At The One-Third Marker
As boilerdowd alluded to, the bloom is coming a bit off the rose in West Lafayette. The pitchforks certainly aren't out yet for Coach Hazell, but people are in the barn looking for those forks when conversation turns to the offense and John Shoop. So what do we know 1/3 of the way through the season? And what do we look towards now as progress and, frankly, using wisely what will wind up being a lost season?
We talked on the Handsome Hour a not long ago about when might be the right time to shake things up on offense, and what we sort of deduced was that the coaching staff (obviously) felt that Rob Henry was the right guy for the job at the outset of the season. If that plan wasn't working, this seemed to be the kind of plotting, measured coaching staff that would make decisions at the most logical times. To that end, I think many of us can agree that throwing Appleby or Etling in to start against ND or once things got ugly vs Wisconsin were not ideal options. You don't really want your future QB's first action to be utterly demoralizing.
So, probably more to keep us sane than anything, we looked at the schedule and noted that after the fifth game of the season (this weekend vs NIU), the Boilers have an off-week and, in fact, only play two games in October. What better time to step back, re-assess and, if necessary, retool the offense. So in Coach J and Boilerdowd's world, Rob Henry starts again this weekend and if he has a monster day, you could again talk yourself into the idea that he's moving in the right direction. A record of 2-3 obviously wouldn't be ideal, but it would at least put you in a position where dreaming of a bowl game isn't completely insane. (Just mostly insane.) It would also make the Boilers 2-1 at home, which is not entirely unacceptable and would likely keep some contingent of fans showing up. Knowing the next home game is versus Nebraska will also draw fans.
Speaking of that next game being against Nebraska, if Rob Henry continues to look like he's throwing with the wrong arm and the Boilers simply get run off the field by the MAC team coming to town on Saturday, things will get ugly fast if he is not pulled during the game. So perhaps against that MAC team is when you give one of the youngsters some reps. If not then and it is another loss, then the old proverbial drawing board must be revisited during the two weeks leading up to Nebraska.
Nebraska will bring their laughable "blackshirt" defense to town, which actually sets up nicely for a team that has decided to stretch the field, so to speak. So with a couple weeks to prepare and only two games from 9/29 to 11/1, this would appear to be the time to make a decision. Particularly if the team is 1-4, since there will simply be no reason to not begin to accept that this is a lost season. Nothing against Rob Henry at that point, but giving him reps does nothing for 2014 and beyond.
There have also been many criticisms of John Shoop, dating back to when he first took the job. Many Bears fans point to his time running the Chicago offense in the NFL as a young man. One reader even sent us a link to a story about how inept the Bears offense was. A story from 2001. About a Bears offense with Jim Miller at the controls, he of the career 75.2 QB Rating. (You'd think Bears fans would know a lousy QB when they see one, but yet there they are being talked into Jay Cutler every year.) Point is, I'm not sure it's fair to say because this Purdue team has gotten off to this start with these pieces in place that John Shoop should be blamed because it's just like a completely unrelated team and situation 12 years ago. But hey, you're obviously entitled to your opinion. My opinion is simply that it's too soon to cast judgement on Shoop or any of this staff just yet. Sure, we'd all have liked to have seen more progress to this point, but there is definitely still time to make adjustments we want to see. Remember, Danny Hope was given four years with this program. I don't think there's any doubt that Darrell Hazell can oceans better at his job than Danny Hope -- time will tell, though, I guess.
In any event, that's how I've reconciled what we're seeing in my head: these guys committed to this QB and this approach for at least the first month of the season and don't want to change course suddenly. If my theory is supported by them making a logical change during the bye week, then frankly, I'm fine with the ways things have been handled. If not, and this offense continues to not show progress, it will be hard to defend those decisions much longer.