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UCLA’s Hiring of Jedd Fisch Is Just the Start of Offensive Makeover

Jedd Fisch prefers a pro-style offense, but isn’t locked into a specific playbook.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Cincinnati Bengals

It’s said that hiring is generally a 50/50 process. A new hire works out well about half the time and it doesn’t work out the other half.

But, in sports, the consequences of bad hiring is somewhat higher than in the course of the business world. In the business world, if a boss makes a few bad hires, he isn’t typically fired. He just does his best to make the next hire a good one. In sports, there are bigger consequences when a bad hire is made. Consecutive bad hires typically get someone fired. Unless you’re the UCLA Athletic Director where multiple bad hires typically get ignored by the school’s chancellor.

But, if you’re UCLA’s head football coach, two bad hires that don’t yield good results will typically get you fired, even if your boss is Dan Guerrero.

That’s why Jim Mora’s choice for offensive coordinator has been so anxiously awaited by everyone in Bruins Nation.

But, I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by the selection of Michigan QB Coach Jedd Fisch as UCLA’s new offensive coordinator. It wasn’t the “home run hire” I think most Bruin fans expected.

After looking at Fisch’s resumé, I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. On the plus side, Fisch has worked for Jim Harbaugh, Brian Billick, Mike Shanahan, Steve Spurrier and Pete Carroll (in Seattle). That’s a pretty impressive list. He also had five years of experience as an offensive coordinator in the college ranks and the NFL.

On the other hand, UCLA will be his eighth job in eleven seasons and, during that time, he has never stayed in one place longer than two years. Two of his five seasons as an offensive coordinator were for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were arguably one of the worst teams in the NFL when he was there. His other seasons as an OC were good, but not great. He spent a year as the OC at Minnesota which made the Insight Bowl the year he was there. He was there at the University of Miami for the start of the Al Golden era, which was ok, but definitely “elite”.

By all indications, he seems to be a man of good character. He’s a family man and the fact that you may not have heard his name before today tells you that he hasn’t been associated with any kind of recruiting scandal or negative publicity for his teams. By comparison, if you Google “Adrian Klemm”, the first entry is Klemm’s Wikipedia page. The second entry is the BN article about Klemm’s NCAA “Show Cause” order.

So, at least, initially, it looks like Bruin fans may be justified taking a wait-and-see attitude towards the Fisch hire. But, in doing that basic Google search on Fisch, I came across an article from the Michigan Daily from October 6th. The article details Fisch’s teaching process in depth and quotes Fisch:

Each day, we start a meeting off with about eight or 10 clips of an NFL QB or an NFL offense. Really just there’s different things to show them all the time, whether it be pocket presence, whether it be how they throw the screen game, whether it be how they maintain a base in the pocket when they’re going to throw the deep ball.

It also details how Fisch uses film study to teach his players. Jake Lourim of the Michigan Daily wrote:

Often, Fisch’s film study will begin with something that gave his quarterbacks trouble in practice the previous day. He’ll show the players how a professional such as Brady or the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger does it. Just this week, [Michigan QB Wilton] Speight studied Roethlisberger’s pocket strength and how he fends off pass rushers but still looks downfield for an open receiver....

Sometimes, Fisch will take not just tendencies but also plays from NFL teams and implement them into Michigan’s system. The Wolverines run a pro-style system with multiple looks, some of which come from that vast reservoir of game tape.

The article ends with a quote from Speight about Fisch:

Everything that he does is football-related. Every thought that goes through his head, it’s probably about football. If it’s not about his family, it’s about football. It’s helped me a lot. It’s helped all the quarterbacks a lot.

After reading the Michigan Daily profile, I feel better about the Fisch hiring.

Of course, feeling better about it doesn’t guarantee it will be a success. Mora still has plenty of work to do to fix the Bruin offense.

The next test for Mora and Fisch will be determining what additional changes will be made to the offensive coaching staff. If no other changes are made between now and the end of the Dead Period on January 12th, then I wouldn’t expect any until after National Signing Day on February 1st.

Additional changes definitely remain necessary in order for UCLA to bounce back next season. For many Bruin fans, that means replacing, at least, offensive line coach Adrian Klemm and, possibly, several other assistants. It also means hiring a running backs coach.

Whether or not those changes come remain to be seen at this point, but UCLA’s chances to win next season and Jim Mora’s chances to keep his job past next season depend on it.

Go Bruins!