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Hello: Josh Gattis, Apparent Offensive Coordinator Comment Count

Brian January 10th, 2019 at 3:39 PM

Per Chris Vannini, Michigan's filled a hole they don't appear to have:

Michigan: Alabama co-offensive coordinator / wide receivers coach Josh Gattis will be named offensive coordinator at Michigan, people with direct knowledge of the situation tell The Athletic’s Chris Vannini and Bruce Feldman. Gattis spent one year at Alabama and previously worked at Penn State. At Alabama, Gattis directed one of the top wide receiver groups in college football.

Compounding the oddity here is that Maryland hired him three hours ago.

Gattis is a 34-year-old who played safety at Wake Forest and had a cup of coffee in the NFL after being drafted in the fifth round. Before Alabama hired him away to be the WR coach and co-offensive coordinator—whatever that means—he'd been James Franklin's WR coach at both Vandy and PSU. Mike Locksley, the other co-OC, took the Maryland job and was apparently set to bring Gattis along before this abrupt about-face.

[After THE JUMP: I'm just warning you there is a picture of Allen Robinson but now we can feel good about it!]

Saban on Gattis, FWIW:

“Josh is a very, very good coach,” Nick Saban said in October “He’s a very bright guy. He has been in some good systems. He has a good understanding of the big picture offensively. He’s very technical in terms of how he coaches and teaches his players and he’s got a really good personality.

“He can confront guys when they are not doing things the way they are supposed to do them, and I think that has created a lot of consistency in our receivers and improved their toughness. We have some good players and he has got them playing well.”

Pros: Gattis is highly sought, having bounced from PSU to Alabama and then getting intercepted beforehand. PSU's WR corps was excellent for the duration of his tenure…

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[Bryan Fuller]

…and dropped off significantly after he left. The Alabama WRs were part of the most explosive passing offense in college football this side of Kyler Murray, and to whatever extent he co-OC'd said offense that's good. Given Locksley's track record and Gattis getting to asborb some of Joe Moorhead, chances are good that he had a major say.

Also, Gattis has the requisite recruiting rep:

On top of his coaching efforts, Gattis was also viewed as one of Alabama’s top recruiters. He helped the Crimson Tide land five-star defensive lineman Antonio Alfano as well as four-star receiver John Metchie and four-star defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe in this year’s class.

And he's definitely played Madden and can only hope with the whole "maybe play fast sometimes" thing.

Cons: last year's Alabama offense was his only year with any kind of coordinator title. There are probably dozens of coaches who could have lit up college football with Tua Tagovailoa and friends. Also… if you're Alabama why not just bump him up to OC and keep him? Going to Michigan is one thing. Maryland?

This is kind of a swing in the dark but Gattis is the hot name and sure why the hell not. There is now another shoe to drop: unless Michigan plans on dropping a defensive assistant—highly unlikely—this presages an exit or reassignment from the offensive staff. Pep Hamilton has been interviewing and spotted at some NFL games and seems like the most likely departure.

Comments

CJW3

January 10th, 2019 at 3:57 PM ^

I disagree. Gattis could've gone to a lot of places to be sole OC. Why would he move to a decidedly worse program to hold basically another Co-OC type position? I think this is a HUGE move for Harbaugh and an indication he is indeed willing to give up control of the offense. I just hope they massage Warriner enough to keep him around. 

stephenrjking

January 10th, 2019 at 3:59 PM ^

If Harbaugh were to reduce his offensive role, I'd prefer him to do it with a guy who has a better track record than calling Tua throws to wide open guys behind the best OL in the country. If he really does follow the Moorhead tempo and aggression strategy, I'll gladly admit I was wrong.

