Is is time to cut Darrin Chiaverini some slack?
For most of the time that Mike MacIntyre has been coaching at Colorado, longtime Buff fans were incredibly frustrated by the play calling of former offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren (now the offensive coordinator of this week's foe, Oregon State). Most of the complaints were that Lindgren's play calling was utterly predictable. It was indeed predictable, but many folks were also put off by Lindgren's quiet demeanor.
Some of the critics likened that quiet demeanor to a "deer in the headlights" look while his supporters (mostly rumored to be friends or relatives) chose to call his demeanor "cerebral" instead of quiet. Going back and reading some of the 39 articles written by myself on Colorado Buff Watch where Lindgren is tagged lead me to believe that Lindgren is certainly not cerebral unless the word is included in the phrase "cerebral hemorrhage" or something similar.
Last year, Lindgren suffered the indignity of having to share offensive coordinator duties with Darrin Chiaverini. The whole thing was kind of a farce, however. Lindgren still called the plays during the games. He still insisted on throwing long out passes into stiff winds to no avail. He still insisted on throwing over and over again against the worst rushing defenses in the Pac-12, and running straight up the middle over and over again against the best rushing defenses.
Lindgren was one of the main reasons that Colorado fell from 10 wins in 2016 to only 5 in 2017. All this despite the claims of head coach MacIntyre that Colorado would have one of the best offenses in the entire country. Mac was wrong and Lindgren was encouraged to seek other employment after the season. Thankfully he found it at Oregon State.
This season, Darrin Chiaverini stayed as offensive coordinator (along with recruiting coordinator) but he has shared the job with offensive line coach Klayton Adams. This year, however, Chev gets to call the plays. After Colorado started 5-0 behind Chiaverini's play calling and the emergence of WR Laviska Shenault as a bonafide superstar, delusions of grandeur started taking over.
Many folks forgot that one of the main reasons behind Colorado's record was a stalwart defense that was one of the best in the country in the 2nd halves of games. Instead, Chev and QB Steven Montez shared the spotlight with Shenault, with national media even mentioning Viska as a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate.
After starting the season 5-0, with all the glory and rankings that came with it, Colorado ran into two very talented and strong defenses from USC and Washington. And all of a sudden, the offensive exploits came to a stop.
Did Chiaverini all of a sudden forget how to call plays? Or did he just run into two really good defenses? Or, more likely, did he find out the hard way that sometimes you have to adjust your play calling based on what the defense is giving you?
We all need to remember that calling plays at the Power 5 level is certainly a learning process. No one starts out at the top. Chev started strong in his first year, but he was exposed as a novice by the outstanding defensive coordinators at USC and Washinton (Clancy Pendergrast and Pete Kriatkowski).
Does that mean that Chiaverini cannot continue to improve as he gets more experience? Of course not.
One of the worst years ever in Colorado football was 2012. The offensive coordinator that year was Buff legend Eric Bieniemy under the guidance of head coach Jon Embree. One of the many lowlights from that season was Colorado calling a quarterback sneak on first down because the coaches had not realized that the Buffs had gotten a first down the prior play.
That same sort of snafu happened earlier this season when Colorado attempted a two-point conversion because the coaches had not realized the Buffs had scored a touchdown the prior play. Some call this kind of mistake inexcusable. Some notice that it is an acceptable mistake from a young coach.
For those who only pay attention to college football, you should know that the hottest offensive coordinator in the NFL this year, in his first year as coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs is none other than Eric Bieniemy. It shows you can go from a rough beginning in the college ranks to the very highest levels of coordinator in the NFL.
Chiaverini is just beginning as a coordinator. He is bound to make some mistakes in his play calling. The most important thing he can do is to learn as he goes along. He's already done something that Lindgren never did when he took the blame for his play selection and vowed to get better.
Those of us who are Buff fans hope he gets better sooner rather than later.