Coach Tiller Reflection Fest (Big Ten Bloggers' Perspective)

I made the often fatal mistake of wading out in the waters of the Big Ten Bloggers Google Group and asking whoever was willing to send me their thoughts, memories, impressions, etc., on Joe Tiller. What he’s accomplished, if anything, and what he leaves behind. After some of the usual brain-dead, “Dur, Purdue sucks!” kinds of comments, I got some genuine feedback from some of the brethren. I’ll share it here.

Joe Tiller. You know, after a couple years of reading nothing but diabetes jokes, it's interesting to actually sit down and look back on the guy's career.

The first thing I think of, of course, is the phrase "basketball on grass" and an interview I watched too long ago to remember about where the system came from. According to this in game Q&A from what was probably the Drew Brees era, it went something like this: Tiller's wife thought football was boring and suggested he throw the ball more because that was "fun."

I'm not convinced that's the truth but it definitely could be. What's more probable, though, is that the guy is a true contrarian. He recognized that Purdue, cursed with a school name that can be morphed into literally thousands of pun-insults, wasn't going to ever be more talented than the big dogs. He did the same thing that made Rich Rodriguez famous: used a different system that would make more talented defenses uncomfortable. And you know, if it wasn't for one terribly devastating fumble he could have literally transformed the program.

It's ironic, I think, that the last major news he would make was a criticism of a guy who is in a lot of ways from the same mold. While I doubt there is actually some unspoken agreement, Rodriguez definitely was recruiting differently and more persistently than Big Ten coaches historically needed to, and exploiting that inefficiency is going to reap least until everyone catches up. And that's the problem, the conference has caught up to Tiller's tricks. Half the offenses in the Big Ten are using more open attacks, and so when he brings his team on the road he is facing a defense that is no longer taken back by the once unique system. He should get credit for this, of course; this happened in large part because of him.

And so off into the sunset or sunrise or whenever the guys feels like fishing. Purdue football isn't currently in great shape and will probably need to find a new identity, but if all it takes to get to the Rose Bowl is a unique offense and a coach with a funny mustache, then the one thing Tiller can leave behind is a sense of hope. I mean, have you seen Danny Hope's mustache?

-- Kevin,
Black Shoe Diaries

Tiller is a dead ringer for Sheriff Buford T. Justice without the comic appeal. True, he was boring, but he beat our ass (and Nick Saban) more often than not. Which also says a lot about pre-Doctor Michigan State.

Enlightened Spartan

A letter from Joe Tiller, procured by the esteemed BHGP.


In my experience, Minnesota fans have always had a high level of respect for Joe Tiller. Joe Tiller was the first coach in the Big Ten who had the forward-looking vision to implement the spread offense in a conference that consisted predominantly of power-running offenses. Tiller's teams were competitive against teams that were often stacked with superior talent. Even for a fan of Purdue's opponent, Tiller's offenses were always entertaining to watch. Crisp passing, creative formations, and smart football were to be expected from his teams. More important than his ability to coach teams that would consistently exceed expectations, Joe Tiller was a consummate professional. Throughout the years there have been coaches who would insult opposing schools, throw temper tantrums on the sideline, and run up the score when the game was clearly over in order to satisfy egomaniacal needs. Not Joe Tiller. He always set the gold standard for professionalism. I will remember Joe Tiller as a visionary coach and a class act.

--Buck Bravo,
Buck Bravo’s Gopher Football Blog

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