I don’t need to tell y’all that this has been an uninspiring season thus far.
After a hot start, the Boilermakers have fallen upon hard times. I’m coming out strong and saying now (as in during or after the season) isn’t the time to make any major changes. Things haven’t gone well, an offseason evaluation is warranted, but now isn’t the time to hit the eject button on any coaches. I don’t need to tell anyone, but these are extraordinary circumstances, and it’s unfair, and unwise, to make any grand pronouncements about any newish football coaches this season.
Still, there are serious concerns, not with this season in particular, but with issues that have carried over from the 2019 season. You can’t judge coaching when practices are limited, personnel is constantly in flux, and the offseason was disjointed, but you can identify trends, and the trends aren’t great.
First off, let’s get this out of the way right now. Firing Jeff Brohm would be death for Purdue football. For the first time in program history, Purdue decided to go all-in on football, and if it doesn’t work, I don’t expect them to do it again. They gambled big on an inexperienced coach with a seemingly high ceiling, and that gamble isn’t paying off the way they thought...yet.
One thing everyone needs to keep in mind is this is only Jeff Brohm’s 7th year as a head coach, and 5th year as a Power 5 coach. He walked into a weird, top heavy roster, won early with Hazell recruits, junior college transfers, and grad transfers, and is now trying to figure out how to build a roster for the first time in his coaching career. Sometimes it takes a minute (and by minute I mean several seasons) for coaches to get things figured out. It took Dabo Swinney 6 years to get things rolling at Clemson, and the Tigers started with a solid, but under achieving roster. People see the National Championships now, but I was around for the 5 straight losses to South Carolina, a loss in the Car Care Bowl to South Florida, and a crushing loss in the Orange Bowl to West Virginia.
Brohm needs to do some serious self reflection this offseason about what it means to be a head coach and not an offensive coordinator who gets paid like a head coach. The program has hit a plateau after a promising start. Purdue was a red hot brand 2 seasons ago, but now, it’s the third best team in the state of Indiana, and the Boilermakers, in my opinion, are a distant third. He has to turn this trend around.
For Brohm and Purdue to take the next step, he needs to step back and take a comprehensive look at the program, instead of staring at the offense. Football is a game played in 3 phases, and Brohm appears to only be interested in the offensive phase. Last season he was clearly frustrated with Nick Holt, but that frustration, at least in my eyes, had a “I’m doing my job, Holt isn’t doing his job” feel. Brohm’s job is to win football games at Purdue, not to coach the offense. If Holt wasn’t doing an adequate job, it was Brohm’s job to clearly spell out what he wants from Holt, behind closed doors, instead of taking veiled shots at him in press conferences. It gave me serious Bobby Petrino vibes, and that’s never a good thing.
I’ll get into individual coaches later, but one move I think is necessary is for Brohm to take a step back from play calling. In essence, he needs to fire himself as the offensive coordinator. That doesn’t mean he has to step away from the offensive side of the ball. He can spend time during the week working through a detailed game plan with his brother. The overall plan can be a Jeff and Brian collaboration, but the game day play calling requires such incredible focus that it’s almost unfair to expect Jeff to do anything other than call plays.
When Purdue has the ball, he’s completely absorbed in the play sheet, and when Purdue is in other phases of the game, he has to evaluate the opposing defense, his offense, and what he wants to do on the next drive. I would love to see him spend that time working with his coordinators to execute his overall vision of Purdue football from series to series. I’m not suggesting he micro manage his coordinators, because that never ends well, but setting the tone, and talking with Diaco and Biagi about what he is seeing from the opposing offense and special teams, would certainly be a huge benefit.
Handing off the play calling duties would also free up his day-to-day time to focus on recruiting. I love Brohm’s passion, and want to see it unleashed on the recruiting trail on both offense and defense. He could be a major asset in both player evaluation and as “the closer”. I want to see what a Jeff Brohm team looks like, not a Jeff Brohm offense and a (insert defensive coordinator) defense. Brohm is the face of the entire Purdue football brand, and I believe a step back from play calling would only help him establish the Purdue program and culture that could push the Boilermakers into the next tier of college football.
This offseason, Coach Brohm has some hard decisions to make, and one of those decisions may require him to swallow some pride and step away from something he loves doing (calling plays) for the greater good of the program. He’s a brilliant guy, and forgot more about football today than I’ve learned over the last 39 years, but something needs to change, and Brohm taking a more comprehensive role in the program seems like a smart move at this point.
Coach Brohm is at a crossroads in his Purdue career, and Purdue desperately needs him to pick the right path.