The game against Iowa was no different than any other this season, which is the crux of the problem with this team. The defense did an admirable job for most of the day, but the era in which one could rely solely upon a defensive unit to win games is but a speck in the rear view mirror. Two schools of thought seem to exist as to why the Spartan offense does so little and these, of course, center around Dan Roushar and Andrew Maxwell. At this point stats aren’t important because we all see the failings very clearly and no amount of minor tweaking will affect any change significant enough to stop this runaway crap wagon. So then, why not examine the possible root of the failings in more detail.
It certainly appears as though the same plays are obstinately run week in and week out with different results expected. Le’Veon Bell is an immense talent but behind an injury depleted offensive line and in the modern era it is the height of foolishness to expect him to lead the team to victory. Teams take away your strength and force you to defeat them with your perceived weakness. If the gameplan doesn’t account for that basic truth then the gameplan is better suited for use as toilet tissue.
When the Spartans have gone to the air it has often been with routes of the underneath variety. Easier to complete (allegedly) and more in keeping with a ball control philosophy, this tack could be fruitful if and when some sort of deep threat is established. So we arrive back at the same problem; no one is afraid of the Spartans going long on them. They seldom even think about attempting to do so unless they absolutely have to, which unsurprisingly makes such attempts easier to defend. There is more to coaching offense and calling plays than merely possessing a keen understanding of X’s and O’s. An excellent coordinator must not only be able to teach his players the intricacies of the offense but must possess an innate feel for how to best employ those plays to maximize his team’s chances of producing against a given opposing defense. Some guys have it, some don’t. If you can’t adjust to what is being done to stop you then you are sunk. The OC must be creative and flexible in his duties and then it’s up to the players to execute what has been called.
Enter the other variable of great import to the equation. Andrew Maxwell has looked at times pensive, and at others erratic. Whether hanging on to the ball for too long given the aforementioned state of his line, or zinging his share of errant passes, Maxwell has left plenty of room for the armchair quarterbacks among us to question his abilities. It’s is difficult to know with certainty if his penchant for what look like checkdown tosses are in fact that or if that is the design of the play. Those maddening instances of throws short of the line of gain on third down aside, he has displayed an arm which is plenty live. His accuracy does not appear to be above average, but it isn’t really poor either. I can’t help but feel like he could perform better under different circumstances and with perhaps a different personnel grouping. One would need access to game film in order to truly know. I’m afraid we shall never see whether he could or not, and I think I share this feeling with many MSU fans and that is what leaves us all believing that there will be no improvement this year.
Another point that leads me to question the coaching rather than Maxwell is that they have had an abundance of time to work with Maxwell in preparation for his ascension to the starting role. If he didn’t have the required skill set to perform the job why didn’t someone notice a long time ago? Further, despite numerous opportunities to get him into games last year the staff chose to leave him on the sidelines thereby relinquishing any chance of seeing what he could do in live action and being able to use that information going forward. Yes, I do place much of the blame upon the coaching staff and I have been reinforced in that belief by listening to the comments made by these men. Whining about the fans and placing blame squarely on the players is a weak course of action, regardless of the veracity of such comments. The coaches duties include shouldering blame for the squad they field, especially at the college level. They work with these kids, they know them, and while they can’t be responsible for them every minute of the day they damn sure can be responsible for how they perform as a group. Don’t point that finger in anyone else’s direction until you’ve taken a long, hard look in the mirror, gentlemen.