Coach Brohm is heading into his 5th season at the helm in West Lafayette, and we’re finally to the point where we can fairly evaluate his team. With a few exceptions, this will be the first all-Brohm roster. He’s had ample time to work on the multitude of problems he found upon his arrival at Purdue. It’s easy to forget how deep of a hole the program, as a whole, was in when he took over the job.
Purdue was a combined 9-33 over the previous 4 soul sucking seasons before he was hired. Walking through the facilities was like taking a walk through the distant past. I’m almost certain the locker room had wall to wall shag carpeting and a disco ball for post game celebrations. The roster was in shambles. There was no depth. Fan apathy was at an all-time high.
Things were not great, in fact, they were depressingly bad.
Don’t let Coach Brohm’s first 7-6 season fool you, this thing was in need of a complete rebuild. The 2017 season featured the cream of the Hazell crop at several key positions, but once those guys graduated, there was nothing behind them.
In a way, his first season set expectations higher than the reality of the program. Then he doubled down by signing a renegotiated contract that paid him commiserate to a top 10 program in the nation. That contract wasn’t his fault, Purdue got into a bidding war with the only other team in the nation willing to pay him like a top 10 coach. He had to take the money, but the contract was based purely on what Purdue thought he could be as a coach in the future, not who he was as a coach at that moment.
The 2018 roster was showing the cracks in the foundation left by Hazell, but Rondale Moore’s talent along with a solid backfield of D.J. Knox and Markell Jones and an experienced David Blough at quarterback helped hold everything together. The Ohio State victory had the Purdue fanbase at a place not seen since the vintage Tiller teams, but the Auburn thrashing in the Music City Bowl showed how far away the team, talent wise, was from competing.
Since the Auburn loss, things have been down hill for the Boilermakers, but that may have been inevitable. The 2018 was built on a shaky foundation, and once the Blough, Knox, and Jones graduated, that instability was exposed. Throw in a spate of 2019 injuries, including season ending injuries to Sindelar and Moore on the same play and the weirdness that was 2020 and anything that has happened in the past two seasons is somewhat understandable.
This may seem like a shift in tone on my part, but it’s not really. This is the year I think it’s fair to start evaluating Jeff Brohm. While the 2019 and 2020 seasons were understandable, the built in explanations (some may call them excuses) are gone. This has to be a bounce back season for both Purdue as a program and Jeff Brohm as a coach.
Trends Heading into 2021
Wins and Losses
This is a disturbing trend, but at the same time, it’s hard to win without your best players, and Purdue has suffered incredible misfortune in terms of injuries over the last few seasons. I’m not sure I’ve seen a team lose so many key contributors at seemingly every position than Purdue has lost over the last 2 seasons.
The quarterback room had a secret door to the orthopedic surgeon’s suit installed after 2019. Rondale Moore suffered the dreaded “undisclosed leg injury” in 2019 and then ran the dreaded “opt out - opt in - unavailable due to undisclosed reasons” gambit in 2020. It took Lorenzo Neal a year to return from an ACL tear. David Bell played most of 2019 with one arm. George Karlaftis lost a chunk of 2020 to Covid protocol. I could continue on, but I’m feeling a bit sick to my stomach already, and if y’all are reading this article, I’m sure you’re well aware of how snake bitten Purdue has been over the last two seasons.
A season where Purdue’s best players, more or less, remain on the field could turn this trend around without much trouble.
Much like the win/loss record, recruiting has been trending in wrong direction over the last few seasons, and could culminate in what is shaping up to be a depressing in-state haul in 2022 if things don’t turn around. At the same time, this thing could be salvaged with a big 2021 season or the transfer portal.
I’ve been impressed how the coaching staff has used the portal to backfill some questionable takes and past roster management issues this offseason. They’ve added 4 SEC defensive transfers, often times exchanging outgoing offensive transfers with incoming defensive transfers. A disappointing 2022 recruiting class can be redeemed by pulling some more choice bounce back talent off of more developed rosters.
Recruiting is still the lifeblood for a football team, but the transfer portal, paired with the new one time transfer rule, can provide an occasional transfusion.
The offensive side of the ball has been remarkably stable. Brian Brohm, JaMarcus Shephard, Chris Barclay, and Dale Williams came to Purdue with Brohm, and have stayed with him over the last 4 years. Add in the highly experienced Neil Callaway to firm up the offensive line and this is a group of coaches that should all be on the same page.
Brohm royally Diaco’d up the defensive staff over the last two seasons, but if you’re going to Diaco something to the extent Brohm Diaco’d it, best case scenario is you do it in the strangest season in the history of college football?
The colossal Dico up hurt Purdue in the check book, but I like what Brohm has done with the defensive coaching staff (on paper). Brad Lambert is an experienced hand who has been asked to do more with less throughout his career. Hiring Mark Hagan was the absolute best case scenario. Ron English has seen serious peeks and valleys, but always seems to land on his feet. Throw in a young guy like James Adams and I have talked myself into liking the defensive coaching overhaul.
I’m more than willing to leave the past, in the past and consider this coaching staff to be the foundational staff Brohm utilizes moving forward.
Now comes the hard part. Now that the rebuild is (or at least should be) over, what are the expectations for the program moving forward?
I’m setting the bar at 6 wins this season. I know, I know, that’s an incredibly low bar, but a 6 year season would meet my expectations, and 7 win or more season would exceed them.
A 5 wins season would be troubling, but no reason to look for the eject button.
4 wins or less and it’s not time to hit the eject button yet, but Bobinski should probably remove the protective covering.
Based on Brohm’s salary, this is where things really need to start ramping up. He is being paid for what he could be in the future, and the future is pretty much now. I highly doubt Purdue will play on the level commiserate to his top 10 contract, but he needs to start heading in that direction.
7 wins in 2022 is my expectation. 8 wins or over exceeds my expectation.
6 wins isn’t ideal, but survivable.
5 wins or less (non bowl eligible) would take away any strong argument for not firing Brohm, especially considering the fact that his contract will need to be extended for recruiting purposes in 2022.
This is the year he needs to set the standard moving forward with the program. He needs to make Purdue a consistent 8 win team. Anything over 8 wins is amazing.
7 wins isn’t the end of the world, and certainly wouldn’t justify any rash moves, but in my opinion, wouldn’t cool off a hot seat.
6 wins and the seat is scalding hot coming into 2024. Anything less than 6 wins should be grounds to let him go.
2024 - ?
Purdue should hover around the 8 win mark from this point forward. I’m sure their will be some fluctuation, but 8 wins with the occasional 9-10 win flare up seems reasonable. I assume Brohm won’t be taking any sort of pay cut along the way, and you can find someone to win 6 or 7 games a year for significantly cheaper. He’s priced himself into the 8 wins a season market.
This is all on a sliding scale.
If Brohm goes out and wins 8 games next year, it won’t matter what happens in 2022. One season’s performance isn’t independent from the last season’s performance, if that makes any sense.
If he wins 1 or 2 games next season (which I highly doubt), he could be fired.
I’ve been looking for a framework to talk about the success (or failure, but hopefully success) of Purdue football. It’s hard to say if a team over or under achieved without first setting the parameters.
I’ve set the bar extremely low for this season, and Coach Brohm (in theory) should have his best recruiting class (2019) ready to hit the field and make an impact as upperclassmen. Six wins also gives me some leeway to stay positive if Purdue gets off to one of their patented slow starts.
The excuses are gone.
It’s time to win.
I’m sure Coach Brohm agrees with me.