Friday, February 01, 2013

Let's Pump The Brakes on John Shoop

Last week, Darrell Hazell made news when he rounded out his coaching staff by hiring John Shoop as his offensive coordinator. Adam Rittenberg, of's Big Ten blog, wrote an unusually personal take on the hire wherein he made it sound like he was still scarred from Shoop's time as the Bears OC.

As a Chicago Bears fan, my fingers are trembling as I type this ...

According to reports, Purdue has hired John Shoop as its new offensive coordinator. first reported
Shoop's hiring, and the Big Ten Network also is reporting it. Purdue hasn't officially confirmed the addition of Shoop to Darrell Hazell's staff.

OK, John Shoop.
That John Shoop? Yes, that John Shoop. (Chill goes down spine). Breathe, Adam, breathe ...

I'm going to give Shoop a chance to show he won't do to Purdue's offense what he did to the Bears' offense from 1999-2003. Every new Big Ten assistant deserves somewhat of a clean slate from the Big Ten blog.

Sorry, just had a flashback of a bubble screen for minus-3 yards. Focus, Adam.
Look, I get being traumatized by coaches. I'm a Giants fan and we had Ray Handley as a head coach. And all of us would have that sort of skittish reaction if Gary Nord every angrily burst back onto campus in his back brace. But as for John Shoop, I'd just like us to pump the brakes a bit.

Some of you commented via Twitter that this was an awful hire and that you have similar feelings as Mr. Rittenberg, essentially blaming John Shoop for the mess that the Chicago Bears were before Lovie Smith came in and brought them back to prominence. Or whatever that was.

But let's remember a few things. First John Shoop was named Offensive Coordinator of the Bears in 2000, for the final few games of the season. He was 31 years old at the time. Thirty-one!

His first real season as the OC was 2001. Dick Jauron was the coach (which should also make you Bears fans shudder) and Shoop was the ripe old age of 32. During that 2001 season, the Bears went 13-3 and won their division. Shoop had been a QB coach prior to that stint and with those 2001 Bears, his QB corps was Shane Matthews, Jim Miller and the legendary Danny Wuerffel. Those were his guys and that team -- with Jauron as HC -- went 13-3. So if you want to cherry pick seasons and act as though Shoop was the root of their problems when they were bad, you also need to give the guy some credit when they won and beat out the Packers for the division.

After bouncing to the Bucs and Raiders, Shoop wound up at North Carolina from 2007-2011 as OC. After a 4-8 year to begin his time there, Shoop's UNC teams went 8-5 each year from 2008-2010 and 7-6 in 2011. The thing that might concern you in there was that that was during the time when Butch Davis may have been bending some rules and the Tar Heels had to vacate two of those seasons' worth of wins. As you know if you read us, we really want nothing even resembling a dirty coach to come near the programs at Purdue. I don't think Shoop was really implicated but there is always the guilt by association factor. Which leads me to why you shouldn't worry too much about that...for now...

Let's give Coach Hazell the benefit of the doubt here. I think many of us gave Danny Hope the benefit of the doubt, probably longer than he deserved it. Coach Hazell has made multiple hires, decisions, statements, etc., that almost all of you have really liked. Given all of that, isn't it safe to assume he's done his due diligence on Coach Shoop? I think -- for now -- it's fair to continue to be optimistic.

To those who claim the offense will be boring under Hazell and Shoop, I am not necessarily convinced you're correct. However, I also remember OSU fans being irritated with the vest for never really opening it they boringly marched their way to 10-11 win seasons and Big Ten title after Big Ten title and BCS bowl after BCS bowl. Yawn. How borrrring.

Another way to look at this is that Shoop not only has college experience running a pro-style offense, he also has NFL experience as an offensive coordinator. Compare that to Gary Nord, Tim Tibesar, Danny Hope, etc. There was no real success at any significant level within Danny Hope's coaching staffs. That's noteworthy. 

No, I don't know if Hazell and Shoop will lead our boys to the promised land. In fact, I can tell you that it's going to have a lot more to do with the players buying into the system, accountability, focus, commitment and so forth. If Coach Shoop doesn't work out, I also have confidence that Darrell Hazell is capable of making the difficult decisions that Danny Hope never could.


Purdue Matt said...

No thanks. If you weren't a bears fan in the early aughts you can't possibly understand how terrible he was. You are who you are. You are either a risk taker and a strategist or you are someone who coaches conservatively and scared. I know which one John Shoop is.

Purdue Matt said...

Also, they went 13-3 that year because of the defens and incredible luck with turnovers.

jbrunner said...

Alabama never should have wanted Nick Saban given how bad he was with the Dolphins.

Some coaches just don't work out in the NFL. Pretty sure Shoop had a good offense at UNC...his most recent job. Give him a shot, Purdue Matt.

Purdue Matt said...

