You can feel the flames coming from down the Jersey Turnpike, Rutgers boosters all over the state upset how the Greg Schiano negotiations turned off an exit ramp just when his return seemed like a foregone conclusion.
Still a chance to salvage things, I’d argue.
Yes, hiring Joe Moorhead is a risk. Greg Schiano 2.0 would have been a risk.
Like Rutgers football itself is not a risky venture?
Here’s my argument: Connecticut hit its Fiesta Bowl high point with Moorhead as offensive coordinator. Fordham did unimagined things with Moorhead as head coach. Penn State had its best offensive success with Moorhead as offensive coordinator.
So, if Mississippi State hasn’t gotten it done with Moorhead as head coach, Rutgers could be the beneficiary of that. Everyone knows Moorhead is a smart guy. You don’t think he’d take the lessons he’s learned the last couple of seasons in Starkville and apply them to the Scarlet Knights? If Trace McSorley and company swore by him, I’d take the risk that he can find the next McSorley and company to start to turn things around in New Jersey.
The fact is, Moorhead has had more past success than any head coach Rutgers has hired in … forever. Plenty of New Jersey high school coaches presumably know him from his past stops.
Sure, it’s risky, taking a coach who is 2-5 in the Southeastern Conference this season, when you’re trying to get better than 2-5 in the Big Ten.
Again, we’ll argue that isn’t wasted experience. The LSU head coach is the man right now, a Bayou folk hero, his team top-ranked in the country, but Ed Orgeron was hardly the man when he was fired after a winless SEC season at Ole Miss, and he wasn’t kept on after serving as interim head coach at USC.
To be clear, it has not worked out as many of us guessed at Mississippi State, where Moorhead seemed like a great hire. The alums down there sound like they’d be just fine with Moorhead coming back our way. He inherited talent, but it has not come together.
Let’s present this as an opportunity for Rutgers, which has to take a chance, whichever way it goes. (Matt Rhule isn’t walking through that door.) For the record, I thought Chris Ash sounded like a pretty good hire. Not claiming infallibility here. Just claiming that Moorhead was the perfect hire every single place except the last stop. Yes, pretty big asterisk there. I’ve yet to see the Rutgers candidate without an asterisk, including Schiano 2.0.
“Smart football coaches don’t always equal successful football coaches,” Bob Benson, the Penn defensive coordinator who hired Moorhead as an assistant way back when at Georgetown, told me back when Moorhead was hired at Penn State. “He has an ability to relate to people. He takes his Tommy Edison intelligence -- that’s really what it is -- and he is able to communicate in a manner young people respond to, and they like being around him.”