This premise of this column is in hospice as a resolution may come at any moment from Ryan Grubb. Alabama is reportedly courting the Huskies’ esteemed offensive coordinator, and turning down the tide can’t be easy.
This isn’t Texas A&M, which recently hired Grubbs before Washington gave him a $2 million-a-year raise, a record for an assistant at the school. And while there are a number of incentives for Ryan to return to Montlake — like quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and receivers Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan — the thought of his departure makes one wonder what that would mean for the Huskies.
The first reaction might be that losing Grubb would be a major blow to the program. Nobody pays that much money for an assistant if they think they are expendable.
Washington, recall, led the nation in passing offense last year, was second in total offense and seventh in points per game. It also treated fans to a series of tricks (like the flea flicker on the first throw against Texas) and brave calls (like the 75-yard touchdown pass to open the second half against Washington State) that established UW as an elite offense.
Much of the credit went to Grubb, and that credit is probably deserved. But Grubb’s departure might answer one question: Was the offense his idea or head coach Kalen DeBoer’s?
It’s always difficult to figure out who the real guru is when an OC is training under their offense-oriented boss. DeBoer was an offensive coordinator in southern Illinois, eastern Michigan and Indiana before getting the HC job at Fresno State — where the Bulldogs produced a top-15 offensive line in Kalen’s sophomore year.
A former assistant-turned-head basketball coach once told me he got “a whole lot dumber” when he moved 18 inches to a new spot on the bench. Sometimes coordinators are the key wheel of a system. Sometimes they are interchangeable.
And let’s face it — whether it’s now or in the near future, Grubb is likely to be replaced soon. The man has made it clear that one day he wants to be a head coach. That doesn’t mean he’ll leave Washington for the wrong opportunity, but that ambition would probably be the main reason he’d fly to Tuscaloosa.
Lane Kiffin came to Alabama as an OC when his career needed a jumpstart. Three years later, he landed the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic and is now the HC at Ole Miss. Steve Sarkisian came to Alabama as an OC when his career needed a kickstart. He got the head coaching job in Texas two years later and is still in Austin. Yes, The Tide tried to lure Jimmy Lake out of Washington before he became the Huskies’ head coach, but one has to wonder if he had any inkling that Chris Petersen might be stepping down anytime soon.
Conclusion: Grubb wants his own program one day. It is inevitable that DeBoer will find and nurture his successor.
But despite all that, if I’m a Husky fan – I’m begging like a dude for Grubb to come back next season. It’s difficult to live up to the hype, but Washington is poised to challenge for the conference title next season and compete in the college football playoffs. The Huskies are bringing back the quarterback that led the country in passing last season, its top two receivers and a host of other Impact players. They ended their season on a seven-game winning streak and finished 8th in the country—leading among Pac-12 schools. The loss of the man who could be the brains behind the offensive operation puts their lofty but achievable goals in jeopardy.
Besides, there’s something about loyalty, right? I’m not saying it should be the prime mover in one of the most competitive and cutthroat companies out there. Players and coaches keep changing to have better opportunities and there’s no shame in that. But I’m imagining it Part The reason — and this may be a small part — that so many offensive stars chose to return to UW was because they thought they were playing plays designed by their ever-innovative OC.
Ryan Grubb won’t be a husky forever. He might not be a husky tomorrow. But it feels like it would be a huge loss if he went.
Next season has the potential to be one of the tastiest dishes in program history. It needs all of its main ingredients.