Thursday, January 31, 2013

sudden change

Apologies, I would've had an NC State preview and stuff, but homework got in the way.  Lesson learned: four hours before it's due isn't always the best time to start.  I mean, it still gets done, yes, but at the expense of everything else.  At any rate, it saves me the embarrassment of being wrong about the NC State game, since I almost certainly would've predicted a UVA loss.

The other thing it saved me was having to come up with some kind of sputtering about Bill Lazor's sudden departure to the Philadelphia Eagles.  The thought of Chip Kelly needing an offensive coordinator is a little bit goofy, but it's not like he didn't have one at Oregon either and anyway Lazor is only going to be the QB coach.  UVA went out and hired a new coach in something like 36 hours, so I don't have to flap my arms about oh no what ever will we do.

UVA went back out west again to hire Lazor's replacement, in the form of Steve Fairchild.  Technically Fairchild comes to us from the San Diego Chargers, but he described his job thusly: "'I’m just here to help Norv [Turner],' Fairchild said. 'Anything I can do to take a little bit away from Norv and help the offensive staff, that’s what my job is.'"

That's coachspeak for, "I'm collecting a paycheck and staying plugged into the network while I look for a real job."  Fairchild's most recent actual job was that of head coach at Colorado State, where one of his assistant coaches was Larry Lewis, newly-hired special teams guy.  In this, his lone head coaching experience, he was not successful; CSU went to a bowl game in his first season and then reeled off three 3-9 seasons in a row.  Hence why his tenure lasted only four seasons.

Probably the most illustrious point on Fairchild's resume is as the St. Louis Rams' offensive coordinator and QB coach under Mike Martz.  Anyone who could make Marc Bulger into the wildly successful quarterback that he was (even if only for a short time) probably did something right.  Martz, however, was famous for calling his own plays, and the great success of the Rams' offense has always been generally credited to Martz.  Fairchild was picked up by the Buffalo Bills after Martz left the Rams; he spent two years there presumably actually calling the plays since he was now working for a defensive head coach (Dick Jauron) and must have done alright, because he left of his own accord to coach at Colorado State, where he'd spend a lot of time in the '90s as OC.

I admit, though, I don't consider myself blown away.  I wasn't exactly unhappy with Lazor.  I thought it comical and a little bit stupid that a lot of the people who chewed their fingernails off in January 2012 over the possibility that Lazor might leave were the same people who were ready to call his cab outta town themselves after this season.  Really, one season and he goes from indispensable to horrible?  So fickle.

UVA, though, must've had some idea Lazor was a flight risk.  The speed of Fairchild's hire gives it away.  Clearly he was on a short list.  People who wanted a "young, up-and-coming energetic coach" will be disappointed; Fairchild is more retread than up-and-comer.  (But really, that's one of the sillier and most overhyped traits that people want in a coach.  Nobody ever questioned Jim Reid's energy and certainly nobody will be questioning Jon Tenuta's.)

I will be in wait-and-see mode, though, which is a couple notches down from the enthusiasm I felt about Lazor when he was hired.  Fairchild was pegged by an MWC blogger as a guy who tried to force the running game and limited his quarterback to dink and dunk stuff.  That would not be too popular with this fanbase, but then, we're talking about people who wanted to see Phillip Sims repeatedly wing it downfield whether or not it was ever caught, so I take that opinion with a grain of salt too.  Fairchild's CSU teams did lean pretty heavily to the run, for the most part.  But I can't speak to that being definitely his style as a play-caller because, after all, he was the head coach, not the OC.  With Buffalo, his Bills offenses actually split almost perfectly down the middle between the run and the pass; in the pass-wacky NFL, that might count as forcing the run too, but the guy had Marshawn Lynch toting the rock (in 2007) and J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards under center.  I might never have passed the ball with that personnel.

So in the end I can't draw any concrete conclusions about Fairchild's style, other than that I don't see the philosophy changing too radically.  Jon Oliver spoke about "changing systems" in his press release but I think he was referring more to the change in coaches rather than any major paradigm shifts like when they tried to pair Gregg Brandon with Al Groh.  Fairchild's got an NFL background, after all.  I don't think the difference between him and Lazor will be very tangible on the surface.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd say I'm more happy than not with the hire. The one area that really got to me the entire year was the slow development of our offensive players. I know that's not all on Lazor. Nonetheless there was clear disconnect between him and London and perhaps that extended to the other offensive coaches. Anything we can do to get our offense on the same page is a good thing.