4th phase

January 10th, 2019 at 4:06 PM ^

I don't expect Harbaugh to reduce his role. Which I think actually makes this the perfect OC hire. You blend a young (inexperienced) guy with new ideas with the offensive minded HC. His lack of experience running his own offense isn't as big of a deal as it would be with a defensive minded coach. On the other side, Harbaugh isn't giving up complete control of his offense (because he never will) like he would have to do with a guy like for example Canada, who has been an OC long enough that he expects total autonomy. 

stephenrjking

January 10th, 2019 at 4:16 PM ^

We're analyzing things that Harbaugh deliberately obscures so that we can't know them here, but here's a shot:

I disagree with you. Gattis has ideas, but his youth and his lack of familiarity with Harbaugh make it easier for Harbaugh to "run home to momma" and revert to his old habits in a pinch. There was some chatter that there was frustration inside the coaching room that Michigan entered games with gameplans that were not followed in totality, and some people believe that's a result of Harbaugh calling for runs rather than following the suggestions of the guys in the booth. My personal thought is that Harbaugh was getting influenced by Warinner and was convinced that there was one particular plan to beat OSU.

Specifically, Michigan's gameplan this year was designed to win the 2016 OSU game. When we had a lead and couldn't hold it. When Wilton Speight committed backbreaking turnovers, including a pick six. When, late in the game, we held a slim lead and could not gain a first down on the ground that would have salted the game away. 

Michigan's gameplan this year was to win that 2016 game; OSU's gameplan was to win the 2017 Oklahoma game. 

So the thing is, Gattis doesn't have the experience to persuade Harbaugh to follow through on an aggressive passing gameplan, if my read on the committee is correct. This is a guy who will give Harbaugh good ideas that Harbaugh will adapt a couple of into his existing million-part offense. The probability of a fundamental change in tempo or huddling or read-the-numbers aggression is low.

My opinion only. 

ca_prophet

January 10th, 2019 at 5:07 PM ^

My viewpoint is more prosaic.  I see the team entering the season with a ton of uncertainty (at best!) on the OL, and Warriner saying "I can teach these guys to run-block quickly; pass-pro will take a little longer."  Faced with that plus a new QB and inexperienced WR, they built around their strengths.  Then came OSU, and we were unable to protect Shea against that fearsome rush (or thought we were, same difference).

As an aside, I'm a little saddened that people no longer think Harbaugh has other primary motivations than how to get the most out of his team.  Do people really think he would run the ball just because he loves the smashmouth game, even if we were better throwing it?  The fact is for most of the year, we were much better running the ball than throwing it (especially considering the relative volumes involved), and our run game looked pretty dynamic once we started running Shea 5-6 times a game.

Put another way, I think that if we can put together an OL that can really pass-protect, even against OSU-level lines, we will throw a lot more.  But if we can't, then we'll fall back on what we can do.

You Only Live Twice

January 10th, 2019 at 11:25 PM ^

This makes a lot of sense, kudos CA Prophet.  I can't pretend to get inside anyone's mind let alone Harbaugh...still, there were not one but two horrific QB injuries last year.  There is no way that a HC, especially one like JH, wouldn't be going to sleep each night thinking No [email protected]#$% way is that going to happen on my watch next year.

Plus we had a dynamic running game as you stated.

This year was about continued development and keeping the QB healthy.  Accomplished.

More work on the OL, more pass protect, more DL development, more opportunities for WRs, it's crazy to think that fans somehow see something that Harbaugh and his coaches do not.

I Like Burgers

January 10th, 2019 at 4:07 PM ^

But who is that guy?  There's essentially no one out there with the track record you're looking for.  OCs for high-profile offenses are getting head coaching jobs, or in the case of people like Kingsburry getting fired from their head coaching jobs in college and getting hired to be NFL coaches simply because they are bright offensive minds.

EDIT: Case in point. The Bengals are supposedly hiring Zac Taylor from the Rams. His career path goes Rams asst WR coach in 2017 to Rams QB coach in 2018 to NFL head coach in 2019. If you want a young up and coming OC now, track records don’t exist.

Blarvey

January 10th, 2019 at 9:08 PM ^

Zac Taylor was a QB coach for the Dolphins a while ago and you could contrast that with the 62 year old former LB coach for the Dome Patrol in his first head coaching gig. 

Your point does stand, though, as every NFL team is looking for the next Sean McVay. Each time one of them becomes a head coach another guy moves up to replace them.

