The Colorado Buffaloes Need A Change In Philosophy, Not Coaching

By Zach Pugh

It has been ugly and fans of the Colorado Buffaloes are already calling for a change in Boulder. The Jon Embree era hasn’t turned out the way some had envisioned. The Irate fan popped up even as early as the loss to the CSU Rams the first game of the season, but is it really the coaching staff or just a problem with the overall philosophy?

To the credit of the fan who is already on a witch hunt to get Embree away from Folsom Field, the problem isn’t the losses, it’s the demeanor and effort of the team. And then there’s the issue that Embree didn’t even have experience as a coordinator before being hired as the man in Colorado. The boosters who hadn’t been on board with the hire from the beginning are now making a lot noise.

The Buffs have had their share of poor coaching. In 1979, Colorado brought in Chuck Fairbanks along with high expectations because Fairbanks came from the NFL. Sound familiar? Many remember Fairbanks from his two losses to Drake. Fairbanks’ tenure would kick-start the Buffaloes to six straight loosing seasons. Every Buff fan Knows about head coach Bill McCartney, but do you remember the lowest point of his coaching career?

In 1984, McCartney’s third season at the helm, the Buffs finished 1-10. What people fail to point out along with the 10 looses is that during the same time frame McCartney was able to bring in a recruiting class that would bring CU to a bowl game in 1985.

Is this to suggest that Embree, who was a part of the squad that finally took down the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 1986, is on the same path as coach McCartney? Absolutely not, but the point is McCartney led the Buffs to greatness; however, it did take some time. Let’s not get carried away, just because Embree pulled in a strong recruiting class for 2012, it doesn’t mean that if he gets more time he will lead the team to a bowl game, or as crazy as this might sound, a conference championship. But he does deserve more time beyond this season.

This is a process, it takes time, but it seems as though fans think the Buffs should already be racking up the wins. It’s been bad there’s no disputing that. In fact, Embree has already matched the amount of 20 or more point losses in 20 games that Dan Hawkins had in nearly five full seasons. You have to keep in mind that CU isn’t a program like the Texas Longhorns where anything less than a 10 win season is unacceptable. You need to take each season as a process especially with a new coaching staff.

What’s disturbing is just how far the talent gap is between Colorado and teams in the Pac-12. The Buffs don’t match up well against any team within the conference. Yes, the Buffs beat the Washington State Cougars earlier this season, but it’s the Cougars. The plan for the coaching staff was to use their NFL experience as a selling point to recruits and were able to pull in a solid class in 2012. The 2012 class ranked 36th nationally according to, but came in as the 8th best class in the Pac-12. So far in the 2013 class, the Buffs are still ranked 8th in the conference.

There’s nothing wrong with Embree and staff wanting to implement a pro-style offense using the ground game to wear down opponents, but they haven’t done a good job at all establishing a ground game. The plan is to slow the game down and control the clock. However, in a conference that has become deeper and faster recently, why not play into the trend? Recruit speed and play a quarterback that can sling the ball all over the field.

The common trend in the Pac-12 this season has been good quarterback play. Taylor Kelly, Matt Scott, Brett Hundley, Josh Nunes and even Keith Price have performed better than CU quarterback Jordan Webb. Matt Barkley and Marcus Mariota are in a class of their own, but Webb has been the least efficient quarterback in the conference.

The Buffs have one of the top high school quarterbacks from 2012 on their roster. Shane Dillon redshirted this season and has acknowledged that it has benefited him, but here’s a crazy thought. Give Dillon the reins next season and get him some speed on the outside to throw at. It might take a couple of years to bring in the right receivers, but Dillon was an elite-11 QB and obviously has talent. Success in the conference landscape requires a good reliable field general.

It’s been ugly, but maybe brighter days are ahead for CU.


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