Thoughts At the Halfway Point

I’ve been debating what to write since the Mississippi State loss.  What Jimbo built up with wins over Miami and Arkansas completely fell apart in 60 minutes of football.  Then came the Alabama game which was nothing but a moral victory.  I hate moral victories.

So I sit here as confused as anyone as to what to expect for the final 6 games.  This team could honestly go 6-0 or 1-5.  Neither would surprise me.

The bye week comes at the perfect time.  Problem is I don’t know if Jimbo is going to double down on the things that made this team 3-3 or make some adjustments and make a run at 6-0.  I honestly have no idea.

Just when I think I can see this team trending one way it takes a serious turn and I’m lost.

I’m just going to hit on some random topics.

Jimbo and His Offense:

It hit me on the flight back from Tuscaloosa what Jimbo’s offense is like.  Jimbo is that stubborn dad that wants his son to drive a manual transmission when he turns 16.  Jimbo wants his son to learn how to drive an outdated transmission because it’ll be good for him and that’s how cars used to be built.

So Jimbo buys his son a mid-90s Mustang V8 with a manual transmission.  Jimbo thinks once his son masters that pesky clutch he’s gonna have a cool ass car.  On Sunday mornings Jimbo and his son head to the mall parking lot where Jimbo is going to teach him how to drive that thing.

They spend multiple Sunday mornings screaming at each other because his son just can’t figure it out.  Most of the time his son lets off the clutch too soon and it just lurches until it stalls out.  Other times he just rides the clutch entirely too long and you can smell that burning clutch.  Sometimes he gets the car going but then he presses the brake and not the clutch so the car stalls out yet again.  Every now and then he’s able to make a complete circle of the mall parking lot with no issues at all.

In those moments Jimbo beams with pride forgetting all about the 5 previous attempts that resulted in failure.  Jimbo pictures in his head his son pulling into the high school parking lot looking super cool.  He never envisions his son could become the laughingstock of the school parking lot because he’s repeatedly stalling out.  Jimbo can only see his son in his mid-90s V8 Mustang with the windows rolled down, classic rock cranked, and mullet flowing.

That’s all he can see because he’s blind to the reality of what other kids are driving.  Jimbo is stubborn and lives in the past.

All the other kids are driving more modern vehicles that actually have more horsepower, get better mileage, more reliable, and most importantly – are just plain easier to drive because they don’t have that stupid complicated clutch.

Jimbo just can’t see there’s a MUCH better way for his son to drive.  He doesn’t understand that clutch makes thing infinitely more challenging and completely unnecessary. 

It’s The Scheme:

We can blame the players all we want but the reality of this team’s struggles are centered around an offensive scheme that isn’t working.

I can’t precisely say why it isn’t working but my eyes and statistics say it’s not working.  It’s ranked near the bottom in many statistical categories.  It’s a complete failure at this point.

I think it’s not working because there’s no wrinkles.  Jimbo believes he’s devised the perfect system and if all 11 players do their job then the offense hums along.

NEWSFLASH – Every single offensive play designed by anyone ever is designed this way.  There’s not an offensive coordinator alive that just willy nilly designs offensive plays without accounting for every defender.  If all 11 offensive players execute perfectly then every offensive play ever designed gains large amounts of yards.

It’s a foolish statement for an offensive coordinator to say if the players execute the play is there.  It’s on the coach to create plays that can be executed because it confuses the defense.

This offense isn’t confusing the opposing defense because there’s no damn wrinkles and everything takes so damn long to develop.  App State really exposed this and every defense since then has done basically the same thing.

Here’s the secret to defending this offense – Pin your ears back and apply pressure.  What you see in front of you is what you’ll expect to see.  Don’t worry about a wrinkle you’re not ready for because there is no wrinkle.

The opposing defensive ends basically make a pact to fire off straight into our tackles and plan to meet at the quarterback.  Meanwhile the defensive tackles and linebackers give the interior lineman a little confusion and someone will break through.  It’s not a difficult offense to defend.

I don’t chart plays of this offense but I bet a junior high kid decent at math could chart our plays and predict with 80% accuracy if a run or pass is coming based on offensive personnel and the down and distance. 

Knowing if a run or pass is coming is a HUGE advantage for the opposing defense.  I don’t think it’s hard for opposing defenses to determine what plays are coming.

Jimbo simply thinks if all 11 guys execute we’ll be moving the chains.  He’s not wrong except for one thing – the entire reason the defense exits is to blow up the play.  When the defense has a really good idea of what play is coming they’ll routinely blow it up.

