Addazio Needs to Start Coaching Like His Job Depends on It

Steve Addazio

In Return of the Jedi, when the rebels travel to the forest moon of Endor to disable the shield and destroy the second, incomplete Death Star, everything seems to be going according to plan at first. Han and Leia seem to gain control of an imperial station controlling the shield above Endor, the rebel fleet prepares to surprise imperial forces with an attack, and Luke goes off to confront Darth Vader and try to convince him back to the light side of the force.

But then everything descends into chaos all at once, as the rebels realize they’ve been tricked (like Admiral Ackbar said, “It’s a trap!”). Han and Leia are faced with an army of stormtroopers, the rebel fleet is engaged in battle with imperial forces above Endor, Luke is forced to fight Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine reveals that the Death Star, while unfinished, is actually operational, and that all of the rebels will be killed.

That was sort of what it felt like to watch Boston College football’s crushing loss to the University of Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon, except in the end, the Eagles didn’t come from behind and destroy the second Death Star. Instead, after battling the Fighting Irish evenly and competitively in the first half, BC completely collapsed in the second half. The Emperor and his stormtroopers stomped all over the Eagles en route to a 49-20 blowout victory in the Holy War.

Man, it was a painful game to watch, exacerbated by the fact that it looked like BC could actually win for the entire first half and some of the third quarter. When it got ugly, it got really ugly, though, and things went downhill fast. As fans left the stadium in the fourth quarter while Notre Dame continued to build up its lead, it was hard to be optimistic about BC’s chances this season.

Here is a fact: Head coach Steve Addazio is in the fifth year of his self-proclaimed five-year rebuilding plan. Here is another fact: This season will determine his future with the program. Sure, he’s brought the Eagles to three bowl games in four years, delivering their first win since 2007. But BC has accumulated a 22-29 record during his time on the Heights, including a 10-23 mark against ACC opponents. If Addazio delivers a good season, he stays on his current contract, which runs through 2020. If BC struggles, new Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond, who most recently worked at The Ohio State University, may consider making a change. It is that simple.

A season-opening victory against Northern Illinois has been followed by blowout home losses to Wake Forest and Notre Dame. Next week, BC heads to No. 3 Clemson, and unless the Eagles pull off the upset of the century, it’s a safe bet they’ll start the season off at 1-3. Addazio’s all-important season is upon him, and he needs to deliver better results soon.

One decision that has been heavily scrutinized was Addazio’s choice to let time run out at the end of the first half with two timeouts and the ball around midfield. Observers made their displeasure known with boos and tweets, shocked that Addazio wouldn’t even take a shot downfield or try to move into field goal range.

“Is there a right or wrong answer? I don’t know,” Addazio said after the game, defending his decision. “Yeah, you take the shot and you score, it’s the right answer. You throw a pick and you get a strip fumble and it’s the wrong answer.”

He revealed that he was conflicted about the decision, but ultimately felt that it was the best option to let time run out and head into halftime without demoralizing redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Brown.

Later in the same response, though, Addazio seemed to contradict what he’d already said about protecting Brown’s psyche.

“You know, you play the percentages, and that’s what we did,” Addazio said.

To me, that means he took what he perceived to be the safe bet.

Addazio shouldn’t be choosing the safe or cautious option, though. He’s coaching under a microscope, and it can’t be easy, but the safe bet isn’t the right bet when you have to deliver results to a new AD and an increasingly exasperated fan base. Take the shot downfield. At the very least, try to get into field goal range. And if you don’t want to give Colton Lichtenberg, who is 6-for-6 thus far, a shot from far away, let kickoff specialist Maximilian Schulze-Geisthovel try for a 50-yard field goal.

After the two-minute drill at Northern Illinois, it seemed as though Addazio’s clock management had improved from seasons past. With just a couple of minutes left in the half, Addazio called timeouts after three successive Northern Illinois rushing attempts, allowing the offense time to prepare and execute a drive down the field. Now, two games later, he reverted right back to his old ways, to the disbelief and anger of the fans. Addazio publicly put faith in Brown in the season-opener, but a couple of weeks later was so worried about a sack fumble that he opted not to take a chance at all.

If he was that conflicted or torn about the choice, he could’ve called a timeout to buy time to think it through—after all, he had two left. If he still felt like it was the best choice to go into halftime without taking another shot, at least he would’ve had time to process his decision. Taking a timeout and then failing to run a play would’ve looked just as odd as letting time run out without taking a timeout, and then Addazio could’ve defended his choice with stronger reasoning after the game.

Would it have made a big difference if BC had run a play and found the end zone at the end of the first half? Possibly, but it probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game. To say that it was a game-defining play is blowing it out of proportion. What makes the play so significant, though, is that it represents everything that fans have criticized about Addazio’s coaching—cautiousness, poor clock management, unpopular play-calling, and staunch defense of decisions that fans find mind-boggling.

Addazio is coaching for his job right now. It’s time he started acting like it.

Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor

About Annabel Steele 106 Articles
Annabel is the associate sports editor for The Heights. She is from DC and spends her free time trying to memorize every episode of LOST, the greatest show in the history of television.
  • Fukowi

    Any definition of “premature” should include the unnecessary contract extension given by Bates to Addazio as an example. Addazio is the highest paid employee of this university by a wide margin making well over $2MM a year in cash and probably more so when you value the rolled up benefits. As the money goes up – the patience goes down. You want to make that money – then you have to deliver. My patience ran out a long time ago with this coach. Good article.