I would like to start this article off with a big disclaimer: Bob Stitt is almost certainly not going to be Penn State's next offensive coordinator. It would take something miraculous for James Franklin to convince the Montana head coach to leave Missoula and come to Happy Valley. Hell, it would probably take a miracle for Franklin to go "hey you know who we should approach for our vacant offensive coordinator position? Bob Stitt." (UPDATE: miracles happen, I guess) The thought of a guy who has been a successful head coach in the lower levels of college football for more than a decade deciding that it's time to go to FBS as a coordinator doesn't make much sense – at the very least, there's no precedent for it as far as I can tell. Plus he's only spent a year at Montana, and it seems like a stretch that he'd leave after a year to become a coordinator somewhere else. Basically, what I'm saying is "Penn State offensive coordinator Bob Stitt" seems like it's not possible.
Having said all of that, having conceded that this scenario is not going to happen, the best possible option for Penn State's offensive coordinator position is Stitt. Why? Well, because Stitt is the single best offensive mind in all of football, and adding him as an offensive coordinator would be the smartest move that any team with an offensive coordinator vacancy could do.
I would give you all Stitt's backstory, but why should I do it when I can just have him enlighten you, the loyal reader? So here is Bob Stitt, on Bob Stitt, for all of you, the hopeful future Stitthead:
As you can see, Bob Stitt the person is fantastic, the kind of guy that you want to cheer for partly because he would happily show up at your office and return the favor a day later. He loves football, he loves coaching, and he loves winning lots of games. He also loves throwing together an offense that is designed to be as successful as possible based on the skills of the players he is coaching, something that a lot of Nittany Lion fans clamored for during the John Donovan era. The mothership did an excellent write up on the first game of the Stitt era at Montana, which you should read immediately. If you can't, here are the basic talking points:
- Stitt came up with a variation of a fly sweep where the QB throws a touch pass to his receiver because he wanted to get rid of some of the risk that came from handing the ball off. He wanted something foolproof, so he made it, and as any Clemson fan will tell you, it works.
- Stitt encourages man coverage by defense. Yes, he tries to dictate what the defense does by spreading guys so wide that, if you attempt to play zone, you're cooked. You have to play man, and two of the key plays in his playbook – the back shoulder throw and the wide receiver tunnel screen – are designed to beat your man-to-man.
- When teams go man-to-man against the ultra-wide sets, Stitt runs the ball. His five linemen against your five linemen and then not much else. Let's get weird.
- If you go zone, he is going to blow you up with his passing game, because he's Bob F'ing Stitt, and that's what he does.
- Play as fast as possible. It's hard for defenses to be comfortable when you are making them uncomfortable.
- When necessary, go old school.
Now, you may be a bit leery of point number five. Don't worry, so is Stitt. In fact, this dude wants to run as many plays as possible over the course of a football game. His offense routinely runs 100+ plays in a game, because he doesn't want to score to quickly and he wants to wear defenses down. His team at Colorado School of Mines had a drive where it ran 24 plays. TWENTY. FOUR. PLAYS. That's so outstandingly insane that I would sell a kidney just to be in the stadium to watch that happen.
The last Stitt philosophy thing I want to get into: the dude has the most abstract view on fourth downs this side of that one coach in Arkansas who never punts. His exact quote is "you've got four downs, you might as well use them." Sure, if it's fourth-and-eight from your own 11 yard line, Stitt will want to punt, because he's not a crazy person. But when he's in the position to: A) get a fourth down conversion and B) not jeopardize his defense's ability to get a stop too much, you can bet your bottom dollar that Stitt will want to send his offense out there one more time in an attempt to positively impact the football game. In his eyes, if you go for it on fourth down and get it, you just got a turnover and made life that much harder on the opposing defense.
So as you can see, Stitt doesn't mess around. He does a lot of funky stuff, but he does it all because he wants to present defenses with things they have never seen before in an attempt to throw them off their game. He wants to win, and if he can get the job done with guys from the Colorado School of Mines and Montana, why shouldn't we believe that he'd be able to make it work at Penn State? If he is able to turn wide receivers who run 4.8s and 4.9s into successful receivers, imagine what he could do with Chris Godwin or DaeSean Hamilton or Saeed Blacknall or *needs to lay down because I'm getting dizzy*. And if you're worried about him getting too pass happy, don't worry: Montana has thrown the ball 505 times this year and ran the ball 499 times. Besides, after all you've read, do you honestly think that Stitt would ever get one-dimensional?
At this point, after like 1,000 words of rambling, let me get into Stitt's path from "regular guy" to "offensive coaching legend." A native of Nebraska and a former running back at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, Stitt has been coaching ever since 1990. He began as the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Doane, moved on to become the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/special teams coach at Austin College, then got his big break as Harvard's offensive coordinator for one year.
Stitt then moved on to become the head coach at Colorado School of Mines in 2000, where he ran a power running game for a year, realized that was a bad idea, then went to the stuff mentioned above. Not only did it work, but Stitt turned CSM into a consistently above-.500 program (which, for an engineering school Mines, is a huge deal) with a few postseason appearances. As one CSM graduate told me, "What he achieved there is beyond remarkable given how bad we were for decades."
He stayed there for 14 years, and in 2015, made the jump to FCS by taking the job at Montana. The Grizzlies are a very respectable 8-4, partly due to their quarterback suffering an injury that kept him out for a few games, and were in the top-50 in FCS in a few offensive categories, including passing offense (24th), scoring offense (30th) and red zone offense (45th). This, again, was without the services of his starting quarterback – who, by the way, led FCS in passing yards when he was sidelined – from the middle of September to the middle of November.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that after watching two years of boring, predictable, by-the-book offense from Penn State, let's get weird. Let's get a guy who wants to run an offense that has inspired coaches like Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen, the kind of offense that, when paired with Bob Shoop's defense, can lead to wild success for the Nittany Lions.
Most importantly, let's give Penn State's coaches the opportunity to learn for a few years from one of the most highly-regarded offensive minds in the game. Guys like Ricky Rahne and Josh Gattis can be great offensive coordinators someday, and it would help them a lot if they got to spend a few years studying from a guy like Stitt before their opportunity comes up. Even Franklin, someone who has come under fire from being a bit too by-the-book when it comes to his decision making, could learn something from a guy who philosophy is delightfully aggressive and forward-thinking.
After reading all of this, I hope that you sincerely became intrigued by the thought of a thing that will not happen. Getting this guy on the sidelines would be the home run to end all home runs, so while the odds of it occurring are astronomical, it's a fun scenario to imagine. If anything, I hope that you'll read this, then on Saturday when Montana and North Dakota State (who you may recall from that story from the mothership I linked to earlier) play in the second round of the FCS Football Championship at 3:30 p.m. on ESPN3, you'll throw it on and watch this mad genius go to work.
Oh, and before I go: Bob Stitt wants to play against Ohio State.
Probably should think about bringing a Big 10 team to Golden for a $ game! Orediggers vs. Buckeyes needs to happen! pic.twitter.com/QMpMcePk76— Bob Stitt (@CoachBobStitt) December 7, 2014
We might as well give the man the opportunity he wants, no?