That’s what’s happening and Jimbo is too stubborn to admit it.

Until Jimbo designs some wrinkles and speed things up this offense will be stuck in the mud.  It’s completely maddening and frustrating.

Where Are the Wrinkles?:

Believe it or not there have been some wrinkles.  They’re few and far between but they’ve been there.  Against Sam Houston we had receivers run routes across each other which confused the defense.  I don’t recall seeing those routes since that Sam Houston game.  We seem to have run them once and abandoned them.

Against Bama we finally added some wrinkles including the first reverse I think I’ve seen Jimbo run since he got here.

We also had a beautiful delayed pass to Donovan Green for a touchdown.

We need a LOT more of those.

I’m hoping Jimbo spent the entire bye week drawing up wrinkle plays.

Make Them Defend the Unknown and Space:

Lane Kiffin is one of the best play designers in college football if not the best.  I hate to say it but Steve Sarkisian is not far behind him.  Each week if you watch those teams there will be 5-10 plays the defense never sees coming and they grab big yards if they don’t get a touchdown.

We never see that from Jimbo.  It’s the same old plays over and over again.

Kiffin has less offensive talent but his scheme is totally superior to Jimbo’s.  Kiffin uses the full width of the field and attacks downfield as far as possible.  Jimbo runs plays around the hash marks and as deep as 15 yards at most.

Kiffin makes the defense defend more space while Jimbo lets the defense defend less space.  In case you’ve never defended anything it’s much easier to defend less space than more space.

It’s simple physics and Jimbo can’t figure this out.

There’s No Sequencing of Plays:

The best playcallers think about plays 2-3 plays ahead of the one they’re calling.  Once again, Lane Kiffin is one of the best at this.  He’ll call a play expecting a certain result and has the next play ready to go right after that.

Jimbo doesn’t do that.  Jimbo appears to call plays completely independent of each other.  It’s almost as if he says to himself, “Okay, let me see how this play does and then I’ll call the next play based on the results of this one.”

He has no expectation of what a play will do until he sees it happen.  That’s a big reason he’s so ineffective as a play caller.  He has no expectation of what’s going to happen with every play.  He must call it and then see what happens.

It’s like Congress passing a Bill to figure out how it effects the American people.  Only morons do things like this.

No Urgent Execution:

I’ve talked about this before but Jimbo has ZERO sense of urgency from an offensive standpoint.  I’m sure defenses love this.  This gives them a chance to get set up and read the offense before the snap.

Because Jimbo believes he’s the perfect play caller he’s giving the defense more time to rest and defend his offense.

It’s maddening to watch.  The more you put a defense on it’s heels the easier it is to execute against them.

There’s a reason why up tempo offenses have become so popular – THEY WORK!!!!!!

Meanwhile Jimbo is doing the exact opposite trying to slow things down which gives the defense an advantage.

It makes ZERO sense why he won’t push the throttle all the way to the floorboard on occasion.

This goes back to the lack of sequencing plays.  To run up tempo you must have the offense ready to go on the next play as soon as the ball is set.  Jimbo needs to see the result of the play and then go back to his massive playsheet to decide the next play.

Jimbo is the person that orders an appetizer without looking at the main course or anything else on the menu.  One thing at a time, people.  One thing at a time.

What Do You Want to Be, Jimbo?:

In 2020 after the Alabama game Jimbo decided we were going to be a running team.  It worked beautifully.  Sure, we had a mostly senior offensive line but it really wasn’t that talented.  Only two guys from the offensive line are playing in the NFL.

I say that not as a knock on those guys but just showing what can happen when you decide on your offensive identity.  Creating an identity helps the offense executes.

We should have been a running team the last two seasons but for some reason Jimbo won’t commit to it.  I don’t know why.  I get wanting to be a robust offense but when you can ram the ball down the defense’s throat you’re going to set up other plays.

In the games last year against Arkansas and Ole Miss Jimbo should have committed to running the ball late in the game but he wouldn’t.  We lost both games.

It’s like he sees a run go for no yards and thinks, “Ah shit.  That run got stuffed.  I better dial up some passes!”

He’s completely afraid of establishing the running game.  In order to establish the running game you have to commit to the running game.  He won’t do it for some reason.  We have one of the most underrated running backs in the country along with some talented younger running backs.

We can run the damn ball if Jimbo will commit to it.  I don’t know why he won’t.

You establish the running game and your passing game will flourish if you know how to design and call plays.

