Saturday, January 1, 2011

Devil's Advocate: Gary Tranquill

Since I'm studying to be a lawyer, and since I enjoy a good heated argument, I decided to start a series in which I take on conventional wisdom and play the role of devil's advocate. First up: a defense (of sorts) of our very own Gary Tranquill.

Both on this site and in the BC blogosphere in general, no man has come under more scorn and criticism than Offensive Coordinator Gary "NyQuil" Tranquill. Tranq (this guy's name really lends itself to disparaging nicknames, doesn't it?) has been largely blamed for the offensive struggles BC has faced the last two years - a little unfairly, in my opinion. After the jump are three reasons why BC fans might want to put down the pitchforks and torches when it comes to Tranq:

QB Inconsistency: While the offense has undeniably sputtered since the departure of Jags and future NFL Hall of Famer Matt Ryan (yeah, I said it), Tranquill doesn't deserve all the blame. The play of Dave Shinskie, Mike Marscovetra, and even Chase Rettig has been poor at best these last two years. Are Tranq's offensive schemes to blame, or is he simply calling plays the QBs can handle? When OC at North Carolina in the earlier part of the decade, he likewise was saddled with consistently subpar QBs that couldn't hold down a starting job. The fact that Tranq seemed more willing to let Rettig air out a few passes in the later part of this season suggests his play calling was more a sign of a coach knowing his players' limitations than of an old man asleep in the booth (although that's always a possibility). Would Tranq have called the same plays if Ryan was still taking classes on the Heights? Hard to know, but at least some of the blame for BC's offensive woes has to lay at the feet of its quarterbacks.

Head Coach: Let's face it: Spaz is a conservative guy by nature. His defenses have always been of the "bend, don't break" variety and his personality is on the dour side. Is it really that surprising, then, that the offense during his tenure as head coach has been likewise extremely conservative? Since Spaz is a former defensive coordinator, it's likely he's left much of the offensive duties to Tranquill. Nevertheless, Spaz is the head coach and gets final say: if he wanted a high-flying passing attack game plan, we'd see it (or at least an attempt at it). Instead, we get a heavy emphasis on the run and screen passing. Spaz especially should shoulder most of the blame for poor game decisions (rarely going for it on fourth down even when a field goal or punt will be useless) and poor clock management (time-eating drives when we need quick touchdowns). These issues are a head coach's responsibility. If Spaz had hired some other OC, would we be seeing more risk-taking and big plays from the offense? Given Spaz's conservative tendencies, I doubt it.

The Defense: This might seem counter-intuitive, given that Tranq is the offensive coordinator, but the defense factors into Tranq's overall performance in a major way. Because the talent on offense is limited at best while our defensive talent is quite good, a conservative approach might be best. BC can more easily run on third-and-long if they are confident the defense can stop the other team if the offense doesn't get that first down. It's at least possible that Tranquill might have taken more chances if we had a porous defense that allowed the opposing team to score at will.

Don't get me wrong. I fully believe Tranquill should be fired (at the very least, it will give us more to talk about on this blog). I just think that BC's offense would probably have underwhelmed these past two years regardless of who the offensive coordinator was. Tranquill makes an easy scapegoat, but BC fans should be prepared for more of the same until we can settle on a long-term QB that feels comfortable throwing downfield (the jury's still out on Rettig, in my opinion) and until Spaz decides to start channeling his inner Jags and take some risks.


  1. Interesting take. I agree that Tranquill is part of the problem, not the whole problem (but he is a pretty major part at that).

    The other thing is that if we're waiting for Spaz to emulate Jags, we're going to be waiting for a while. About the only good thing I can say about his performance as HC is that he can recruit.

  2. If you want to talk about BC offense, I don't think you could possibly underplay the absolutely rotten QB situation plaguing the Eagles for the past two seasons. Yeah, Tranq's hand-it-to-Harris-and-run-it-up-the-middle type offense was predictable and embarrassing (ND game, anyone?), and like you say it's hard to say what we would have looked like had Matty Ice been at the helm, but to be fair you can't exactly make lemonade when life hands you a lemon like Shinskie. When you can't rely on a QB to make easy plays, you aren't left with many choices.

    My opinion? Don't hate the guy, but fire him. Hopefully he'll get a better crop of guys to work with wherever he goes next and can make a better name for himself. 'Till then, we need a less predictable offense with some diversity.

    On an unrelated note, I've been checking the blog for the past few days and it looks great! I like what I see, so keep up the good work! Best of luck to you all as 2011 picks up.

  3. Two years ago, Shinskie had a very good game against ND until the last interception. He regressed terribly this year. That goes on the shoulders of Tranquill. Rettig is very good but forced to play ahead of his time. There is no backup. Who will that be? What if he gets hurt? Harris ran the ball "until he died". What kind of offense is that? There is no diversity. BC runs its offense like its a "Chinese fire drill". The defense is very good but you can't win when its 0-0.

  4. Shinskie having one good game two years ago and then performing poorly does not count as "regression" in my book, it counts as a fluke. Tranquill obviously deserves some of the blame for the bland playcalling, but again, I think Spaz deserves some of that blame as well.


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