What Makes a Good Offense?

Cougar DigestContributor IDecember 14, 2008

What makes a good offense?


In 2001, BYU football fans experienced a dramatic change in the team that they had followed for the past 29 years. With the hiring of Gary Crowton, fans were treated to a high powered, aggressive, spread offense utilized by standout players such as Luke Staley, Brandon Doman, and Reno Mahe.

If you look at the 2001 team, you will realize that they were stacked with a very talented depth chart on both offense and defense. Coach Crowton was an offensive genius, and walked into any coach’s dream of running a successful spread offense.

BYU led the nation in almost every offensive category, and Luke Staley finished the season as the best running back in College Football, winning the Doak Walker Award. Both Staley and Brandon Doman were Heisman Trophy candidates throughout the season.

What If

What if you were to take away Luke Staley and Brandon Doman from that offense? Can we imagine that the Cougars would have produced similar results with Charlie Peterson and a healthy Brian McDonald? All we can say is …maybe. I mean, who knows?

Following the 2001 season, Doman graduated and went on to the NFL along with Luke Staley who declared himself for the draft a year early. What happened to BYU’s offense and Gary Crowton during the next 3 seasons? We all know what happened. Do we even want to talk about it?


What is the difference between the 2001 team and the teams that couldn’t go above .500 for three straight years after ’01? I see only one difference. The quarterback.

To make a successful Gary Crowton offense, you need to have that special ingredient to allow it to taste just right. That ingredient is the person lining up behind the center.

Brandon Doman was able to get things done and win games through the air and on the ground. We saw several examples of this. When you have a dual threat “Tim Tebow” style quarterback, Crowton’s offense is much more productive and dangerous.

Could you rely on Brandon Doman or Tim Tebow to effectively run a Texas Tech offense? Could you rely on John Beck or Colt Brennan to be the dangerous weapon to Coach Urban Meyer’s wild option run and gun offense? When it’s the fourth quarter, and the game is on the line, you want that perfect ingredient. During 2002-04, BYU and Gary Crowton lacked that perfect ingredient.

Stepping Down

I have the utmost respect for Coach Crowton. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is an offensive mastermind and a genius to the game. But why did not succeed during the losing years of BYU football? What was the cause to the “Great Apostasy”?

Obviously, we understand that the reason Gary Crowton wasn’t successful is because of the lack of players he needed for his offense. Fans were getting frustrated, and while the short tenure of Coach Crowton was fun at first, the memories of LaVell Edwards were being greatly missed. It was time for a restoration. Coach Gary Crowton resigned following the 2004 season and BYU hired Bronco Mendenhall as head coach and Robert Anae as offensive coordinator.

New Offense

In 1972 when LaVell Edwards was hired to be the head coach at BYU, what was the first thing he did? He went out and found a new offensive coordinator. When critics and fans look at the success of BYU’s passing game, they tend to give LaVell Edwards all the credit. Sure, he guided and presided over BYU’s successful program, but the actual offensive masterminds were the ones wearing the headsets and holding the clipboards.

The men running the show were names like Dewey Warren, Doug Scovill, and Norm Chow. They consistently pumped out conference championship teams and All-American quarterbacks and tight ends.

Why? Because they were consistent. They weren’t trying to re-invent the wheel. They had the mechanics. They had the ingredients. Crowton didn’t. So what did Bronco Mendenhall due when he was handed the whistle and clipboard in December of 2004?

Texas Tech

Why is Texas Tech so successful on offense? Simple. They are consistent. They don’t try and pull something new out. They see what works, and continue to do it.

Every year, they are at the top of the nation in passing and total offense. They have winning records and go to bowl games. They have top recruits and speed. They have all-conference quarterbacks and wide receivers.

Does that sound familiar? Maybe Provo, Utah from about the 1970’s through the 1990’s? If you were a BYU fan, would you want to have that kind of success back? That kind of consistency?

Bronco wanted it back. So he called up former BYU Football alumni Robert Anae and bought him a one way ticket to Provo, tossed him an empty notebook and said, “Write me a playbook. Oh, and by the way, you’re hired.”


When we look back at the 2005 season, we recognize it was the transition period from Crowton offense to the brand new Robert Anae offense. Crisp passing, accurate routes, more yards, more attempts, more touchdowns, more wins. The Cougars were starting to look like the ones we remember from the glory days.

The next three years would be summed up in one word: consistent. The Cougs reeled off two conference titles and four straight bowl games. Consecutive all conference quarterbacks and three straight double digit win seasons. Who can we credit it to? I guess what you are wondering is what the theme to this blog is.

Blame Game

Over the past few weeks, I have heard lots of criticism in the direction of Coach Anae. If you look at all that he has done for this program, you would understand that he is a valuable piece to all the recent and “consistent” success BYU has had and will have in the future.

Looking back at BYU’s history, you see a bunch of two- or three-loss seasons over the years, and only one undefeated. Sometimes I think as BYU fans we get a little too impatient. We want that undefeated season now.

If we don’t get it, we want to immediately find someone to blame. Many BYU fans have pointed the blame towards Coach Anae. They look right past the consistent success that we have seen. No one looks at the defense, or lack of talent, or injuries, or opponents, etc. It’s time to start being humble. Let us be grateful for what we have.

A Successful Offense

If you look back at the last four years of BYU football, ask yourself these questions: Have you seen consistent success in BYU’s offense? Has it improved? Do we see future improvement?

Right now, I sleep happy knowing that Coach Robert Anae is holding the clipboard. And you should be too.


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