On Wednesday, FootballScoop.com rolled out a pair of candidates for Vanderbilt's vacant position at offensive coordinator. One, Mike Sanford Jr., was a name we saw coming. The other was one that we should have.
In keeping with a tradition of contacting coaches he's worked with, Derek Mason has reportedly expressed interest in bringing Stanford OC Mike Bloomgren to Nashville to coach his Commodores. Bloomgren is an up-and-coming assistant who shared the sideline with Mason in Palo Alto from 2011 to 2013. Before that, he rose up the ranks as an OC or assistant OC with Catawba College, Delta State University, and the NFL's New York Jets. After leading the team as Run Game Coordinator in 2011 and 2012, he got the call to fill the void Pep Hamilton left behind and took over the Cardinal offense in 2013. In two years at the helm, his team has gone 18-8 and defeated six top 25 opponents in that span.
However, a look at Stanford's offense under Bloomgren suggests that the Cardinal have actually taken a step back under the young coordinator's watch (warning: small sample sizes ahead).
|The Stanford run game under Bloomgren|
|The Stanford offense w/ Bloomgren as OC|
|Rank||Pass yards per game||Rank||Rush yards
Additionally, five of Bloomgren's six wins over ranked teams came in 2013. His Cardinal offense averaged only 13.4 points in their five losses this fall. That 7-5 record was Stanford's worst since 2008.
Despite those decreases, Bloomgren's 2014 statistics were still light years ahead of a Vandy team that averaged 288 total yards and 17.2 points per game. This year's Cardinal team was stung by the loss of four starting offensive lineman and tailback Tyler Gaffney, who had run for 1,709 yards the previous season. Without those five key components, SU's yards per carry dropped from 5.0 to 4.3 - a significant decline that played a role in this year's 7-5 season. As such, the statistics don't tell the full story here. Bloomgren still has considerable potential to succeed as a high-level coordinator.
But would he even be interested in a job in Nashville? Even a skilled debater would struggle to sell that as anything more than a lateral shift. He'd be leaving an established college football commodity to take a position at the program that wants nothing more than to become Stanford itself. Like Mike Sanford Jr. at Boise State, he'd also be leaving a pipeline that has turned coordinators into collegiate head coaches or NFL assistants. Consider this listing of Stanford assistants that reaches back to 2010:
|Coach||Stanford Position||Promoted to:|
|David Shaw||OC||Head Coach - Stanford|
|Pep Hamilton||OC||OC - Indianapolis Colts|
|Derek Mason||DC||Head Coach - Vanderbilt|
|Jason Tarver||DC||DC - Oakland Raiders|
It's a testament to that coaching tree that Bloomgren has already had his name tossed around in Twitter conversations linking him to head coaching vacancies at Oregon State and Wisconsin. Even though his offense underperformed in 2014, his Stanford roots have made him a commodity. That's something that Vanderbilt cannot offer.
While James Franklin had enough success to cash in at Penn State, he's the first VU head coach to move up the NCAA football hierarchy since Gerry DiNardo did it on the strength of a handful of 5-6 seasons in the early 1990s. The success rate for Commodore coordinators is even worse. Stanford holds a significant edge when it comes to football legacy and coaching prestige alike.
Once again, that leaves Vanderbilt with one last bargaining chip - money. Since Stanford is a private university, we don't know what exactly he's being paid (unlike Sanford Jr., who made $305k last year according to USA Today). Rumors have suggested that the Commodores are willing to pay up to $700,000 for a high level assistant who can turn last year's dumpster fire offense around. Bloomgren has been quiet on the subject so far, but the only two questions he'll have to consider (should the 'Dores make an offer) are these: is the potential pay raise of a trip to Nashville worth the headache of working with a new team that's coming off a 3-9 season? And can his stock as a coordinator survive if the transition to facing SEC defenses proves difficult early on?
Early returns suggest that Bloomgren isn't ready to leave Stanford just yet, but that doesn't mean Mason won't still be trying. In the meantime, the Stanford coordinator will have a lot more to think about than just his team's upcoming bowl game.