"Tressel-Ball" Under Fire: Ohio State's Bad Coaching Equals Bad Offense

Tom HammerContributor INovember 16, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 14:  Head coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes checks his notes as the Buckeyes play the Iowa Hawkeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

As a football enthusiast and Ohio State Buckeye critic I believe it is my right and responsibility to call out what I see as "BAD" offensive football coaching without coming off as a spoiled fan with a bias towards exciting football.

And up front I want to say this isn't about Jim Tressel and whether or not he is the right guy for this football program. 

Jim Tressel is a hell of a football coach, end of story. And anybody calling for his head really needs to take a breath and gain some perspective.

However, I feel like I am 100% justified to say he has been a poor offensive coach this year.

"Tressel-ball" to many Ohio State fans means coaching in a conservative manner that relies on a stout defense and good special teams while minimizing offensive mistakes to win football games. 

This formula has been extremely successful for coach Jim Tressel and nobody can argue the resume. Once again, the right HEAD coach is in place at THE Ohio State University.

But the offensive scheming, the play calling and general management of the offensive side of the ball has been head scratching on one end and infuriating on the other.  And that goes beyond "Tressel-ball".

This goes beyond "conservative" or "low risk" or "cautious" or even "defensive" play calling.

If avoiding turn overs and allowing your defense and special teams to win the game is your strategy (eg. Tresselball) that doesn't mean that you have to forfeit your offensive possessions.

Doesn't an offensive coordinator have the responsibility to at least attempt to maximize the possessions they get during the game in order to be called successful??

Isn't getting first downs and controlling the ball a key piece to a conservative strategy?

There are ways to scheme and to execute offensively even within the constraints of a conservative game plan.

But week in and week out I watch this offense and I truly believe there is no scheming going on here it is just plain ol' stubborn play calling where you line up in the same formation(s) and run the exact same play.

I'm not saying you have to be deceptive to run a good offense but when these division one defensive coordinators have all week to game plan against you and they see you run the same set of 3 or 4 plays over 85% of the time, believe me their guys will be in position to stop those same plays.

I have a friend in the coaching profession and he heard through the grapevine from a Big 10 coach that Ohio State is the easiest team to defensively scheme against in the conference and probably the nation.

I believe that 100%. I sit on my couch and broadcast the play as soon as I see the formation. It is that easy.

Let me use an example. When they line up in the shotgun formation and the running back is on the left or right side of TP, or even if there are two backs on both sides, they run the zone blocking off tackle run to the halfback every time.

Now, that in of itself, is not a bad play BUT the whole key to that play being successful is for the QB to play out the fake because the QB has a zone read on that play where he can read the end, pull the ball out and run the ball the opposite way. OSU never lets Pryor actually keep the zone read.

A guy with TP's running ability should be keeping the ball on the zone read more the 70% of the time on that play. OSU does it 2%. I've seen him keep the zone read maybe 3 times the whole year. Half the time he doesn't even carry out the fake.

TP's technique in even carrying out the fake is really hard to watch.  A guy with 4.3 speed, and the scheme doesn't call for the defense to respect him in a shot-gun zone read play? That is poor coaching.

Further, there are ways to emphasize the run through aggressive and smart scheming. Tressel prefers to line up exactly how the other team expects and run the exact play that they run over 80% out of that formation.

Against teams with lesser talent, you can still move the ball and win playing this way which is why the Buckeyes will win the Big 10 this year.

Look, I'm not saying he has to be tricky or innovative even for heavens sake, but give your athletes a chance to succeed and make plays that lead to first downs and points.

Isn't the goal on offense to score points? I think that goal gets lost in the frame of game management often times and what it does is it limits your ability to "finish" opponents and in return the other team always has a fighting chance.

I realize these are basic arguments against "Tressel-ball" but again this is less against conservatism and more towards just plain bad offense.

I understand Tressel doesn't want turnovers but there are ways to avoid turnovers other then running THE SAME TWO RUNNING PLAYS OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

An offensive coach should be evaluated and judged by how the offensive unit is playing and the key metrics should be A.) Points and B.) Execution.

Nobody that has watched the Buckeyes play offense this year can say they've been effective in either case.

It's hard to execute when the other team knows what's coming.  And it's hard to score points when you can't execute.

I equate it to my basketball days when you were running plays in practice that you called out and your teammates knew what was coming so they just "played the play"

I can count over a dozen times last Saturday where Iowa just played the play.

Tressel's wins and losses and big 10 titles and national championship appearances speak loudly enough where anyone suggesting that he be fired should be mocked and labeled a bad fan or critic.

But that doesn't mean fans can't be critical of bad offensive coaching because trust me, eventually it will catch up in the form of a bad loss. Heck, it has several times in his career and two times this year.

It mystifies me as to why he had so much success running an offense with Troy Smith, an athletic QB, in the past but can't seem to grasp how to use Pryor.  Yea, I understand Smith was an extremely accurate thrower but that doesn't mean the whole playbook goes away.

In this instance, I really feel like one player, Pryor, has crippled Tressel to the point where he just flat out doesn't trust him on the field running the offense and he refuses to scheme for this kid to be successful.

I do see improvement with Pryor in the passing game and that is encouraging but I still maintain there are ways to scheme for him with his current skill set and still have an explosive offense.

And I believe this could be done without totally reconstructing your offensive philosophy.  It could be accomplished with some smart play calling that utilizes Pryor's feet and keeps the defense off-balance.

In the end, I'm sure this will be read as somebody venting because they are a Tressel-ball hater and that is fine and dandy.

Or, the "fire Tressel" crowd will speak up and be heard with some irrational ideas and demands.

All I'm interested in seeing is better offensive coaching on many levels because in the end there are two sides to the ball. Why not coach well on both ends?

I guess I have to include some suggestions on how to improve and at the macro-level my first thought is that Tressel needs to find an offensive coordinator he trusts who is familiar with scheming with the tools they have in place this year and for the foreseeable future.

I also always feel that the play calling should be left to folks in the booth who have a good view of what the defense is doing on the field. I'm sure somebody who saw Iowa full fledged selling out to stop the run on any of those drives in the fourth quarter would have suggested play action vs. continuing to run the I-right dive right.

In summary, it's not "Tressel-ball" that should be blamed for the offensive futility it is just plan and simple B-A-D offensive football coaching and execution.