Troy Taylor is gone, and it’s not a matter of him wanting to be a head coach at a place like Sacramento State.
Not even close.
In keeping with Utah’s legacy of ever-revolving now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t offensive coordinators, Taylor is out of here because Kyle Whittingham wanted him out, according to people close to the program who know. Some will attempt to pretty the thing up, which is to say, power-wash the truth, but it’s just as plain as that.
Taylor wanted to spread the field, be creative, innovative and chuck the rock around. Whittingham wanted to simply ground-and-pound it, with a bit of passing sprinkled in.
The biggest question isn’t why the Utah head coach wanted his OC to leave. It’s why he hired him in the first place.
As recently as a month ago, Taylor was saying all the right things, which is to say, he was saying all the wrong things. He was playing the public relations game, putting a smiley face on a dysfunctional situation, being disingenuous about how happy he was at Utah, how he looked forward to staying here over the long haul, how he felt at home here, working for a head coach who allowed him to work his wonders, to conjure the kind of crafty offense he was meant to create.
This is what Taylor said: “Kyle is a guy who just wants production. He doesn’t really care how you get it done, he just wants you to be productive. I’d be crazy not to take advantage of that kind of mind. He gives input and it’s always good input. He just wants to be successful, like all high achievers. He lets me do my thing.”
And he added: “I really like driving this offense. I like watching guys improve. … I want to stay here. I love this place. I love the people. I love working for coach Whitt.”
Watch as Pinocchio’s nose blows through the window.
Actually, there was some truth mixed into that load of bull.
But Taylor was never going to stay here. He was going to join a long list — nine in 11 years — of former offensive coordinators at Utah, the place where guys who love running Whittingham’s offense are either fired or move on as quickly as they can.
This season’s Ute attack flipped around like a flounder in a hot frying pan, trying to pass, trying to run, trying to move the ball around, trying to emphasize power football. Sometimes it changed up in the same game, looking like entirely different offenses, such as in the loss to Washington State.
That structure of the O appeared as though it were a rope in a tug-of-war. On a few occasions, the whole endeavor ended up in the mud pit, particularly in games against Northern Illinois, during the second half in Pullman, Arizona State, in the first half against BYU, and in the two Washington games, especially the last one.
On other occasions, the attack soared, even when it faced injury and adversity. At the end, with a Rose Bowl invitation on the line, there’s one word that described Utah’s offensive effort in the Pac-12 championship game: Miserable.
Interestingly enough, when fellow Ute assistant Gary Andersen, now Utah State’s head coach, was asked to describe Taylor and his coaching performance this season, a month ago, he called him, “Steady Eddie.”
His offense was not steady.
It was terrible and terrific, more the latter than the former.
“Anytime you have a loss, or you’re not playing well,” Taylor said, “it can get pretty dark. But I’m pretty resilient. I usually wake up and feel better.”
In this case, Taylor woke up and took another job, one that will pay him considerably less than what he was making as the lead offensive dog at Utah. But … he had to go, was going to go, more sooner than later. Somebody sent him that message, a message he received.
When Whittingham was asked if he went to Taylor amid some of the undulations and ordered him to run the damn ball, what with Zack Moss in the backfield until he was injured, he … he …
Well, he laughed.
He did not answer the question directly, but he laughed out loud. Then, he said: “We’re on the same page there. You want to play to your strengths. We had Zack Moss and now we have Armand Shyne, and our offensive line is pretty physical. That’s something that we just do well.”
That’s what Whittingham wants to do well. And if that’s what he wants to do, then that’s what he should do. There’s no reason to hire an offensive chef like Taylor, then get frustrated and mad when he wants to concoct his delights and throw the ball around the kitchen.
No telling who that new offensive coordinator will be. Whittingham said he will embark on an extensive search. It could be Jim Harding, Utah’s current offensive line coach who has also taken on co-coordinator responsibilities in the past. It could be somebody else. Whoever it is, he’d best line up his philosophies and strategies not just with the talents of his players, but with the mindset and biases of his head coach, no matter what KW says in pre-hire interviews.
Whittingham has confessed he wants to improve his team’s passing game, but that does not mean he wants to become a passing team. He wants to use the pass as a nice accoutrement. At this point, he needs a lieutenant who agrees with him.
Enough of the tug-of-war, then. That battle did not derail a fine season this year, but what could, would the Utes do if everything — everything — flowed in unified harmony moving forward? That’s what Whittingham should hope and hire for. Unless that doesn’t work, either, and it makes everything worse.
Truth is, the man’s not an easy boss. At times, he’s got to be a pain to take direction from, a dark overlord. Like what Taylor said, Whittingham’s a high achiever who craves success, who wants production. Unlike what Taylor said, he does care about how you get it done.
That’s why Taylor will be coaching Sacramento State next season, and lieutenant No. 10 will be running the offense here, with emphasis on the word run.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.