After two straight 5-7 seasons, I think it's fair to say that a majority of the Northwestern fan base — or at least, a majority of Northwestern internet — wants to see a change at offensive coordinator. That's a stark change from two years ago, when the Wildcats' offense was the team's strong point and many people were calling for the head of defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz.
But in the past two years, the offense and defense have gone in different trajectories. The defense has improved as more talent has come into the program, and it's set up nicely to continue to be successful in the coming years. But under Mick McCall, the offense hasn't improved, despite an overall talent increase. That has been particularly true in a few areas:
- McCall is the quarterbacks coach, and although he has done a very good job developing quarterbacks in the past (Mike Kafka, Dan Persa and Kain Colter, namely) he failed to develop a great quarterback this season. Trevor Siemian seemed to regress, and neither Zack Oliver, nor Matt Alviti — a four-star recruit who had some very good offers — were ready for action.
- The offensive line didn't develop well and wasn't used to the strengths of the personnel. The development part might not be on McCall directly, but the fact that he tried to use a bunch of smaller spread guys to aid a power run games at times was a bad idea.
- To that note, McCall's experiment with this hybrid spread/power offense was a disaster. NU abandoned it toward the end of the year, and that helped, but it may have cost the Wildcats early season games against Cal and Northern Illinois. Win those games, and NU is 7-5 this year, which given the injuries and lack of development, isn't all that bad.
So after those failures, which are pretty indisputably failures, and after two straight seasons of 5-7, people want McCall fired. And I completely understand. You see failures, and when people fail at their jobs, they're generally replaced. But it's not like McCall has always been a bad offensive coordinator. In fact, he was a very good one when he had Kafka, Persa and Colter, and he showed an incredible flexibility to change his offense based on his personnel — Kafka was a passer, Persa was a hybrid and Colter was a runner. All of them were good at both running and passing, but McCall brought out all of their strengths.
There's a legitimate argument that McCall didn't just forget how to coach offense, and that he just had some bad luck — he made a bad decision to try to mix in the pro-style offense, Trevor Siemian really was more injured than we thought and Oliver and Alviti just didn't work out, as some recruits don't. The talent level on offense, particularly at the skill positions, is improving, and from everything we've seen in practice, there's a very legitimate possibility that Northwestern's quarterback play will improve next year with Clayton Thorson at the helm.
So here's my question: Why do you want to fire Mick McCall? Is it because you're angry and you want someone to be held responsible, or is it actually because you think the program would be better off?
There really isn't a right answer here, but it's something interesting to think about. There have been times I've been angry at coaches of the teams I cheer for, hoping they get fired for screwing up and don't get a chance to redeem themselves, even though I know they'll probably win in the coming years. Then there have been other coaches I've wanted fired because I legitimately thought the teams would be better with someone else. It's just how we're wired as sports fans, but it's important to make that distinction.
Personally, I find it unlikely that Mick McCall won't be able to put together an offense that can help NU win at least 8 or 9 games at some point in the next three years with Clayton Thorson, Justin Jackson, Solomon Vault, Auston Anderson, Cameron Dickerson, Miles Shuler, Cameron Green, Mike McHugh, Andrew Scanlan, etc. Though that isn't to say a new offensive coordinator running a spread couldn't be just as successful after a one-year adjustment period.
If you disagree, that's perfectly reasonable. But if you want McCall fired, try to think if it's because you want blood, or if it's because you don't think he can be successful at NU in the future.