When a coach makes the jump from college to the NFL there is always a level of similarity between what the coach did with his college players and what he implements at the professional level. There are also a number of new things. Whether it is a coach like Chip Kelly who is a certified football mad scientist or simply a Jedd Fisch jumping from one offensive coordinator gig to the same role with the pros, there is bound to be some similarities and some differences.
Unlike Kelly, Fisch is moving from a less noticed offense (I never thought I would say that about the Miami Hurricanes) to the NFL and brings with him a level of mystery. For Kelly it was always “what will he do this week?” He had the national attention as a head coach at the University of Oregon. Fisch, however, was quietly putting together a strong, well organized offense in Miami.
So, what was he doing down there? What will he bring with him to the Jacksonville Jaguars? What will the NFL force him to change?
The most noticeable thing about Fisch’s offense with the ‘Canes is that they were balanced. Miami ran the ball more in Fisch’s first season but then switched to passing more in year two. While this is usually indicative of either playing ahead or behind, the 6-6 (2011) and 7-6 (2012) records don’t really show a powerful team either bullying opponents into submission with a strong running game and clock management or constantly playing catch up with the passing game. The goal, it seemed, was to rely on the running game, particularly when ahead, but to be as balanced as possible when trying to get ahead.
Fisch played close games in losses, but won games by an average of 16.7 points over his two seasons with the Hurricanes. The ‘Canes 12 losses over Fisch’s two seasons were by an average of 10 points. The two major outliers (losses of 39 and 38 points in 2012) draw the average up from 5.1 points behind. Miami wasn’t a high flying offense under Fisch, but they did manage to either grind the opponents down with the running game or to put it out of reach with the passing game. Here is the best strength of his offense in Miami, his ability to scheme for advantages.
College quarterbacks aren’t all Geno Smiths. Some of them aren’t all that great. Fisch had Jacory Harris in 2011 and Stephen Morris in 2012. He managed to make both look good. Harris completed over 60% of his passes and Morris came close. Most impressively, his quarterbacks played smart. Morris racked up 21 touchdowns to just seven interceptions just one year after Fisch coach Harris to an impressive 20:9 ratio. Harris was undrafted in 2012 and is a free agent in the big leagues while Morris figures to be drafted at some point in 2014. While a lot of touchdowns were scored by the passing game, the average of 1.8 and 1.9 passing TDs per game in two seasons was only slightly above the 1.5 and 1.6 rushing TDs per game in those same seasons.
The point is that Fisch, while not tooting his horn, was able to run an effective attack with quarterbacks who aren’t widely acclaimed as big weapons. Fisch plays to their strengths, either winging it or using the quarterback as a game manager, and he relied on the running game when it was suitable.
By all accounts, the Jaguars figure to be a fast temp offense under Fisch. There will be some no huddle, there will be some “sugar huddle,” and there will be balance. The NFL will likely up the tempo for Fisch’s offense from Miami, but that’s a good thing. I think, based on Fisch being a balanced collegiate coordinator, that the Jaguars have an enigma entering 2013, and that’s a good thing. The team has been predictable for too long and with a coordinator playing to the strengths of the team with a balanced approach, they can finally rely either on the game manager abilities of their quarterbacks (let’s be honest, Blaine Gabbert isn’t a game changer) or they can rely on the running back stable to shoulder the load.
Then again, this offense is completely under wraps and I could be completely off. I think he could really let Gabbert wing it, as he has in college in some games, but I’m seeing a bit more cautious, balanced approach as the probable product on the field. As much as this is a quarterback driven league, if you don’t have the quarterback to drive the team then you rely on the running game. Fisch demonstrated he can do either during his time in Miami, but whether he can rely on someone like Gabbert in 2013 is completely different. Fisch used some gimmicks and aggressive approaches in some games (check the ‘Canes vs North Carolina video) in college, but I think the NFL will force that to be toned down a bit.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims