Tim Lester has been Syracuse's offensive coordinator for four games now, and the Orange are 1-3 in that stretch. The offense has scored just 59 combined points vs. Florida State, Wake Forest, Clemson and NC State, respectively, and as you'll see in this week's play-calling breakdown, things are far from perfect. And yet, it was announced today that Head Coach Scott Shafer will retain Lester as the Orange offensive coordinator for the 2015 season.
Look, I'm not saying Lester's doing a bad job. And given the circumstances around this offense -- SOOO many injuries, a mid-season switch from QB coach up to OC, etc. -- he's certainly had a lot to overcome. But the fact of the matter is he hasn't necessarily overcome those circumstances and this offense is still its own (and this team's) worst enemy. What part of the last four games has inspired anyone (especially Shafer and the athletic department) that Lester is the guy who's going to help this group improve in 2015? Again: Not saying he can't do so with a healthy team and a full offseason to really devise his own unique play-calling scheme. But what's saying he CAN do these things based on what we've seen thus far?
Since a surprisingly effective game against Florida State in Lester's debut (412 yards, 20 points), the Orange offense has only scored 32 points and has progressively gotten more and more pass-happy with each week. NC State was the epitome of this, as freshman QB A.J. Long threw 42 (!!!) passes while getting absolutely lit up by the Wolfpack blitz. Long is playing well, but still making mistakes -- as freshmen usually do. But are we really attributing his success and development to Lester, or more to his confidence and actual play-making ability? I'm not one to issue final judgment on that, but is anyone?
I don't want to be the guy that ALWAYS questions the Syracuse offensive coordinator, or the overall staff, or its hiring decisions. But I will be the guy who presents the facts to call attention to an odd move. If Lester turned things around and put in three solid games to close out the year (win or lose), then maybe you have this conversation in the offseason. With three games to go after another bad loss for the Orange, however, this move makes no sense. Syracuse's offense (with plays called by Lester) averaged 0.69 yards per play vs. NC State if you remove the 17 "big plays." They've been running the ball less and less, while leaning heavily on the diminishing returns of Prince-Tyson Gulley (who is not a feature back). This does not inspire confidence going forward, and I'm not sure how the program can see recent developments as a positive. It's puzzling, and in these trying times for Syracuse football, it only serves to stoke an already-burning flame.
Am I off-base here? Is Shafer and the administration off-base? WHAT. THE. HELL. IS. HAPPENING?!