[Lots of words ahead. You've been warned.]
After three years of waging battle with his many critics, all is quiet on the Western front for Bryan Stinespring. Where before people spent the offseason wondering how he was going to screw up the Hokies' national championship aspirations, there is a new sense of optimism surrounding the Hokies' offense leading up to 2010. Bryan Stinespring's offense.
It's been called inept by myself and anemic by writers much better than myself. But for once there is hope that Tech's offense will be something greater than the putrid, floundering, inferior version we saw for three seasons from 2006-2008.
Stinespring isn't the top reason Hokie fans are concerned about this upcoming season. By his own admission, he can sleep easier at night with Tyrod Taylor as his quarterback and an offensive stable that includes Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and Jarrett Boykin.
But we can be sure the Mongrel Horde that has somehow made getting another human fired from his job their lone hobby will again crawl out from under their respective bridges and scream at the top of their lungs from every corner of the Internet that Stinespring should be removed as Tech's offensive coordinator at the first sign of struggle for the offense.
Rush (and Pass) to Judgment
And so, one year after seeing his offense make an incredible jump from 4.5 yards per play to 6.2 yards per play, Stinespring enters what could be a career-making season. Succeed, and he could potentially Bustle his way to a head coaching job at the Football Bowl Subdivisions lower tier. Fail, and it would be wise to invest in any store in Blacksburg that supplies torches and pitchforks.
Stinespring is in good company when it comes to college football offensive coordinators whose actual first name might as well be "embattled." Even Florida's offensive coordinator, Steve Addazio, is hated by his own fan base. Nearly no offensive coordinator is safe, let alone one with an inadequate track record like Stinespring.
I think the reason has a lot to do with the fact that it is tough to tell a good offense, especially with per-game-based stats. With defense, it's easy to spot a good one and a bad one. But often, offense has to looked at under a microscope to see what it's value truly is.
It's not hard for teams with high-powered offenses to lose four or five games per season. But I think it's much tougher for teams with great defenses to lose consistently. As for Tech, sure it has Taylor, Williams and Evans, but at its core it's still a ball-control offense designed to keep its defense fresh and off the field.
Trust me, we don't want the Hokies running 1,000 plays from scrimmage, especially this year with all the new starters on D. We want a team that can make games short, run the clock and be efficient. For those teams, it's much tougher to get an idea of how it has performed.
Waiting for the Body of Work
And therefore, it's going to be tough to judge Stinespring in 2010. If we score 40 points per game and go 8-4, will he have succeeded? No way. But if we average under five yards per play and go 11-1 will he have failed? Not by a long shot.
At the end of the day, an offense like Virginia Tech's has to pass the eye test. And the problem with that is there are very few people, myself not included, who are qualified to judge it. Stinespring has to walk a fine line between getting the most of his talent-rich offense and helping the team as a whole win games. It's a heavy burden.
If Virginia Tech has a successful season AND the offense satisfies its critics, Stinespring will arrive at the end of the season redeemed. All the times the coaching staff blamed being behind on talent and lack of execution will have been true. But if the offense isn't up to snuff and the Hokies finish the season ranked significantly below their preseason ranking for the first time since 2003, then he could have wasted his final chance.
One thing I'm sure of though is the answer to the question posed in the title won't be answered until January, after the bowls. We won't know after Boise State, we won't know after the November Gauntlet through the Coastal. We'll know when it's over. Only then will we be able to evaluate Stinespring and the job he did in 2010.