Hotel Putingrad

January 10th, 2019 at 5:30 PM ^

Who were you expecting? Mike McCarthy?

Harbaugh would never delegate 100% of the offensive game plan to anyone. This seems like the ideal combination of positional expertise, recruiting prowess, institutional experience and malleability.

I think it's a great move, and we'll see a much more aggressive offense that still resembles a Harbaughffense.

I Like Burgers

January 10th, 2019 at 3:57 PM ^

I think with the way football is trending with offensive coaches getting scooped up quickly at all levels, any one with any sort of track record of offensive success is going to become a head coach quickly.  Everyone wants the next Sean McVay.  So being a part of both an explosive Penn State and Alabama assistant as a WRs coach is about as good of a track record as you're going to find.

And given that Gattis is a passing guy and Pep is the passing coordinator, this definitely seems like Pep is out.  They aren't going to pay him $1.25M next season to be a QB coach (he has two years left on his deal, $1M per year, $250k retention bonus is due in April).

EDIT: Plus this also feels like Harbaugh learning from the Enos hire last season.  They basically tried to sneak him onto the staff as a WRs coach at $150k a year with the caveat that would jump to $750k if he became the OC.  Clearly given that language in his contract, there was a plan in place for that role for him.  Cue Alabama swooping in to offer him more, and you get Michigan upping the ante this time around for a bright offensive mind.  When it comes to offensive assistants, you really can't fuck around in this climate anymore.

JFW

January 10th, 2019 at 4:28 PM ^

Dagnabbit. I was reasonably stoked about this until you mentioned the Warinner thing. Now I'm worried about that. Warinner, to me, is more of a key to offensive success next year than this new guy is, or tweaking schemes, or whatever. We *must* continue the O line progression if we want to have a good base to build on. 

Yooper

January 10th, 2019 at 8:23 PM ^

Agree on the importance of keeping Warinner (continuity on the OL is especially important given the time needed to become a good lineman) but Gattis is not a meh hire. Bringing in young and innovative coaches is critical for recruiting and offensive evolution. In addition, adding additional African-Americans to the staff is important as well. 

The Harbaugh complainers around here miss the fact that Harbaugh is focused on winning and will change coaches and approach as necessary.  Too slowly maybe, but I have confidence that it happens. 

JFW

January 10th, 2019 at 3:49 PM ^

Did. Not. See. This. Coming. 

I figured Harbaugh would never get an OC. That said... one of the things that has impressed me is that he's flexible and willing to get the best coaches he can find. 

Okay. Now for my worries.... this guy seems like an amazing reciever coach... but what are his real OC Chops? I'm just nervous as hell since our last OC from 'Bama... am I wrong to be? 

Wolverine 73

January 10th, 2019 at 3:51 PM ^

Ohio State wants to raid our staff?  Hell, let’s raid Alabama’s.  Seriously, sure hope this guy brings a wide-open mindset, and is given the authority to implement it.

Sledgehammer

January 10th, 2019 at 4:11 PM ^

It doesn't matter what mind set he brings if Harbaugh doesn't let him do what he wants. I guess one thing that I hope is happening is that Harbaugh told him that he would have autonomy to call plays. While Michigan is obviously a better program than Maryland, why would an OC want to come here compared to a spread team like Maryland where he can show off his abilities better. If he comes here and isn't The Guy on offense and the offense is still not great, that would look bad on him.

stephenrjking

January 10th, 2019 at 4:32 PM ^

Pep called plays, too, sort of. Is Harbaugh going to give Gattis the leeway to design the gameplan and call it the way he feels it, or is Gattis going to be picking plays from a playsheet Harbaugh is heavily involved in building, bowing to Harbaugh's preference when he wants to run?

If Gattis comes to Harbaugh at halftime against Ohio State with Michigan trailing 17-13 and, like Lane and Sark to Pete Carroll in the Rose Bowl against us, says we shouldn't run the ball again and we'll win, will Harbaugh listen? Or will he insist on keeping the run in the discussion?

