2016 Purdue Football Coaching Search Favorites: #5 Bob Stitt
Candidate Tier #1
Overall Rank: #5
Category: BS Favorites, Awesome Tagline Edition #StittHappens
Who Is He?
Bob Stitt is the 52 year old head coach of the FCS University of Montana Grizzlies, who spent 15 years at the Colorado School of Mines (yup, a real thing). During the 1990s, Stitt spent time as an assistant at Northern Colorado, Austin, and Harvard.
He’s also spent the majority of his adult life reinventing offensive football, and is frequently cited as the coach many high-major head coaches study to develop trick plays and new offensive schemes. Most prominently, Dana Holgorsen credited Stitt as the author of West Virginia’s crazy fly sweeps in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
Why would he be successful at Purdue?
Most people agree that Purdue football is most successful when it is trying something new, taking a risk, and zigging while others zag. The most dramatic way to put a plan like that into motion would be to give Bob Stitt his first FBS shot, and see if he could utilize the talent that remains on Purdue’s roster in a more effective fashion.
Stitt would bring an unflinchingly bold style of football to the Big Ten, and would be the best possible candidate to utilize the core strength of Purdue’s remaining offensive talent: its glut of running backs. Markell Jones, DJ Knox, Brian Lankford-Johnson, and Richie Worship (and you could even add the young Tario Fuller to the mix) is an exponentially better core than Purdue’s 2017 wide receivers, and it would take a truly innovative mind to make that variety of options work effectively. Stitt is the man for the job.
The core of Stitt’s genius is his ability to teach seemingly-complex actions in an extremely effective manner, to every level of college football athlete. Take, for instance, the fly sweep. John Shoop failed at instituting a jet sweep package at Purdue, so some might recoil at its mere mention. But Stitt put a slide twist on these packages: a simple shovel-pass to the sweeping receiver/running back, so that any fumble would be ruled an incompletion rather than a turnover.
Options in Stitt’s system involve simple reads and standard progressions, unlike the unnecessary complexity of Shoop’s attempts at creativity under Hazell.
The more I read about Bob Stitt (seriously, I’ve read so much), the more I think he’s a natural fit at the school that Joe Tiller put on the map. He’s innovative, creative, a fantastic teacher, and respected by everyone in the business.
Dan Wolken’s breakdown of Stitt’s Colorado Mines “gold mine” system
Ian Boyd’s nuts-and-bolts breakdown of Bob Stitt’s lethal offense at Montana
Why could he flop at Purdue?
Chris Klieman and North Dakota State absolutely shut down Stitt in the 2015 FCS playoffs. Instead of being baited by Stitt’s playcalling to go into single coverage, Klieman consistently dropped into wide zones, shutting down any option plays Stitt had up his sleeve. Klieman creatively disguised defensive back positioning and ran creative (and sporadic) blitzes to bait Montana’s QB into poor passes, and it worked to the tune of four interceptions.
Stitt’s version of the Air-Raid was stifled by NDSU’s extremely effective screen pass defense, and there’s no doubt Big Ten coaches (who have become alarmingly more competent in recent years) will study this tape endlessly if Purdue starts winning under Stitt.
There’s also a risk in with recruiting. Though Stitt would ensure that you would never need 5-star athletes to succeed, high-level players still have to be convinced that Purdue’s risky system is worth a shot. Joe Tiller came in and instantly turned the fortunes of a dilapidated Purdue football program around, and getting lucky with an undersized quarterback from Texas helped continue that success. Stitt would probably need a similar run of luck to work at Purdue, and lightning doesn’t often strike the same place twice.
The downside for ineffective recruiters is what we’re seeing post-Hazell: a roster with minimal Big Ten-level talent, and a smaller number of mismatched talented players in a system that doesn’t work in Power 5.
But still, to me, this is the type of risk that Purdue should gamble on. This wouldn't be seen as an "embarrassing" failure, like the Hazell era has been. This would be seen as a bold move by football school known for taking risks, and a risk on a universally-beloved coaching figure by new AD Mike Bobinski. This would truly be the home-run swing Purdue fans are looking for, and would be lauded by college football insiders.
Would he come to Purdue?
Yes, absolutely. You can’t be a head coach for 17 seasons, hailed by every insider as a football genius and the “most creative mind” in college football, and not think about whether you could succeed at the next level.
Stitt has previously emphasized that Colorado School of Mines was a high-level engineering school, where there was significantly easier access to mechanical engineering wizards than elite athletes, and he successfully taught them to execute his system. He’s off to a 5-1 start in 2016 (after an 8-5 2015 season), and has Montana poised for an FCS championship run.
Bottom line: if you’re looking for a creative offense, an affordable risk, and possibly the next Joe Tiller, Bob Stitt is your guy.