This Syracuse football season sucked. You know it. I know. DOCTOR Gross certainly knows it. And while many Orange fans are calling for change, we need to be go about how that happens in a measured and careful fashion. It's Scott Shafer's staff, yes, but each coach should be accountable for his responsibilities within the program and how they executed their respective role.
So in no way is this a "should-he-get-fired?" meter. Consider it more of an honest look at the job they did this past season (and for many, before) and how much they have/haven't done to stick around for another season at Syracuse.
Chuck Bullough, Defensive Coordinator
For two straight years now, Bullough's defense has carried a struggling, inept offense, and while they're not always perfect, his turnover-driven style has kept Syracuse in games when they otherwise had no business doing so. See: Clemson, Notre Dame, NC State, others... He's unlikely to generate a ton of interest outside of Syracuse just yet, so if we want to keep him around (we should), it won't be a problem. He will have his hands full with a very young defense next year, however, which could make or break the Orange's chances to get back to the postseason.
Bobby Acosta, Tight Ends Coach
Acosta hasn't had much to work with in terms of involving tight ends into the Orange gameplan (they largely vanished in the second half of 2014). But in terms of recruiting -- which he was largely brought on to do -- he's helped Syracuse get back into New Jersey and for that alone, he's a commodity for SU. He'll stick around as long as he keeps getting us into those conversations in NJ -- even if his ability to do work with our tight ends is minimal (mostly by the offense's design).
Clark Lea, Linebackers Coach
Of Syracuse's 80 tackles for loss this season, 33.5 came from linebackers. Lea was obviously gifted with two talented seniors, Cam Lynch and Dyshawn Davis, but more importantly, he's shown an ability to get results out of the team's younger and less-experienced talents too. Zaire Franklin and Marqez Hodge both looked great in their first real college snaps this year, and expect even more from the other kids coming up next year. Lea's stock within the program is just fine.
Tim Daoust, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach
The consensus going into 2014 was that Syracuse would struggle mightily to replace Jay Bromley on the defensive line. While they certainly did miss him, Daoust has still coached up quite a group out of what was considered a bunch of unheralded kids. Guys like Eric Crume, Micah Robinson, Robert Welsh and Ron Thompson were terrors against both the run and pass all season. That's part of Bullough's scheme, sure, but given the expectations around these players beforehand, the results don't happen without Daoust's coaching.
Scott Shafer, Head Coach
Shafer was a hero after leading an inexperienced Syracuse team to a 7-6 finish and a bowl victory in 2013. But in 2014, a veteran group struggled with injuries and tough opponents and fell head-first into a 3-9 season. It was a steep fall for Shafer too, whose #hardnosed mantra became a point of contention even among the Orange faithful. In year three, he'll be tasked with winning or else. SU fans have zero patience for the waiting game at this point, and DOC Gross shouldn't have any either. Expect some pressure to be put on him to deliver in 2015, otherwise, his show's over.
DeAndre Smith, Running Backs Coach
When Syracuse wasn't too busy throwing the ball (unsuccessfully) around the yard, the team was actually moving the ball well on the ground. The Orange came in with five running backs and while at times, they all had moments/games of frustration, they largely showed that they could control a game as a group if they were given the chance. Freshman Erv Phillips could be a star in the making, and George Morris and Devante McFarlane only stand to be more productive as they get more involved next year.
Tim Lester, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
Lester's promotion to OC was supposed to be a new beginning for a struggling Syracuse offense. And while he still may get his shot to call plays again next year, it's at least worth fielding a few calls for the position, no? Lester's offenses scored just 83 points in seven games, and scored 10 points or less in four of the final five games. I don't care if you're "running your system" or not, that's completely unacceptable. Maybe Lester could be fine shifting back to his QB coach/recruiting coordinator role while assisting a new offensive coordinator? I'd be fine with that. I just really want to see the athletic department exhaust all options on new offensive coordinator candidates. I can't be expected to watch this year's sad display again.
George McDonald, Associate Head Coach/Wide Receivers Coach
I'll give McDonald credit here: he's still recruiting well for the Orange and I do think the time he spent with Steve Ishmael and Ben Lewis helped both players this season. But I'm not sold he stays, so I'm not sold that any player he has recruited/will recruit won't eventually bolt with or because of him. Maybe he surprises us and his loyalty to Shafer outweighs bitterness and offers from "greener" pastures. I just doubt it, personally.
Joe Adam, Offensive Line Coach
After the Villanova game alone, you got the sinking feeling it would be a long year for the Syracuse offensive line. They were blown up by an FCS team early, and the hits just kept on coming, with tackles-for-loss becoming the norm each and every game. Obviously they spent the early part of the year preventing sacks and giving Terrel Hunt and other passers time. But once the injuries piled up, it all simply fell apart. Adam will be here next year. But let's keep an eye on what he does with an inexperienced line next year. What happened to an experienced group in 2014 is none too encouraging.
Fred Reed, Defensive Backs Coach
Hey, remember this nonsense? Obviously, SU's defensive backs can't "match up with anyone" and haven't been able to for the last two seasons. With talented players like Durell Eskridge, Brandon Reddish and Julian Whigham out there, the Orange allowed one of the highest completion percentages (65 percent) in the country. And despite what the overall numbers may tell you, we all know this was a group largely aided by an aggressive pass-rush and if left to its own devices couldn't really get off the field. Reed has a lot of young players at his disposal next season (if that happens). Let's see what he does with them...
Will Hicks, "Assistant Athletics Director for Athletics Performance" (Strength and Conditioning)
What the hell happened with injuries this season? I mean, EVERYONE was injured. Pretty much all the time. There was no respite from the world's worst injury bug, which at different times claimed three different QBs, nearly the entire offensive line, our top two returning receivers and our former starting kicker. This has been brought up in the comments: what gives? There's simply no way that these players were properly prepared for the opponents' pace or strength, nor the rigors of a 12-game season. I don't know how strength and conditioning hires/fires work. But keep an eye out here.
Obviously this is subjective, but what do you think? Seem like fair assessments? Anything you'd switch up? Weigh in below.