Major Applewhite has two major decisions staring him right in the face. And if Kendal Briles decides to leave for Texas State or any of a number of P5 OC jobs, Major will have a full-blown crisis on his hands.
Major’s biggest concern, on paper, is who to hire as his defensive coordinator. But I think the issue is much bigger than that. Before deciding on a candidate for that job, Major needs to take a step back and be honest with himself.
It’s time to decide what he wants his philosophy to be. What kind of head coach does he want to be? What kind of program does he want to run? Who can he trust in the most precarious moment of his career?
At this moment, I don’t think he knows those answers. In his first two attempts at defining himself, he hired two coordinators that couldn’t cut it.
His third try was much more popular but I don’t think Kendal Briles’ offense fits with what Major wants to be.
So before anything else, Major needs to decide who he is – both offensively and defensively. The pairing of Kendal Briles’ explosive offense and Mark D’Onofrio’s passive, reactive defense was a total failure. Much like D’Onofrio’s _efense and Brian Johnson’s Yawn and Punt offense.
It seems like a no-brainer that Major would go find someone that could coexist with the Briles offense. If that’s the case, he first needs to decide what type of defense will work well with it.
This seems almost comical to mention but Major also needs to find a DC that is an expert in the defense he wants to run. After re-reading D’Onofrio’s letter to Major Applewhite, I finally caught the thing that should have been the biggest red flag of all: D’Onofrio admitted that he didn’t really know the defense that Applewhite was expecting him to run.
No coach with a strong network, or a grasp of what they want to be, would have hired a coordinator that admits he doesn’t know the defense he’s expected to run.
Which begs the question: what in the hell were you thinking, Major?
Applewhite must hire someone that is an expert in whatever defense Major chooses. And Major must demonstrate to the fan base that his new defense can coexist with the Briles offense. Maybe.
Why maybe? Because I’m not so sure Major will keep running this offense if Briles leaves. Let’s face it: the Briles offense has been a major adjustment for him and, at times, you sense he’s still not comfortable with it. Will Major continue to embrace it if Kendal leaves?
Again, this seems like a no-brainer. But think about it from Major’s POV: in his first year, with bad QB play for the first 7 games, he managed to win 7 games. In year two, with an explosive offense and much-better QB play, he won just a game more. In 2019, with his job on the line, as well as a proven dual-threat QB in the mode of Greg Ward, will he revert back to the offense he’s run almost his entire career?
I think Cougar fans would be apoplectic if he tinkers with the offensive philosophy too much. Surely he knows that. Right?!?
While he’s waiting for Kendal to make a decision, Major needs to come up with a back-up plan. Will it be a Briles disciple or will a UH QB be running a fourth different offense in four years?
So Major’s midlife crisis is here: what does he want his program to look like and who will he surround himself with? At this point, I think it’s likely that Kendal leaves and Major tries to replicate his offense. Or more likely, a slower, toned-down version of it.
As to the defense? I think the offense we run must inform the decisions made on that side of the ball. The Briles offense clearly cannot coexist with every defense.
That’s a fact we know all too well.
Despite what you read elsewhere, UH was never going to rush things with the DC hire. The 24-48 hour timeline isn’t going to happen. There’s simply too much at stake.
And frankly, that’s a good thing. Why rush the most important decisions of your career?
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