OK, first let me fully disclaim any insider status. Amato didn’t talk to me about this. Neither did a neighbor of the kid who cuts his lawn. But even when Wolfpack Nation was in full swoon over some formerly mulleted Arena football QB, one name stood out above the rest as a potential OC (at least to me): Gary Crowton.
For those of you who are not complete college football junkies, Gary Crowton was recently fired as head coach of Brigham Young University. Prior to his tenure in Provo, he was the head coach at Louisiana Tech and a largely successful offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears. With Louisiana Tech and – amazingly enough, even with the Bears – Crowton was known for explosive, wide-open, unpredictable offenses. At BYU, he was largely known for not being the legendary Lavell Edwards.
Here is a good overview of Crowton’s stature entering Bears training camp in 1999 (sounds like a fan favorite in the making):
Crowton in 1999
When you look at his offensive track record, he accomplished quite a bit with subpar talent, relative to his competition – first with Louisiana Tech, then with the perpetually skill player-challenged Bears. Then, he had to deal with a very challenging situation – BYU, where after their freshman year, most players leave for two seasons, interrupting continuity. Further, you can only recruit players that will sumbit to BYU’s extremely rigorous honor code (how many premium athletes will do that?), knowing they can be suspended down the line for things 99% of us would have been fine doing in front of our parents when we were in college (this was indeed a problem for Crowton, and scholarship limits only made this problem worse). In the modern era of Division I scholarship limits, one can hardly look down on Crowton for not succeeding at BYU.
In my mind, the three best gameday (i.e., not recruiting) coaches to have graced Amato’s staff are Norm Chow, Mike Canales, and Reggie Herring. Two of those three (Chow, Canales) trace their coaching heritage to BYU, where ingenuity is REQUIRED to compete using largely non-premium athletes with interrupted eligibility. One just has to look at Southern California to see what happens when this ingenuity is applied to a stable of premium athletes. Now, I’m certainly not saying that NC State has skill player talent equal to USC (but we clearly have GOOD talent, far superior to BYU), or that Crowton is as much of a master as Chow (but note that Crowton got the BYU head job that Chow had always wanted, and has been an NFL offensive coordinator – not a typical resume entry among college OC candidates). What I definitely AM saying is that the POSSIBILITY of greatness is there. Gary Crowton and NC State could be a match made in heaven.
From another angle, hiring Crowton would be equally encouraging. Although Crowton is definitely on the market and clearly available for NC State to hire (as was less clear with Fisher and Chiznik), he won’t take the job just because we offer. Chuck Amato would have to give Crowton the trust he gave Norm Chow – the freedom to run the offense his way, without interference. From the rumblings I have heard, this would be a distinct change from both the Galbraith and Mazzone eras. To me, it would show a distinct maturation of Chuck Amato as head coach, and proof that the lessons of 2004 have been learned. I think it would be logical to look to 2005 with great optimism, if that is the case.
*** Note: I previously had noted that players leaving for 2-year Mormon missions would only have 2 years of eligibility remaining when they returned, but that is apparently not the case. It’s still not something I would like dealing with as ahead coach.