I’ve been doing a good bit of thinking (which is unusual for me) about how to handle the 2021 (hopefully 2022) football season. Honestly, I’m trying to avoid being spare parts for y’all. Travis and Kyle do an excellent job of keeping you up to date on recent goings on with the football program, and I’m not super interested in rehashing their articles. My film breakdowns are popular, and those will start back up once I’ve got some film to break down, but that’s over a month away. I’ve been worrying over a theme for the season, an angle that gives you something different than what is already on the site, and I keep coming back to “trust”.
The Jeff Brohm’s tenure at Purdue started with trust, and that trust needs to return to the program.
A Brief History Lesson (that most of you already know)
Coach Brohm was a hot commodity in the coaching world after going a combined 22-5 in 2015 and 2016 at Western Kentucky. His balanced, explosive offense scored points in droves. He was considered one of the premier play callers in the nation. The Brohm stock was through the roof, and he could be selective with job offers. If nothing struck his fancy after the 2016 season, he could always return to Western Kentucky, score a million points, and try again in 2017.
Purdue, on the other hand, had hit bedrock after blasting through what fans considered the floor of the program multiple times during the Hazell era. The facilities were on par with a struggling 3A Texas High school, the fan base was at best traumatized and at worst apathetic. The departure of Morgan Burke, and his fiscally conservative notions of running a modern athletic department, provided fans with glimmer of hope, but new athletic director Mike Bobinski didn’t have much to sell to a prospective head coach other than “trust me, I’m going to give you what you need to get the job done.” Let’s be real, based on the last 30 years of Purdue football, that request was met with skepticism. Every Purdue coach, starting with Joe Tiller, had been hamstrung by a miserly budget that turned the program into a halfway house for assistant coaches, and made recruiting (already difficult at Purdue) nearly impossible.
It took serious trust in Mike Bobinski for Jeff Brohm to take the Purdue job. Let’s be real, the Purdue football program wasn’t dead in the water, it was resting on the ocean floor in 3 pieces when Brohm took the helm. After the news broke of the hire I fired off multiple fist pumps in the middle of a grocery store in College Station, Texas. Jeff Brohm was the absolute best case scenario for Purdue. The Boilermakers were in desperate need of an infusion of excitement, and Brohm, above all else, was exciting. How could you not love a coach who led the nation in scoring (45.5 points per game) at Western Kentucky bringing his show to West Lafayette?
Brohm and Bobinski’s mutual trust paid off in a big way in 2017. Brohm was able to cobble together enough Hazell refugees, junior college players, and graduate transfers to actually win football games. Granted, the offense wasn’t great (25.2 points per game) but 7 wins (INCLUDING A BOWL WIN!) was exactly what the Purdue program needed. The haze of apathy was burned off by Brohm’s enthusiasm. Ross Ade stadium turned from a ghost town to respectable college football venue. I was screaming the Purdue gospel from the mountain top. Boilermaker football was back, and Jeff Brohm was going to take the program to new heights!
Then Louisville came calling. Bobby Petrino pulled a full Petrino and alienated every man, woman, child, dog, and horse in Kentucky. Louisville wanted the hope Brohm injected into the Purdue football program. They were determined to bring back their favorite son at any cost. I monitored social media like an air traffic controller at Chicago O’Hare during a thunderstorm, tracking every rumor with an embarrassing level of intensity. I remember sitting outside my daughters day care for an hour checking twitter, because I didn’t want to miss anything on the 10 minute drive back to the house. In the end, Mike Bobinski cracked open the war chest and dropped every available cent on Brohm, not based on his performance, but based on his trust in Brohm. Purdue University, the school of perpetual athletics austerity, was paying a coach national top 10 money! Bobinski pushed all his chips to the middle of the table. This contract will make or break his tenure at Purdue and he was willing to make that bet based on a 7-6 season.
That, my friends, is an impressive level of trust.
Since then, I’m sad to report that trust a has eroded.
Coach Brohm, in particular, has been short on trust in almost every aspect of the program, from his coaching staff, to his roster, to the players on the field, to his press conferences. It’s no coincidence that his ever shrinking circle of trust has coincided with Purdue’s on field regression. Football is the ultimate team game, and if the guy at the top lacks trust, it shows up on the field in tangible ways. As the product on the field has diminished, the trust from the fanbase has plummeted. I’m not sure I could fine one fan who is as optimistic about the future of Purdue football today as they were after the 2017 season.
This series, however, isn’t to attack Coach Brohm. He’s the right man for the Purdue job. It’s a look at where things have gone wrong and how he can remedy them in 2021. This is a crucial season for the Boilermakers. He’s got to get this thing turned around. Mike Bobinski pushed all his chips into the middle of the table when he signed Coach Brohm to the massive extension and it’s going to take more than his force of will to get the job done. He’s going to have to put trust in everyone around him for this thing to work.
2021, for better or worse, is all about trust.