as a result, doesn’t get enough credit for winning the little ones. Yet as witnessed by USC’s followup performance against Washington, winning all of the little ones isn’t as easy as it looks, even for the top teams. Yet apart from a home loss to the Illini in 2007, OSU has won all the little ones in the past three years. In that way, Tressel is simply a victim of his own success.

    I agree that Tressel did a poor job gameplanning against USC but implying that he should no longer be the coach at Ohio State is a stretch. Warts and all, not every coach, even at the top programs, can establish a record of continued success like Tressel has. Just look at the tenure of John Cooper. Sure, OSU probably would be better off with Urban Meyer or Pete Carroll. But if they sacked Tressel, they’d be taking the risk of getting a coach who wouldn’t even be in the position to blow big games.

  • Wegas

    new blog