Word on the street this morning is that Eddie Gran can’t coach a lick. He’s four games into his first job as offensive coordinator and already way out his element. Ultimately the blame falls on the shoulders of Tommy Tuberville, who made an absolutely horrible decision in bringing him in to run Cincinnati’s offense.
Well if you believe any of that you might just want to hop off the bandwagon at the next stop.
It’s easy to criticize an offense after they put up just 14 points against a Miami (OH) team Cincinnati was expected to run off the field. And as a whole the unit did under-perform yesterday. But to call for the offensive coordinator’s head after four games without understanding the underlying issues is irrational.
First of all, fans need to understand that we’re in the midst of a coaching transition that has shaken the core of UC football more so than ever. Sure there were issues in the handoff from Brian Kelly to Butch Jones. But the crux of the matter this time around is that the schemes are so vastly different between Jones’ offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian and new offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. Under Jones/Bajakian, Cincinnati ran some iteration of the read-option about 80% of the time. In that system the blocking schemes of the offensive line didn’t change a whole lot. On certain plays a lineman might move a defender one direction versus another but for the most part the schemes were very basic and there weren’t many of them to cycle through.
Flash forward to Eddie Gran’s offense and it’s like stepping into a different world. Sure he incorporates elements of the read option out of the shotgun but he’s also throwing Ace formations, I-formations, Offset I-formations, and Pistol formations in his playbook. In conjunction, the Bearcats’ lineman are forced to cycle through multiple blocking schemes depending upon the formation Gran chooses. Now, while the offensive line is experienced, they’ve had less than a year to absorb and practice all of these techniques. It’s clear they haven’t grasped the intricacies of the concepts quite yet. But none of this should be outright surprising. Players struggling to learn a new system is simply a byproduct of a coaching change and in no way reflective of the effectiveness of those coaches.
Cincinnati fans should know this better than anyone yet some of them are calling for Eddie Gran’s head.
Additionally, it doesn’t help that the Bearcats can’t seem to finish a football game without losing an offensive lineman for a good chunk of time. Cincinnati approached the end of training camp with a line that was completely intact from the previous season. But just a week before opening up against Purdue, UC lost center Dan Sprague for the year. Then, as the Bearcats progressed through their non-conference schedule, left guard Austen Bujnoch was nicked up and yesterday tackle Parker Ehinger was also injured. At one point against Miami, UC was only playing two of their five projected first team lineman from before the season began, Bujnoch and Eric Lefeld. I don’t care how much depth a position group has, no unit can be expected to sustain the amount of injuries Cincinnati’s offensive line has and continue to steamroll defenses. It’s just unrealistic!
So my advise is to stay patient with this offense. I know it’s not easy sometimes but there are growing pains that all of us have to deal with when it comes to coaching changes. Also, it’s far too early to judge the competency of Eddie Gran especially with all the knew schemes he’s throwing at the players. Long term, the different variations to the offense will make it more impossible for defenses to gameplan against and the Bearcats more dangerous as a result. That’s the theory, anyways. All it takes it a little time.