Billy Napier is a bit of a Nick Saban clone. While there are a number of positives to this, there can be a glaring issue that comes with it as well. This is a look into who Coach Napier is and what he might be like as the new head coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Coach Napier began his career playing quarterback at Furman from 1999-2002. He then went on to coaching learning his craft from Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban. Through those 10 years he focused on the offensive side of the ball and while having a few lean years, he did earn it two National Championships while at Alabama, one as an analyst and another as wide receivers coach. After a brief stint at Arizona State, where he took the offense to the 14th highest graded offense in the FBS, he then went to his current position as Head Coach of the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns.
During his almost 4 seasons as leader of the Cajuns he has brought them from a perennial losing squad in the Sun Belt West, to a dominating squad in the conference, winning at least a share of the West each season. He is currently leading the Cajuns to another 10 win season, his 3rd in a row, and will get another chance at a Sun Belt Championship.
This is a solid resume for any young coach. On the surface, there is nothing that seems to be out of sorts or going against him getting a great head coaching job either at Virginia Tech or his choice of other openings this offseason.
The pros are numerous. Under the tutelage of Dabo Swinney and especially Nick Saban, Coach Napier has become incredibly detail oriented. From all accounts, almost to the point of being a Saban clone. For those who don’t know, one of the hallmarks of a Nick Saban run team is that there isn’t a single detail that isn’t looked into and taken under advisement. This means having the right chicken thighs, doing the right type of reps on the right days, and making sure that offensive lineman step on the correct part of their right foot when going back on a pass play. All of these details add up in Saban’s system and are a big reason why Alabama is always in the running for a National Championship.
Napier is also quite well liked. You don’t hear too many stories of him having it out with players, coaches, staff, or fans. He is, by all accounts, a stand-up guy that his players and recruits enjoy being around and playing for. This is a more intangible quality, but one that is no less important.
Finally, he has a good offensive mind. While it is true that he has had a few seasons where his offenses haven’t been up to his standard, 2010 as Clemson’s Offensive Coordinator, and this season calling the plays on offense both come to mind, he has otherwise led mostly Top-30’s or higher offenses. Even when his offense isn’t doing as well, like this season, he has been able to get the most out of his defense and is still leading the Cajuns to a 10-1 season thus far. Not every season is your offense going to look or be as dynamic as the season before, but if you’re able to play good complementary football and pickup the other side of the ball, the high number of wins and level of excitement within the program can stay. That’s the mark of a good coach and CEO, something that the Hokies really need.
There is a con. It’s one that might be a deal breaker for both Napier and for the Hokies. Billy Napier has stayed as the play caller in Louisiana. This cannot be an option here at Virginia Tech. There has been some talk that he is unwilling to give up control on that side of the ball and that stubbornness, while it might be what has gotten him thus far, would be catastrophic here at Tech. The Hokies need a CEO and this job is bigger than anything that Coach Napier has done before. He will need to rub shoulders with many more people. He will have much of his days be bogged down in interviews, appearances, and recruiting. There is just not enough time or energy for someone at a program of this level to lead the offense and the team. This needs to be a line in the sand from Whit Babcock. He cannot allow Coach Napier to have the job if he isn’t going to hire an offensive team and let them do their job with minimal help.
Other than that, Billy Napier looks to be a very solid hire. I would have him as the undoubted front runner if he gives up the offense. What do you think?
Should Virginia Tech hire Billy Napier?
Only if he gives up the offense