Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Genius is fleeting in world of college football
FILE — Auburn coach Gus Malzahn (left) and then-Arkansas coach Chad Morris speak prior to a game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Seems the quickest route to becoming a collegiate head football coach means becoming an offensive coordinator labeled an “offensive genius.”
And seems the quickest route to offending a fan base becomes elevating the genius to head coach.
Genius lasts forever if you are a Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein.
It’s fleeting for the genius coach to quickly become a dunce.
Ask Charlie Weis, Gus Malzahn, Jack Crowe, Chad Morris and Joe Moorhead.
Being the New England Patriots offensive coordinator with Tom Brady’s quarterbacking ascent made Weis a genius.Head coaching Notre Dame and Kansas dumbed him down.
Closer to home come Crowe, Malzahn and Morris with Arkansas ties, and Moorhead for his Mississippi State Bulldogs opposing Morris’ Razorbacks today.
Crowe’s one Arkansas year as play-calling offensive coordinator so impressed athletic director Frank Broyles that Broyles elevated him to head coach upon Ken Hatfield’s 1990 departure to Clemson.
By 1992, Broyles demanded Crowe hire a play-calling offensive coordinator. That mesh lasted just for Crowe’s one and done, fired after losing to The Citadel.
It seemed Malzahn, first famed for his state high school championship prolific offenses at Shiloh Christian and Springdale, had more media focus than the head coaches of the Arkansas, Tulsa and Auburn staffs he served on as offensive coordinator.
A “genius” at Auburn when he coordinated an offense that Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton quarterbacked to the national championship, and as Auburn head coach with Nick Marshall quarterbacking the 2013 Tigers into the national championship game, Malzahn’s quarterbacks and luster have faded since. Auburn administrations foisted an offensive coordinator upon him just like Arkansas’ administration foisted him upon Houston Nutt.
Malzahn calls plays again. But breaking in a true freshman quarterback on an offense not holding up its end compared with a great Auburn defense, prompts some of the same national pundits who touted his genius now calling his offense “predictable” and “unimaginative.”
Morris, straight out of Texas high school coaching state championships to Tulsa offensive coordinator, was acclaimed the offensive coordinating genius saving struggling Dabo Swinney's Clemson job. Of course it helped that Morris recruited Deshaun Watson. Watson quarterbacked Swinney's first Clemson national championship. By then Morris head coached SMU.
Morris inherited an SMU train wreck but by his third year had won seven games and the Arkansas job.
At Arkansas he inherited another train wreck. It still is. Morris stands 4-16 overall, 0-13 in the SEC since his 2018 debut.
Moorhead gained national renown coordinating Penn State offenses, averaging over 430 yards. As head coach, his first Mississippi State team last year with a senior quarterback went 8-5.
A true freshman quarterbacks the Bulldogs now. They’re 3-5, 1-4 in the SEC.
So Moorhead and Morris get depicted sitting on the SEC’s hottest coaching seats with Malzahn, even with Auburn ranked 11th nationally, squirming, too.
All these coaches can coach or they wouldn’t have achieved their peaks.
But they sure coach better blessed with the proper players fitting proper circumstances.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that.
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