Utah’s eighth offensive coordinator in the last 11 years, Troy Taylor, joins a growing list of coaches who’ve held the same position for just a short time under Kyle Whittingham. Taylor accepted the head coaching job at Sacramento State last week, keeping that revolving door spinning.
The frequent changes are an issue that, although not ignorable, aren’t necessarily unique to the staff on the hill.
“I think it’s difficult [being a coordinator] in major college football in general,” Taylor said. “There’s high expectations and a lot of scrutiny. I don’t think that’s unique to Utah. I don’t think it’s independent to Whitt.”
The turnover rate of college football coordinators is high across the entire country. For a myriad of reasons, the shelf life of FBS coordinators has been on a steady decline since the beginning of the BCS era. Guys get plucked away by other programs, some get fired, some can’t handle the added pressures of the gig. So on and so forth. Every situation is far more nuanced than it may seem from the outside. That’s just the reality. Another reality is that there’s not necessarily a correlation between assistant turnover and a lack of program success – especially when the turnover doesn’t come by way of firing. You don’t have to look any further than the top of the CFB Playoff Poll for evidence of that. The No. 1 Crimson Tide have gone through a motley group of various assistants, including OC’s, with varying philosophies while still maintaining steady success. Before anyone reads too much into that, I am in no way comparing the Utes situation to the one in Tuscaloosa nor am I comparing Whittingham to Nick Saban. What they have going at Alabama is clearly unprecedented. However, there is something to be said about coaches who can continuously find success while navigating the complicated and ever-evolving landscape of collegiate athletics.
Questions, fair ones I might add, continue to surround the impending departure of Troy Taylor.
Do coaches usually leave half-million dollar contracts on the table if things are going well?
No they don’t. This is true, but there’s also more to it than that. It wasn’t always smooth sailing between Whittingham and his OC. As the Utes stumbled into the Pac-12 season 2-2, things got a little turbulent. I can point to a specific moment in mid-September where tensions nearly reached a boiling point. Instead of an implosion, it ended up being a critical juncture in the Utes division title run. A couple of players held private meetings with Whittingham and Taylor, expressing their personal concern with the offensive production. Things were said and subsequent changes were made, yet feelings were never hurt. That’s just how adults conduct business. That’s how stability is achieved.
Offensive line coach Jim Harding became more involved with the offensive game plan and the results proved that it was the correct adjustment. Together, Harding and Taylor orchestrated an offensive streak that no other team in the conference matched in 2018. Fast-forward to shortly after four straight games of forty or more points and tensions had mostly subsided. Wins tend to have that effect. After all, Kyle Whittingham just wants results. Results that he’s willing to sacrifice being the “nice guy” in order to achieve. That’s why he asked Troy Taylor to stay despite early season spats. That’s why he named Harding the interim OC when Taylor chose to go. That’s why the two of them, Harding and Taylor, will call the bowl game together.
“Sometimes people talk about coach being tough on offensive coordinators and all that,” Taylor told ESPN700. “Coach is like any high achiever. He has high expectations. No head coach is excited to be around an offense if they’re not executing, scoring points, and doing all those things. I don’t think it’s independent to him. Coach is direct with his style of communication, which he’ll tell you, and which I always appreciated just because I knew exactly where he was at and what he wanted and all those things. It was a great experience for me. I have nothing but admiration for the program.”
Whittingham may not be the easiest boss to work for. He’s punctual, calculated, demanding and direct. Perhaps, for more laid-back guys like Taylor, that isn’t always ideal. Results speak loudly, though, and this particular marriage yielded irrefutable results in the form of conference championship appearance and nine All-Pac-12 performers. The parties involved were more than willing to iron things out in the name of production.
I’m not saying that Taylor was necessarily destined to be a longtime fixture at the U — However, had the literal perfect job opportunity not arisen for him, he’d be back on the hill as Kyle Whittingham’s offensive coordinator in 2019.
Do coaches usually take less glamorous jobs at lower level programs?
Not usually, no. That’s exactly what Taylor did in 2000, though, when he left his position as then Pac-10 Cal’s Recruiting Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach for an Assistant Athletic Director job at a Sacramento high school. He did this in an attempt to return to a normal family life and enjoy the offseason, something that surely played a part in him leaving a high-intensity Utah gig. It’s exactly what he did again in 2011, when he left his post as Cal’s color-commentary broadcaster for a coaching job at Folsom High School. Again, returning home to Sacramento. Taylor has a history of leaving jobs on the table for better family opportunities.
“I’m not really a money-driven person and if you follow what I’ve done, you’ll see the résumé kind of proves that,” Taylor said. “The overall goal when I embarked on this journey was to be a head coach. For me, this seems like a special opportunity. With the long-term contract, I feel more than optimistic about it.”
The fact that he’s headed back to Sacramento again in 2019, frankly, shouldn’t be much of a surprise when you look at the situation in hindsight. Of course, that’s easy to say now. The moment Sacramento State saw its season end and head coach Jody Sears was relieved of his duties, Taylor was in the Hornets’ crosshairs.
Troy wasn’t outwardly looking to leave Utah, he says, so Sacramento State admins knew they had to bring their A-game to land him. They did just that.
The 7+ year, fully-guaranteed contract laid out by Sac. St. Athletics is unheard of in college football. The job security, opportunity to be the frontman and long-term contract were too much for him to pass up. Above all of that was the chance to move back home with his wife and now teenage kids.
“Coming back home is a huge part of it. My family is still here and, even though it’s tough to leave Utah, this just feels like the right fit for me.”
These are the things we know about the departure of Utah OC Troy Taylor and the rest is speculation. He’s in control of his own destiny. He’s where he wants to be. After he calls his final game as a Ute on December 31, he’s going home.
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