Theory #1: Syracuse assistant coaches are holding the team back
Hired an offensive coordinator with no playcalling experience. Offense struggled through 1.5 seasons and coach was ultimately demoted.
Hired an offensive line coach from tiny Elmhurst College entering 2014. Offensive line struggled to deal with mixing and matching lineups. Team was forced to play four different quarterbacks due to injuries.
Hired a quarterbacks coach from Elmhurst as well entering 2013. Finished 127th in passer rating in 2014, after finishing 114th in 2013. Coach was promoted to offensive coordinator during the season.
Hired a tight ends coach from Widener University entering 2014. Tight ends accounted for 13 catches and 64 yards on the season (1.08 catches and 5.3 yards, total, per game).
Hired a defensive backs coach from Ohio University entering 2013. Finished 103rd in passer rating against in 2014, after finishing 76th in 2013.
Theory #2: Scott Shafer is mostly hiring his friends
Current Coaches (Connection to Shafer)
Chuck Bullough (Western Michigan '05)
Tim Lester (Western Michigan '05)
Tim Daoust (Western Michigan '05-'06)
George McDonald (Western Michigan '05 and Northern Illinois '02-'03)
Joe Adam (Western Michigan '06)
DeAndre Smith (Northern Illinois '01-'04)
Clark Lea (No connection directly to Shafer, but through Bullough at UCLA '06-'10)
Bobby Acosta (No connection)
Fred Reed (No connection)
That's six out of the nine positional coaches and coordinators who he has personally coached with, and another one with only one degree of separation. Only two came directly from a major conference or the NFL - Bullough and McDonald. Clark Lea was linebackers coach at UCLA before a quick stop off at Bowling Green, so he's close.
It's not uncommon for coaches to hire people they know, but it's also hard to believe that Shafer - who only spent one-year stints at P5 programs like Michigan, Stanford and Illinois - would have a network strong enough to sustain a hiring strategy like this.
Of note: Western Michigan went 15-9 in those two seasons Shafer was defensive coordinator. He established relationships with more than half the staff on a decent team in the MAC, and few of them earned any P5 coaching experience after.
Theory #3: Other coaches (Steve Addazzio as one example) did not just hire their friends
Note: Much of Addazzio's staff moved over from Temple, so Temple is not included as a connection, because the BC staff is mostly a continuation of that staff.
Don Brown - DC (No connection)
Ryan Day - OC (Florida '05)
Ben Albert - DL (No connection, but connected to Brown through UMass)
Todd Fitch - WR (No connection)
Justin Frye - OL (Indiana as a player and Florida as an assistant)
Kevin Lempa - DB (No connection, hired back for his third stint at BC)
Frank Leonard - TE (No connection as coach, but played together at Central Connecticut)
Sean McGowan - ST (No connection)
Al Washington - RB (No connection, stayed on from previous staff)
Addazzio hired just two of his former coaching colleagues. Both are on the offensive side, where Addazzio has spent his career, and one is at the position he made his reputation on - offensive line. He also hired a former teammate in Leonard, who happens to have 30 years coaching experience, including tight ends coach for the St. Louis Rams.
Addazzio hired seven coaches who seem to have no direct connection to him. They do, however, have experience in the NFL and other legitimate programs.
Rather than push out existing coaches with no connections to him but strong connections to the school (read: Rob Moore), Addazzio hired Lempa, who had previously been on the BC staff years before, and allowed Washington to stay on to coach Andre Williams to a Heisman Trophy finalist season.
Had Addazzio hired nothing but former Syracuse, Notre Dame, Indiana and Florida coaches when he started, that wouldn't have raised eyebrows considering the profiles of those schools; instead he expanded his coaching search outside his previous connections.
Conclusion: Shafer needs to expand his network and change the coaching staff in order to be successful
There are really good coaches out there who weren't part of the Western Michigan staff in '05-'06. John posted more than a few of them on just the offensive side yesterday. If Shafer doesn't find some of them, a new Syracuse head coach might.