Harbaugh is good at learning and adapting, but I don't think he's the sort of coach that will say, "go ahead, throw every down" against his own judgment. 

mitchewr

January 10th, 2019 at 4:45 PM ^

It’s certainly possible. At this point though, until we know more, it’s at least an option that Harbaugh has realized that his own best judgment isn’t exactly what works in modern college offenses and he needs to adapt.

I think we’ll probably find out the answer we’re all seeking in two parts:

  1. In the official title given to him by Harbaugh. Will he be “the” Offensive Coordinator or just a Co-Offensive Coordinator, or something else?
  2. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll truly know what impact he makes until the 2019 season starts and we can actually witness the kind of offense Michigan chooses to run.

Either way, I don’t think there will be many fans that aren’t on pins and needles all off-season. My goodness September can’t get here fast enough now. Lol

JFW

January 10th, 2019 at 4:54 PM ^

What I'm hoping is that he is involved in tweaking the offense (maybe installing a tempo package, and more short throws), involved in the game planning itself so the offense has another 'gear' into which it can shift, and that Harbaugh will listen during the game. 

It doesn't have to be 100%. Harbaugh isn't an idiot offensively himself; and running the ball isn't evil, old fashioned, or dumb. But if we shift to maybe 55/45 pass:run with a tempo package and the ability to go all throw if needed, we're good. Maybe we get enough of a shift that the D can't stack the box. 

LDNfan

January 10th, 2019 at 5:25 PM ^

I think you are selling coach short....he's built a strong coaching tree and has had quite a few coaches move up and out from his program..so he's clearly good and grooming coaches. Now, if he had a reputation of hiring guys and not taking their input seriously he wouldn't have attracted so many quality coaches to come work with him.

He's also shown a willingness to adapt within the construct of the type of O he runs. 

I think he's willing to throw it around but wants a balanced attack much like he had with Ruddock. But this year I think he was rightfully concerned about the Oline getting his QB killed again. 

Alumnus93

January 10th, 2019 at 8:42 PM ^

well, his OL was his own doing... when he took job I was expecting multiple OT to commit within a year... instead, he kept taking guards, and losing out on T... was shocked this was happening...  We are still a few years away from having two bookend OT, something that hasn't happened since RR

Ballgame41

January 11th, 2019 at 6:14 AM ^

The way you phrase that is what makes it so wrong. You can't blame the HC for mistakes made by the coaches who had the task of recruiting said OL prospects. It was made pretty clear that Drevno was a lazy ass recruiter and not too great at it either. Hell, we'd have completely wiffed on Keegan if it wasn't for Warinner's efforts to save the day from Drevno's ignorance.

 

Agreed about two years away from two bookend OTs.

wahooverine

January 10th, 2019 at 5:01 PM ^

I don't see a lot of downside to this move.  Can it really be much worse?  The upside for Michigan is a more modern Moorehead and Bama style infusion of offensive principles into a scheme with a returning spread-QB starter with a good arm, elite WR's and a much improved o-line.

The reason he would come to Michigan instead of Maryland seems obvious.  At Maryland he'd have a guy named Piggy or a scarecrow at QB throwing to 5'8 jitterbug receivers and less o-line talent with a ceiling of 6-7 wins max. Michigan has clearly signaled it's desire to modernize the offense and he would be a primary contributor to that, and potentially be in the driver's seat as playcaller. 

Plus coaching under Harbaugh is still a prestigious gig, despite what media types would currently have you believe.

Ballgame41

January 11th, 2019 at 7:24 AM ^

Your last paragraph is SO true. Harbaugh has tried a couple things here at Michigan that hasn't worked, but to think the coaching community (ya know, the ones who truly know the ins and outs of the business) doesn't know Harbaugh's core talents is just crazy talk. Sadly, that's the national "pundits" for you. The Paul Finebaum's of the football world have ruined the average fan's knowledge and perception of the game.

M-Dog

January 10th, 2019 at 10:29 PM ^

MGoBlog in its entire lifespan has never seen a Michigan Big Ten football championship.

It has seen only one Ohio State victory, which they damn near lost on the last series.

But it did get to see a 30 year bowl game streak snapped and the first losing season in decades.

None of that makes for sunshine and roses.