Maybe we’re back to the main problem – Jimbo doesn’t know how to design and call plays.

The Final Play at Bama:

The entire season so far was encapsulated in the final play at Bama.  I’m sure you’ve watched the play multiple times.  For any Aggie football fan it’s like watching the Zapruder film.

You watch it even though you know the result is going to be bad.

We can bitch about the officials all we want but the reality is the players executed that play REALLY badly.  The play took way too long to develop, Evan Stewart didn’t get deep enough in the end zone, and after staring Evan Stewart down Haynes King threw a ball that even if caught would not have resulted in a touchdown because it wasn’t in the end zone.

They didn’t execute it well because it was a terrible job of coaching.

Jimbo and the players can say what they want but it was a horrible play call.  It never had a chance.  It really didn’t.  Bama defended the play decently but they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.  They just defended what they expected to happen and that’s exactly what happened.

Bama knew everything to expect on that play and just played basic defense  The Aggie offense did NOTHING to surprise Bama on that play.

My entire list from above boils down to this single play.  With a chance to pull off a MASSIVE upset Jimbo has nothing special.  I mean nothing at all.  We’d already run this play earlier.  We did score a touchdown on it but Bama was well aware of that and prepared to defend it.

It’s almost as if Jimbo looked at his play sheet and noticed he’d put a star and “TD” next to this play.  He probably thought, “Well, hell.  Apparently this play scored a touchdown already so let’s just call it again.”

Jimbo was playing with house money on one final play and dialed up something the defense had already seen.  He just needed two yards.  No wrinkles, no urgency, no nothing new.  Just the same thing he’d previously called.

I wanted to give the ball to Achane in space.  I know Bama was expecting it but if I give Achane the ball and some space I have more faith in him to get two yards than anyone on this team.  He’s proven that so I would have given it to him.

Jimbo didn’t and I don’t know why.

Even beyond giving it to Achane did we not have some play we’ve been working on since the summer to get two yards?  Something the defense never saw coming?

It’s not surprising based on how Jimbo’s called this offense all year but it’s really disappointing.

House money and Jimbo runs trips to the wide side, five offensive linemen, a lone receiver right, and Achane lined up next to the quarterback in the shotgun.  No motion or anything.

Not a single wrinkle or chance at something the defense had never seen.  Just Jimbo in his head thinking, “If all 11 guys execute this perfectly we’ll win this game.”

The entire first half of the season was summed up in that final play.  A failure because it’s the same old thing over and over again.  The players never had a chance to make a great play happen.

No urgency and no wrinkle.  Just a play off the same spreadsheet he’s been running for 2 seasons now.

Line up a tight end to slip into the endzone, put in a fullback to make it look a run, or run someone in motion to see if the defense will tell you how they plan to defend it.  Do something the defense had no idea what was coming.

We had a chance to upset Bama in back to back years.  We didn’t because Jimbo just called an ordinary play like he didn’t know or care what was on the line.

Just like he was in a mall parking lot on a Sunday morning trying to teach his son how to drive a clutch because he’s oblivious to the advances they’ve made to automobiles.

Maddening.  Frustrating.  Disappointing.  Pick your word.  Hell, pick them all.  They all apply.

Looking Forward:

This team is talented enough to wind up winning 7 games which would include the bowl game.  I don’t see it happening unless Jimbo has a massive epiphany.

That’s not happening so let’s look at reality.

We should beat UMass.

I think we’ll beat South Carolina and Auburn.

I think Florida and LSU are toss ups.

I don’t see how we beat Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss.

I think we wind up 4-2 over those six games for a final record of 7-5. It’s a little ambitious but this is a talented football team. Especially the defense and I think they play well enough to win 4 games the rest of the way.

Even with that it will be a massive disappointment for Year 5 of Jimbo’s tenure.  7-5. Massive disappointment.

Jimbo is not going anywhere as our head coach but there are massive rumblings he’ll be forced to hire an offensive coordinator in the off season.  I hope that’s true.  Everything else about this program seems to be humming along.  Most of the recruiting and the defense appear to be fine.

Ironically enough the positions we don’t have any commits for the 2023 signing class are quarterback, running back, and wide receiver.  Offensive skill players are shying away from committing to Jimbo’s offense.

Strangely the one thing that needs improving is the one thing Jimbo controls.

We’ll find out how stubborn Jimbo is over the next couple of months.

I hope he finds better things to do with his Sunday mornings than spend them with his son in a mall parking trying to figure out how to use a clutch…

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