Über conservative Tressel ball worked at OSU because of their talent advantage. It's everything that's wrong with today's conservative, conventional wisdom on play calling and 4th down decisions. I would encourage you to read the book "Scorecasting" and also Bill Barnwells Monday column where he discusses the math of 4th down decisions. We need innovative risk takers at Purdue like Mike leach, not Pat Shurmers or Ron Rivera's.

boilerdowd said...

Jackson, from way downtown...nails it. I think Brunner has an excellent point.

Plus, Bears fans, you guys were pissed off at every quarterback during that era- And there were a lot of them...not because of Shoop, but because of poor organizational management.

Jim Miller at the helm doesn't help any OC...and a washed-up Chris Chandler or Kordell Stewart would make anybody's job difficult.

boilerdowd said...

Matt, you're really in love with this fourth down idea, huh?

Purdue Matt said...

Why not use all 4 downs?

boilerdowd said...

Why don't the greatest coaches in the game use all four downs? It's not because they're paying homage to tradition, it's because your probability of success isn't high versus good competition. Why doesn't the coach that you've built your argument upon coach major college or pro football?

zlionsfan said...

I think it's because coaches are judged not by results, but by risks associated with results. Risk-taking is almost never rewarded, even if it's successful, and if the strategy involved has a higher payoff in the end. GMs and ADs don't seem to care if you played it safe and lost, as long as you didn't lose too badly. (Thus you see stupid things like kicking a FG down 42-0 in the fourth quarter.) Gamble and win, and it's no big deal ... but gamble and lose, and suddenly you don't know what you're doing.

The decision to go for it on fourth down isn't based solely on the likelihood of making it: it's also based on the likely results of the opponents' drive at the spot they'd take over, and, of course, on the premise that having the ball is much more valuable than not having it, because scoring is much easier to do when you do have the ball.

Besides, your general probability of converting is actually a lot higher than people would usually assume. NFL teams converted almost exactly 50% of their fourth-down attempts this season (225 of 451). (This is probably higher in NCAA ball, as the median conversion rate in 2012 was 50%, and it's likely that more successful teams went for it more often.)

And some major-college coaches are doing this more often. Penn State and West Virginia were tied for the sixth-most attempts in I-A ball in 2012, with 34 attempts. Oregon was 11th (31 att). Baylor was tied for 12th (30). USC was tied for 20th (27).

Oregon converted 64.5% of the time, Baylor 70%, WVa 50%, USC 48.1%. With an offense like the first three, you have a significant incentive to keep the ball (particularly if you have a defense like West Virginia's) ... and with a success rate as high as the first two in particular, you might be justified in asking why they bother to punt at all. (The answer is that some situations simply aren't worth it - if the distance is long enough, there's a substantial difference between turning the ball over at the spot and "turning it over" after a punt return.)

I would highly recommend reading Brian Burke's work on 4th downs and checking out his 4th down calculator. While these are for NFL teams, the theories are similarly applicable to NCAA football. (There will be some variation because of the much greater variance in team strength ... but if anything, that should favor more aggressive playcalling among better teams, as they're likely to face weaker competition than the average NFL team.)

J Money said...

Matt, as always, you're entitled to your opinion. But to reject the guy out of hand seven months before he's even coached a game at Purdue isn't really fair.

boilerdowd said...

I can think of a guy that goes for it all the time on fourth down: Charles Weis.

He's smart...just ask him!

zlionsfan said...

Decided schematic advantage, don't you know.

I get what you're saying ... and Kansas did go for it often in 2012. (32 times, one more than Oregon.) Even if they did do it mostly out of desperation, being 1-11, the Irish did go for it fairly often under Weis.

But the fact that Weis' teams didn't convert that often doesn't necessarily say much about the strategy; after all, there's an example of poor execution of pretty much every strategy out there. (How many former Belichick assistants are coaching?) Scott Pioli whiffing on Cassel doesn't mean you shouldn't sign FA quarterbacks.

People used to joke about the extreme philosophies they'd see in online Madden and NCAA players ... but the thing is, what you saw were strategies in an environment when all else was removed from the picture. If the only thing that mattered was winning, what would you do? You'd keep the ball at all costs, because 7s (and 8s) add up faster than any other type of scoring, and it's easier to get 10 yards in 4 downs rather than 3. You'd jerk around at the goal line late in a game rather than scoring for the same reason. You'd let the other guy score in a situation where you seemed certain to lose the lead if it meant you'd have one more try with the ball.

All those things were derided as video-game-only strategies at the time ... and yet they're all being practiced to a certain extent in both the NFL and college ball now. That isn't to say that you should never punt, ever, but as it stands, most coaches and OCs give the ball up in plenty of situations where it's not the better call, simply because they don't want to be blamed for "losing" the game. (Like folding pocket jacks because the other guy might hit an inside straight on the river. A bad beat and bad strategy are different things.)

My gut feeling is that Shoop might be a pretty good match for what Hazell has in mind, but I don't want to get into that too much just yet ... there'll be a Boilermetrics post later, now that the coordinators are set.

Plang said...

I recall Purdue Matt being very high on Danny Hope when he came rolling into town.

How's that working out?

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