Sadly, I’m not talking about the Fox TV show. I’m talking about KU football and recently-departed offensive coordinator Nick Quartaro.
Quartaro’s resignation last week was welcomed by many who would’ve preferred a little less drama and more wins last season. It also leaves an important opening on the Kansas coaching staff with signing day just a little more than a month away.
The opening won’t hurt KU’s chances of fleshing out a good recruiting class. Frankly, I think many Jayhawk fans are pleasantly surprised at the quality of the players from whom head coach Mark Mangino has gotten verbal commitments.
Mangino has also made it clear that he’s looking for someone who will bring new ideas to the spread offense to which he’s married. So, KU won’t be losing any recruits due to overhauling their offensive philosophy.
Mangino has had to replace assistant coaches before. Quite a few of them, in fact. This time, though, it’s different.
He knows full well that this 6-6 season was considered a bust among fans and supporters, despite being bowl-eligible for the second year in a row and for the third in four seasons. Normally cause for a parade down Mass Street, 6-6 was a major disappointment for KU fans who saw the team take late leads in 11 of their 12 games, including on the road at Baylor and Nebraska, only to see five of those advantages get away.
The 2006 KU offense averaged over 28 points a game but became notorious for playing not to lose late all in the name of “moving the chains” and “controlling the clock.” Fourth-quarter offensive conservatism the likes of which would’ve made Bill O’Reilly cringe was Quartaro’s undoing, whether it was really his fault or not. Someone had to take the bullet, and it ended up being him.
Now, Mark Mangino has to make the most important assistant coach hire of his still-young head coaching career. He doesn’t need a home run on this hire – although that would be really nice – but he’d better make this a stand-up triple.
Going 6-6 in the manner in which he did, Mangino’s seat has gotten considerably warmer than it was last spring coming off a winning season – KU’s first in 10 seasons – and a bowl rout of an overmatched Houston Cougar squad.
To their advantage, KU enjoys the bonus of playing in a Big XII North that has gotten better but still isn’t anything to write home about.
But whether or not it’s good news that the Jayhawks get the so-called “weak” side of the conference’s South division (Baylor at home and Texas A&M and Oklahoma State – both 2006 postseason players – on the road) is up for debate.
Have I mentioned that the nonconference schedule includes a 10-win Central Michigan squad that cannot be taken lightly. Remember the last time a KU football team took a midmajor lightly?
And speaking of Toledo, they’ll be visiting the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium next fall, too.
The bottom line is, Mangino must hire an OC who will come in and hit the ground running. He will have to instill imagination and confidence in an offensive unit that thinks once you get a lead, you hang on for dear life, pound away off tackle and hope your opponent runs out of time instead of punching your opponent in the mouth.
Mangino desperately needs a bowl game next year to if he wants to continue receiving a State of Kansas paycheck. More than that, I would speculate he needs at least seven and maybe even eight wins and a .500 record in the conference, considering his Big XII schedule. That conference mark is something he’s never done before.
And all of this makes this OC hire crucial to the longevity of the HC. In 2007, save the drama.