BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes explains why continuity ‘makes a huge difference’
Grimes is confident having his staff together for multiple seasons will pay off in 2020.
PROVO — John Beck will wonder all his life what his college and NFL careers could have been if he’d had the luxury of working under the same offensive coordinators for the duration he took to the field.
As it turned out, he played under systems created by Gary Crowton/Robbie Bosco/Todd Bradford and then Robert Anae. Then, when he got to the NFL, the team that drafted him, Miami, cratered. After arriving at Washington, there was an NFL players’ strike that disrupted the promised plans of Mike Shanahan and Beck. The ever-changing approaches and adaptations he experienced as a player still haunt him today.
But Beck, who has worked extensively for three years as BYU junior QB Zach Wilson’s throwing motion coach, sees Wilson and other BYU QBs benefitting from an offense and leadership that has some continuity.
“It makes a huge difference to have the same coordinator in an offense,” said Beck. “It is huge.”
Current BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes believes his system is taking root and has momentum.
This week I asked Grimes, who is in his third year, why this might be so important having himself, Aaron Roderick, Fesi Sitake and Steve Clark all in place since 2017 when he arrived from LSU.
Grimes called it very important — not only for the players but also for the coaches — and said it impacts what the team does, how they do it, and what plays are conjured up in planning for game week, a season and in the heat of battle.
“Two things I would say about that: The first thing, and probably the most important, is coaches being wise enough to make decisions about how much you can do. There’s a balance in your system. Doing as much as you can to present problems for a defense, but not so much that it becomes overly complex and something that you can’t execute consistently,” said Grimes.
Beck saw this early in his college career when Crowton, whom he loved, would sometimes call plays he knew would really stress a defense, but his young offense hadn’t worked enough in perfecting to execute at the level needed. He also experienced Anae in his first game as a coordinator against Boston College calling the same formation over and over again, hoping for perfection on a small piece of the pie but getting just 3 points in the 20-3 loss at home to open 2005.
Grimes spoke to that challenge.
“The next thing is a coaching staff being wise enough to select the plays that your players can execute the best, doing what your players can do better than anyone else. It makes no difference what play I like or what route, or what route Fesi likes. It is what can our players do better than other things.”
In the past two seasons, Grimes believes he has been able to identify those plays and can now plug in players who can execute them at a high level. It helps to have a returning offensive line, an experienced running back like Lopini Katoa, a tight end like Matt Bushman and three QBs who have started games including Wilson, now in his third year in the system.
“Those are the things that I think we’ve settled on better than we have at any time since I’ve been here,” he said.
“I think we know our players better than we’ve known them before, and part of that goes along with us being here longer and growing with the players. We’ve got players coming back that we’ve been working with for a couple of years.
“And so I think that gives us greater knowledge of their skill set as they’ve grown and progressed, so now we know a little bit more about what that system will look like. So when we bring the young guys in and inject that youthful talent, we’re bringing them into a system, hopefully, that’s a little more stable than it might have been our first year.
“There’s not as much fluctuation and formations in the play calls or the presentation that we might give and I think it certainly helps for us to have experienced players but also a coaches staff coming back that’s been together for a couple of years.”
“I think we know our players better than we’ve known them before, and part of that goes along with us being here longer and growing with the players.” — Jeff Grimes
Back in the day, once Anae’s execution-based philosophy took root, both Beck and his replacement Max Hall enjoyed a lot of victories and huge memorable plays in the last wins over rival Utah.
Since then, in the last decade, QBs like Jake Heaps, Riley Nelson, James Lark, Christian Stewart, Taysom Hill, Tanner Magnum, Beau Hoge, Koy Detmer Jr., Joe Critchlow and Wilson have been coordinated by Anae, Brandon Doman, Anae 2.0, Ty Detmer and Grimes.
That QB position has also experienced serious injuries, many of the season-ending variety.
Talking injuries sounds like excuses, but it is a real factor and has been just that with BYU. Even last year, the Cougars went through three starting QBs.
Grimes’ Year 3 is 2020.
It’s already been some kind of year and nobody’s played a game.
Let’s hope he and his troops get a season to prove these theories.